War of the Rebellion: Serial 006 Page 0504 OPERATIONS IN W. FLA.,S. ALA.,S. MISS.,AND LA. Chapter XVI.

Search Civil War Official Records

dispatch, awaiting the action of the fleet engaged in the bombardment of Forts Jackson and Saint Philip. Failing to reduce them after six days of incessant fire, Flag-Officer Farragut determined to attempt their passage with his whole fleet, except that part thereof under the immediate command of Captain Porter, known as the Mortar Fleet.

On the morning of the 24th instant the fleet got under way, and twelve vessels, including the four sloops of war, ran the gauntlet of fire of the forts and were safely above. Of the gallantry, courage, and conduct of this heroic action, unprecedented in naval warfare, considering the character of the works and the river, too much cannot be said. Of its casualties and the details of its performance the flag-officer will give an account to the proper Department. I witnessed this daring exploit from a point about 800 yards from Fort Jackson and unwittingly under its fire, and the sublimity of the scene can never be exceeded. The fleet pressed on up the river to New Orleans, leaving two gunboats to protect the quarantine station, 5 miles above.

In case the forts were not reduced, and a portion of the fleet got by them, it had been arranged between the flag-officer and myself that I should make a landing from the Gulf side on the rear of the forts at the quarantine, and from thence attempt Fort Saint Philip by storm and assault, while the bombardment was continued by the fleet. I immediately went to Sable Island with my transports, 12 miles in the rear of Saint Philip, the nearest point at which a sufficient depth of water could be found for them.

Captain Porter put at my disposal the Miami, drawing 7 1/2 feet, being the lightest-draught vessel in the fleet, to take the troops from the ship, as far as the water would allow. We were delayed twenty-four hours by her running ashore at Pass a l'Outre. The Twenty-sixth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, Colonel Jones, were then put on board her and carried within 6 miles of the fort, where she again grounded. Captain Everett, of the Sixth Massachusetts Battery, having very fully reconnoitered the waters and bayous in that vicinity, and foreseeing the necessity, I had collected and brought with me some 30 boats, into which the troops were again transshipped and conveyed, by a most fatiguing and laborious row, some 4 1/2 miles farther, there being within 1 mile of the steamer only 2 1/2 feet of water. A large portion of this passage was against a heavy current, through a bayou. At the entrance of Manuel's Canal, a mile and a half from the point of landing, rowing became impossible, as well from the narrowness of the canal as the strength of the current, which ran like a mill-race. Through this the boats could only be impelled by dragging them singly, with the men up to their waists in water. It is due to this fine regiment and to a portion of the Fourth Wisconsin Volunteers and Twenty-first Indiana, who landed under this hardship without a murmur, that their labors should be made known to the Department, as well as to account for the slowness of our operations. The enemy evidently considered this mode of attack impossible, as they had taken no measures to oppose it, which might very easily have been successfully done. We occupied at once both sides of the river, thus effectually cutting them off from all supplies, information, or succor while we made our dispositions for the assault.

Meantime Captain Porter had sent into the bayou in the rear of Fort Jackson two schooners of his mortar fleet to prevent the escape of the enemy from the fort in that direction. In the hurry and darkness of the passage of the forts the flag-officer had overlooked three of the enemy's gunboats and the iron-clad battery Louisiana, which were at anchor