She was eventually permitted to go down the river on Sunday, April 20, but not in a condition to use her motive power with effect. It was hoped that, notwithstanding this, she would be able to assume a position below Fort Saint Philip, discovering the location of the mortar boats, and, being herself proof against direct fire, dislodge the enemy with her guns, which were of very heavy caliber. Knowing also that the incessant bombardment kept General Duncan closely confined to Fort Jackson, so that he could give no orders to the river defense steamers, I placed the whole under the control of Captain Mitchell-the armed steamers as well as the tugs intended to tow down the fire rafts.
I will here state that the river-defense fleet proved a failure for the very reasons set fort in my letter to the Department of April 15. Unable to govern themselves, and unwilling to be governed by others, their almost total want of system, vigilance, and discipline rendered them nearly useless and helpless when the enemy finally dashed upon them suddenly on a dark night. I regret very much that the Department did not think it advisable to grant my request to place some competent head in charge of these steamers.
Learning subsequently that the Louisiana was anchored above the forts and that the fire rafts were not sent down, I telegraphed Captain Mitchell, requesting him to attend to it, and afterwards called upon Commodore Whittle and entreated him to order the steamer to take the desired position below the forts. This he declined to do, but telegraphed Captain Mitchell, telling him to "strain a point to place the vessel there if in his judgment it was advisable." No change, however, was made, and on the night of April 23 I went down myself in a steamboat, to urge Captain Mitchell to have the Louisiana anchored in the position indicated, and also to ascertain why the fire rafts were not sent down. A few moments after I arrived the attack commenced, and the enemy succeeded in passing with fourteen ships, as described in General Duncan's report, and the battle of New Orleans, as against ships of war, was over.
I returned at once to the city, narrowly escaping capture, and, giving orders to General Smith, in command of the interior lines, to prepare to make all possible resistance to the enemy's fleet at the earthwork batteries below the city, instructed Colonel Lovell to have several steamers ready to remove, as far as possible, the commissary and ordnance stores, being satisfied that the low developments at Chalmette could offer no protracted resistance to a powerful fleet whose guns, owing to the high water, looked down upon the surface of the country and could sweep away any number of infantry by an enfilading fire. These lines, as before remarked, were intended mainly to repel a land attack, but in a high stage of water were utterly untenable by infantry against guns afloat. It having been reported to me that a sufficient number of desperately bold men could easily be got together to board the enemy's vessels and carry them by assault, I authorized Major James to seize and steamers as might be necessary for his purpose and to attempt it. He called for 1,000 men, by public advertisement, but being able to find but about 100 who would undertaken it, he abandoned the project.
On the morning of the 25th the enemy's fleet advanced upon the batteries and opened fire, which was returned with spirit by the troops as long as their powder lasted, but with little apparent effect upon the enemy. The powder intended for this battery of 32-pounders had been transferred by me to the steamer Louisiana a few days before, under