The schooner raft was seriously damaged by the wind-storm on April 10 and 11, which parted the chains, scattered the schooners, and materially affected its character and effectiveness as an obstruction. In addition to the wind, the raft was also much damaged by allowing some of the fire barges to get loose and drift against it, through the carelessness of those having them in charge. A large number of these fire barges were tied to the banks above both forts, ready at all times to be towed into the current and against the enemy, for the double purpose of firing his ships and to light up the river by night to insure the accuracy of our fire.
My instructions to the river fleet, under Captain Stephenson (see attached document A), were to lie in stream above the raft, with such boats as had stern guns, in order to assist the forts with their fire in case the enemy should attempt the passage, as well as to turn in and ram at all hazards all such vessels as might succeed in getting above the raft. He was also required to take entire control of the fire barges (see attached document B), to rconnoiter the enemy above the Head of the Passes, and to keep a watch boat below every night, near the point of woods, to signal the approach of the enemy. The accompanying diagram will illustrate all the points referred to in this report.
The same instructions were given to Captains Kennon and Grant, and upon his arrival Captain Renshaw was duly informed of the arrangements made, in which he promised heartily to co-operate.
While the enemy remained at the Head of the Passes, 22 1/2 miles below the forts, and subsequently, when he came up to the Jump, or Wilder's Bayou, the boats of the river fleet took turns in running down and watching his movements. For a few nights, also, at this time one of them was kept below as a guard boat. We had telegraphic communication, besides, down to within half a mile of the Jump, 9 miles below the forts, which, together with scouts operating in the bays to the east and west of the river in skiffs and pirognes, kept us duly posted meanwhile of the enemy's movements below as far down as the Southwest Pass.
The enemy was not idle in the interim. His larger vessels were worked over the Southwest Bar after failing to make an entrance at Pass a l'Outre, and the mortar fleet was brought up as far as the Southwest Pilot Station, where the mortars were scaled and afterward tested. From seven to thirteen steam sloops of war and gunboats were constantly kept at the Head of the Passes or at the Jump, to cover his operations below and to prevent our observing his movements by way of the river. By gradual and regular approaches he carefully closed upon the forts day by day, and opened the attack as hereinafter detailed.
April 9.-One of our reconnoitering steamers was chased and followed up by two of the enemy's gunboats as far as the point of woods below Fort Jackson, but was soon forced to retire by a few shots from our batteries. This was his first reconnaissance, and our fire was not returned.
April 13.-Several of the hostile gunboats again came up to make observations. They would occasionally show themselves singly or in pairs above the point of woods and exchange a few shots with the forts and then retire again behind the point. Our sharpshooters obtained a few shots on this occasion, but with very partial success, owing to the lowness of the country and the extreme rise in the river. Many of the men were up to their waists in water, and in consequence sickness prevailed among them and unfitted them for duty. The enemy spent