Numbers 7. Report of Brigadier General M. L. Smith, C. S. Army, of operations of the "Chalmetter and McGehee Lines."
CAMP MOORE, TANGIPAHOA, LA., May 6, 1862.
MAJOR: I herewith submit a report of the operations of the troops under my command at the Chalmette and McGehee lines on the approach of New Orleans. These interior lines of defense are constructed with special reference to an attack by land, but terminating them at the river banks were two batteries, calculated for twelve and twenty guns, respectively, and at the time of the action containing five and nine. Ten 42-pounders, intended for this battery, were turned over to the Navy for the defense of the city by water.
As you are aware, the defense of New Orleans by water has been considered as depending upon the forts mentioned, which are well constructed permanent works, rather well armed, and far stronger than any others that could be hastily erected. With this view all the available material, both of guns and ammunition, had been concentrated there prior to the bombardment, and during its continuance was being added to in such quantities daily as the means of the department admitted of, it being evident that the decisive struggle was there to be made.
As soon, therefore, as it became certain that the large vessels of the enemy had succeed in passing, there no longer existed a chance of preventing them from reaching New Orleans, and the short resistance made by the few guns mounted on the two batteries of the interior line was made through a sense of duty, but without any expectation of success, the enemy numbering as many vessels, less one, as we had guns.
On the side of the river where I was in person during the action were stationed three companies of Lieutenant-Colonel Pinkney's battalion, to man the nine guns, and one company of sharpshooters. With the five guns on the other side were captain Patton's company of the Twenty-second Louisiana Volunteers; one company from Fort Pike, under Lieutenant Butler, and one company of the Beauregard Battery, besides two battalions of infantry collected in camp for instruction, as well as to guard the line in case of the enemy's landing and attacking by land, all under the immediately command of General Buisson.
The enemy's vessels had approached to within about the fourth of a mile before we opened on them, the first gun being from Colonel Pinkney's battery, and immediately followed by several from the battery on the opposite side, and as promptly replied to from the enemy's vessels. The engagement lasted until every round of ammunition on hand was fired, both officers and men displaying a coolness and intrepidity that was gratifying, especially as regards the men, who then for the first time in their lives discharged a heavy gun. The firing on our side was spirited, perhaps a little uncertain; on the enemy's, heavy and rather well directed. During the engagement their vessels gradually lessened the distance until near enough to pen with grape and canister. The ammunition being expended and every sense of duty satisfied, permission was given to Colonel Pinkney to withdraw his command along the line of field works affording shelter, which was done deliberately, officers and men retiring together.
The casualties were 1 killed and 1 wounded.