various small water communications from the Gulf, made available the extra-ordinary heights of the river, and which, while they were in possession of the latter, I had easily and without risk defended with laches and a part of the river-defense fleet. I had also stationed Szymanski's regiment at the quarantine for the sam object. These were, however, all destroyed or captured by the enemy's fleet after they got possession of the river between the forts and the city. I knew that if I remained in New Orleans we should, in all probability, lose, in short time, troops, guns, and supplies of all kinds, and the enemy would then be in full possession of the river as far as Memphis, which eventually fell also into their hands. By withdrawing my command, however, I would be enabled to fortify, arm, and organized Vicksburg, a strong and defensible position.
On April 17 I had written to General Beauregard (see document Numbers 24, hereunto appended) recommending the fortification of Vicksburg, and asking him for an engineer officer, and two days after the evacuation I advised the Adjutant-General at Richmond, General Cooper, that I should occupy that place and Jackson. (See document Numbers 25, hereunto appended.)* I sent thither a number of heavy guns and quantities of ammunition with the artillerists from the various forts near New Orleans, and sent General Smith, with a brigade of infantry, to take command of the whole. the officers, troops, and guns which held Vicksburg last summer were almost entirely the same which I withdrew from New Orleans rather than remain and submit to an inevitable surrender. Results have fully proved the wisdom of the military policy pursued by me of collecting all the means in Department Numbers 1 and taking anew and stronger position on the Mississippi River. The evacuation of New Orleans and its occupation by the enemy would necessarily be followed sooner or later by the abandonment of the various forts and small works of the exterior line, which were erected principally to defend the approaches to that city, and after its evacuation could not longer serve any useful purpose. As the position of the enemy (in the river abreast of the city) gave him control of the Opelousas Railroad, thus enabling him to get in rear of the works on Barataria Bay, Grand Caillou, Bayou La Fourche,and at Berwick Bay, by which he could cut off an captured all the garrisons, with small-arms, ammunition, and stores, all of which were greatly needed at that time, I directed them to be abandoned at once. The officers in command were ordered to report with their troops and al transportable supplied at Camp Moore or Vicksburg. Some of them complied with this order, but a portion of the garrisons, after marching part of the way, refused to go farther and, in spite of their officers, disbanded and went to New Orleans.
Forts Jackson and Saint Philip surrendered in consequence of a mutiny among the men on April 28. (See General Duncan's report).+ Forts Pike and Macomb were abandoned without my orders. When I returned to the city from the lower forts, on the 24th, I directed Colonel Fuller, who was in command of the works on the lakes, which comprised Forts Pike and Macomb, to have everything ready to abandon those forts in case I should order it.
Supposing that the enemy would occupy Kenner and thus deprive me of the use of the Jackson Railroad, it was my intention to remove the troops, supplied, &c., across Lake Pontchartrain to Pass Manchac and Madisonville, holding the entrance to that lake by fort as long as possible. The enemy, however, did not interfere with the railroad at Kenner, and the greater part of the men and public property were removed by rail.
I went to Camp Moore on the night of the 25th to arrange matters there, and on the morning of the 27th received information that Colonel Fuller, had arrived at Covington, La., with the garrisons of Forts Pike and Macomb. This was the first knowledge I had of the abandonment of those works. I immediately directed them to be reoccupied, and sent a letter to Captain Poindexter, of the Navy, in command of the ships on the lake, requesting his co-operation in this movement. Colonel Fuller replied, on the 28th, that the forts had been dismantled, the guns spiked, and the carriages destroyed,a nd that it was impossible to reoccupy them.
I was officially informed of the surrender of Forts Jackson and Saint Philip on the 29th, and deemed it, therefore, useless to make any further attempts to reoccupy Forts Pike and Macomb. The cisterns in the two last-named works only held water enough to serve the garrison a short time, and had to be supplied by steamer from a distance. They could not have held out for any great length of time for this reason, and I deemed it best to save their garrisons (composed of well-drilled artillerists) for the works at Vicksburg, where they have ever since rendered such good service, but it was not intended to abandon them so soon, nor, indeed, until I had transferred all the public property from New Orleans.
The court adjourned to meet to-morrow at 10 a. m.
*A duplicate of report printed on p. 510.