The Vicksburg Campaign: April 1862-July 1863

By David G. Martin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
The Fall of New Orleans

While the people of Vicksburg kept their attention fixed on Grant's Union threat from the north, a new and critical threat suddenly arose from the south. This threat was totally unexpected because of the great faith held in the Mississippi River defenses south of New Orleans. The main line of defense consisted of two star-shaped forts about 30 miles from the ocean and 70 miles south of the Crescent City. These two forts with their 1,200 men and 70 guns commanded a bend on the river: Fort Jackson was on the west bank and Fort St. Philip a little bit to the north on the east bank. Between the two forts was a barrier of sunken small boats linked by iron chains stretched from shore to shore.

The barrier and forts were supported by a small but motley fleet that included a ram (the Manassas), a 16 gun warship (the Louisiana), and assorted steamboats and smaller craft. In case Yankee boats broke through the defenses, a small fleet of fire boats lay ready for use. Confederate morale was high based on memories of 1815 when the city rallied to drive back British invaders.

It was also unthinkable to the citizens of New Orleans that their cosmopolitan city, the largest city and the banking center of the South, could ever fall into enemy hands. But it was exactly these characteristics that attracted Northern attention. The port of New Orleans had been one of the first objects of the Union saltwater blockade proposed as part of General Winfield Scott's Anaconda Plan. The blockade managed to stop the city's foreign

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