House Executive Documents

Author: Theodorus Bailey  | Date: 1862

Show Summary

Passing the Forts at New Orleans (1862)


THAT brave, resolute, and indefatigable officer, Commander D.D. Porter, was at work with his mortar fleet, throwing shells at and into Fort Jackson, while General Butler, with a division of his army, in transports, was waiting a favorable moment to land. After the mortar fleet had been playing upon the forts for six days and nights, (without perceptibly diminishing their fire,) and one or two changes of programme, Flag-Officer Farragut formed the ships into two columns, "line ahead;" the column of the red, under my orders, being formed on the right, and consisting of the Cayuga, Lieutenant Commanding Harrison, bearing my flag, and leading the Pensacola, Captain Morris; the Mississippi, Commander M. Smith; Oneida, Commander S. P. Lee; Varuna, Commander C. S. Boggs; Katahdin, Lieutenant Commanding Preble; Kineo, Lieutenant Commanding Ransom; and the Wissahickon, Lieutenant Commanding A. N. Smith. The column of the blue was formed on the left, heading up the river, and consisted of the flag-ship Hartford, Commander R. Wainwright, and bearing the flag of the commander-in-chief, Farragut;

the Brooklyn, Captain T. T. Craven; the Richmond, Commander Alden; the Sciota, bearing the divisional flag of Fleet-Captain H. H. Bell; followed by the Iroquois, Itasca, Winona, and Kennebec.

At 2 a.m. on the morning of the 24th [April] the signal "to advance" was thrown out from the flag-ship. The Cayuga immediately weighed anchor and led on the column. We were discovered at the boom, and, a little beyond, both forts opened their fire. When close up with St. Philip we opened with grape and canister, still steering on. After passing this line of fire, we encountered the "Montgomery flotilla," consisting of eighteen gunboats, including the ram Manassas and iron battery Louisiana, of twenty guns.

This was a moment of anxiety, as no supporting ship was in sight. By skilful steering, however, we avoided their attempts to butt and board, and had succeeded in forcing the surrender of three, when the Varuna, Captain Boggs, and Oneida, Captain Lee, were discovered near at hand. The gallant exploits of these ships will be made known by their commanders. At early dawn discovered a rebel camp on the right bank of the river. Ordering Lieutenant Commanding N. B. Harrison to anchor close alongside, I hailed and ordered the colonel to pile up his arms on the river bank and come on board. This proved to be the Chalmette regiment, commanded by Colonel Szymanski. The regimental flag, tents, and camp equipage were captured.

On the morning of the 25th, still leading, and considerably ahead of the line, the Chalmette batteries, situated three miles below the city, opened a cross fire on the Cayuga. To this we responded with our two guns. At the end of twenty minutes the flag-ship ranged up ahead and silenced the enemy’s guns.

From this point no other obstacles were encountered, except burning steamers, cotton ships, fire rafts, and the like. Immediately after anchoring in front of the city I was ordered on shore by the flag-officer to demand the surrender of the city, and that the flag should be hoisted on the post office, custom-house, and mint. . . .

. . . On the 28th General Butler landed above Fort St. Philip, under the guns of the Mississippi and Kineo. This landing of the army above, together with the passage of the fleet, appears to have put the finishing touch to the demoralization of their garrisons, (300 having mutinied in Fort Jackson.) Both forts surrendered to Commander Porter, who was near at hand with the vessels of his flotilla.

As I left the river General Butler had garrisoned Forts Jackson and

St. Philip, and his transports, with troops, were on their way to occupy New Orleans.

I cannot too strongly express my admiration of the cool and able management of all the vessels of my line by their respective captains. After we had passed the forts it was a contest between iron hearts in wooden vessels and iron-clads with iron beaks, and the "iron hearts" won.

, 37 Cong., 3 sess. (Washington, 1862), III, No. 1, pp. 289–290 passim.


Related Resources

None available for this document.

Download Options

Title: House Executive Documents

Select an option:

*Note: A download may not start for up to 60 seconds.

Email Options

Title: House Executive Documents

Select an option:

Email addres:

*Note: It may take up to 60 seconds for for the email to be generated.

Chicago: Theodorus Bailey, "Passing the Forts at New Orleans (1862)," House Executive Documents in American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903), Original Sources, accessed May 23, 2022,

MLA: Bailey, Theodorus. "Passing the Forts at New Orleans (1862)." House Executive Documents, Vol. III, in American History Told by Contemporaries, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, Vol. 4, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1903, Original Sources. 23 May. 2022.

Harvard: Bailey, T, 'Passing the Forts at New Orleans (1862)' in House Executive Documents. cited in 1903, American History Told by Contemporaries, ed. , The Macmillan Company, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 23 May 2022, from