| American History Stories, Volume IV|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of the great conflict from the time Lincoln became president and the southern states seceded, through the battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, until the close of the war. Includes poems, songs, and illustrations commemorating the events. Ages 8-12 |
CAPTURE OF NEW ORLEANS
New Orleans, situated at the mouth of the Mississippi,
was held by the Confederates. Because it is at the mouth
of this great river, you can easily see it was necessary that
the Unionists should have it, in order that they might be
free to go up and down this great river whenever they
Said Gen. Butler in his usual direct way, "New Orleans
should be in our hands, New Orleans can be taken, and I
can take it." There were many reasons why it seemed a
doubtful place to attack, but Butler usually succeeded in
whatever he set out to do; and, as his men often said, could
make his hearers believe "the moon was made of green
cheese" if he chose.
Soon Butler was on his way to New Orleans. He was
very careful to keep his purpose hidden.
On reaching "Ship Island," a low sandy island off the
coast of Mississippi, he found it covered all over with little
 white tents. This was the camp of Gen. Phelps, who,
with 6,000 soldiers, was eagerly awaiting Butler's coming.
Here Butler was joined by Admiral Farragut, one of the
most remarkable naval officers America ever had. Together
these two men planned to take New Orleans. Now, this
city is a Mississippi sea-port; but it is situated around the
corner, up the river a few miles, and was fortified strongly
at every point. One could not even enter the river
without passing two forts, and then there were many more
dangerous points farther on. The only way to get to the city
even, was either to bombard these forts and make them
surrender, or else pass quietly by, letting the forts turn
their great guns upon the vessels as they passed along.
Neither the one, nor the other was a simple thing to do.
But danger or no danger, both Butler and Farragut were
determined to reach that city.
Farragut had forty-eight vessels in all, and they carried
three hundred and ten great guns.
Some of the vessels were covered over with a heavy network of
iron chains to protect them from the balls from the
forts. Their hulks were painted a dark, dull color, so that
they could hardly be seen as they lay in the dull, muddy
colored river. Then great trees were laced on the vessels'
sides; so covering them up, and making them look so
much like bits of the forests on the river banks, that, as
they stole up the river in the dark night, the soldiers in the
 forts should not notice them until they were right upon them.
At last all was ready; and at three o'clock in the morning,
this strange-looking fleet entered the Mississippi.
The first trouble that met them was a fire boat. This
was a great raft, piled up with wood which had been soaked
with oil. This was to be pushed up close to some Union
vessel, to set it on fire. Of course such a fire as that oiled
wood would make, would very soon catch the vessel before
anything could be done to save her. And if this pile of
pitch and oil were to get in among the tree-covered vessels,
there would be a terrible scene!
"A boat! a boat!" cried the soldiers. "Volunteers
to tow away this fire raft." "I" and "I!" and "I!"
answered brave men from Farragut's fleet. A boat was
lowered and rowed swiftly up to this blazing pile.
Grappling irons were thrown and caught fast among the timbers,
and away she was towed out of reach of the Union vessels.
All by herself, on the water's edge she burned and snapped
and crackled, doing no harm, only making of herself a
most beautiful bonfire.
Fort Jackson was attacked first. Now followed a fierce
siege. For three days the gun boats and the fort kept up
the fire. Cannonball and bombshell! Smoke and flash!
Roar upon roar, till it seemed as if the very earth did quake!
Fish, killed by the shock, floated dead upon the river.
 Windows thirty miles away were broken in pieces, shaken
by the jarring thunder.
A little farther up the river it was found that iron cables
had been drawn across, linking together a chain of hulks,
and so making passage beyond them almost impossible
But nothing seemed impossible to Farragut's men.
These cables must be broken. That seemed the only
thought. And so again under cover of darkness, two gun-boats
were sent to break the cable. With hammer and
chisel they worked away, and lo! the cable parted, and
down the stream the bulks floated, leaving the passage free.
Up the river steamed the brave fleet, past the forts which
threw out a rain of fire and shot upon them, straight through
a fleet of confederate gun-boats, sent from New Orleans to
prevent their approach to the city. And at last the Union
fleet steamed up to the very wharves of the city, demanding
its surrender. The people stood aghast! They had believed
it impossible to reach their city. All the time the bombarding
of the forts had been going on, these people had laughed
and joked about it, never once thinking that Farragut could
pass the forts, the fire-boats, the cables! But here he was
at daybreak, at their very doors!
The people were panic stricken. What should they do?
Where should they go? "Burn the city! Burn the city!"
cried the men. "Yes, burn the city, and we will help you!
The Yankees shall not have our homes!" cried the women.
 But now news came that Butler, too, had passed the
forts safely and was rapidly approaching by land. This
was the last blow; and the people settled down to their
fate with sullen faces, and with hearts full of hatred and
In marched Butler with flags flying, his bands filling the
air with strains of Union music. Can you blame these New
Orleans men and women that they hated these Union soldiers?
How the people glared at them! how they muttered
and growled! The women, it is said, were more bitter than
the men. They were like lionesses aroused to battle. They
would not pass a Union soldier on the street. They would
go out into the middle of the street rather than to meet one
of the officers. The Union officers were insulted on every
Gen. Butler realized how bitter a trial the taking of their
city was to them, as we all do. But he could not and
would not allow the Union officers, much more the Union
flag, to be insulted. He at once took military command of
the city, hoisted the "Stars and Stripes" and forced the
people to pay, at least, outward respect to his soldiers.
Did you ever read "Uncle Tom's Cabin?" I don't
suppose you have—it is too old for you yet—but perhaps you
have seen it played. You remember little Eva, the little
girl, who was so good to the slaves. You remember Old
 Uncle Tom, whose good old heart was nearly broken when
he thought he must go away from his "little missus," as he
always called the little Eva. And do you remember Eliza,
the slave woman with the little baby, who was hunted
through the forests and across the rivers, the wicked old
slave-owner and his cruel pack of hounds at her heels?
Before the war broke out, Gen. Butler read this story of
"Uncle Tom's Cabin;" but didn't approve of it at all. He
didn't believe any such cruelty was to be found in the
South. But when he left New Orleans, where he lived
for nearly a year, he said, "Mrs. Stowe has told the truth
in her book. I have seen with my own eyes and have
heard with my own ears treatment of slaves here in the
South a thousand times worse than anything that Mrs. Stowe
has put into 'Uncle Tom's Cabin even."'
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