top of page
April 3, 1862 Article
April 21, 1862 Article
May 1, 1862 Article
Battle of New Orleans
March 29, 1862 New York Times Article

The following is transcribed from the New York Times, dated March 29, 1862.


New Orleans And Its Approaches And Defences

 The Defences Of New Orleans

          Twelve years ago, Henry Clay, speaking in the United States Senate, uttered the memorable words: "I say in my place, never will we, who occupy the broad waters of the Mississippi and its upper tributaries, consent that any foreign flag shall float at the Balize, or upon the turrets of the Crescent City -- never, NEVER!" It is over a year now since other flags than the Stars and Stripes -- the miserable three-barred bunting of rebellion, and the yellow Pelican rag -- were raised upon these turrets; and for all that time until now have they flaunted defiance in the face of the nation, and barred out from their heritage those who dwell on the upper tributaries of the father of waters. The time is now at hand, however, if it has not already arrived, when these alien emblems shall be torn down and made the winding-sheets for secession, to be replaced once more on Balize and turret by the flaming symbol of Union and Nationality. There are various indications that operations have actually been begun against the river and lake defences of New-Orleans by Gen. Butler and Capt. Porter. We publish herewith a clear and minute little map of the locality, showing the various approaches to the city, by lake and river, and indicating the position of the various forts, earthworks, and other defences, from a short study of which a very accurate idea may be obtained of the "situation," and of the work to be done by the mortar fleet and by the land and naval force now in that vicinity. New-Orleans is distant 100 miles above the mouth of the Mississippi River, and five miles south of Lake Ponchartrain, with which it communicates by water and railway. The levee has an average width of about 100 feet where it fronts the town, which stretches parallel to it for about five miles, and extends from one mile to two miles behind it, chiefly in the direction of the lake. The river immediately opposite has a width of one half a mile, and a depth of from 150 to 160 feet, and, sweeping around from the west, first in a north and then in a northeast direction, forms a large crescent-shaped curve. It is probable that the naval force was divided into two columns and the works on the lake and on the Mississippi assaulted simultaneously. If an attack was made by way of Lake Ponchartrain, the fleet in entering the lake had to pass through one of two channels (formed by an island at its mouth,) called the Rigolets, which were extensively fortified. The fort on the island is called Fort Pike. It guards the Rigolets or main passage between Lakes Borgne and Ponchartrain, in the rear of the city. We have already news, by way of Memphis, that this fort has been assaulted and taken by our fleet; but of any further operations the rebels do not inform us. They depreciate the importance of the capture of Fort Pike by saying that it is an old work mounting only a few guns. But it mounted fifty double fortified long 24-pound guns, had two deep and wide ditches, and all the appliances known to modern skill. For ten years it was commanded by Col. John Mountfort, of the United States Artillery, formerly, of Boston. Its stragetic importance is very great. Opposite this fort, on the right, there was a heavy battery, name unknown, and on the left hand side of the other channel stood Fort Wood. Batteries have been erected and intrenchments thrown up within the past year, extending from Chef Montein, in Lake Borgne, along the border of Lake Ponchartrain, guarding in all directions the approaches to the city, the principal defences being called Lakeville and Lakeport. A recent number of the Richmond Dispatch, mixing truth and falsehood, says: "New-Orleans has no fortifications or defences in her rear, and the swamps back of it are impassable, except by the shell road and the railroads. Vessels of all character, drawing not over 11 feet of water, can ascend Lake Ponchartrain to within six miles of the city. There is not an armed vessel of of any importance upon the lake, and the land for more than twenty-five miles around is a low swamp, easily and effectually swept by the guns of a fleet." The rebels, however, seemed to have expected the city would be attacked by way of the Mississippi River and the Balize, and made still greater preparations in that direction. There are three main passes to the Mississippi, the Northeast Pass, the Southeast Pass, and the Southwest Pass. These, at their widest divergence, are about twenty-two miles apart. The Southwest Pass has usually thirteen feet of water on the bar; the depth varies considerably, so that vessels drawing but fourteen and a half feet sometimes lie weeks in the mud before being able to pass over. The other passes are still more fickle and changeable, although admitting heavy draft vessels. The land at the entrance of the Mississippi River is nothing but mud-banks, continually increasing, with reeds and rushes growing upon it at the height of ten or twelve feet above the water. From the bar to New-Orleans is 120 miles. The various passes converge, forming the delta, about twelve miles from the gulf. At this point in the river two or three steamers could obstruct the navigation of the river for any length of time, and against an enemy approaching from any direction, except by a similar marine from the sea. The city finds available access to the gulf through the Mississippi. The Portifications. A recent number of the Richmond Dispatch says: "The Mississippi is fortified so as to be impassable for any hostile fleet or flotilla. Forts Jackson and St. Philip are armed with one hundred and seventy guns, (68-pounders, rifled by Barkley Britton, and received from England.) The navigation of the river is stopped by a dain of about a quarter of a mile from the above forts. No flotilla on earth would force that dam in less than two hours, during which is would be within short and cross range of one hundred and seventy guns of the largest calibre, many of which would be served with red-hot shot, numerous furnaces for which have been erected in every fort and every battery. Between New-Orleans and the forts there is a constant succession of earthworks. At the Plain of Chalmette, near Janin's Property, there are redoubts, armed with rifled cannon, which have been found to be effective at five miles range. A ditch thirty feet wide and twenty deep extends from the Mississippi to La Capriere. In the Forts St. Philip and Jackson there are 3,000 men, of whom a goodly portion are experienced artillerymen and gunners who have served in the navy." The same paper says: "In a day or two we shall have ready two iron-cased floating batteries. The plates are 4 1/2 inches thick, of the host hammered iron, received from England and France. Each iron-cased battery will mount 20 68-pounders, placed so as to skim the water, and strike the enemy's null between wind and water. We have an abundant supply of incendiary shells, cupola furnaces for molten iron, congreve rockets and fire ships. At New-Orleans itself we have 32,000 infantry, and as many more quartered in the immediate neighborhood. In discipline and drill they are far superior to the Yankees. We have two very able and active generals, who possess our entire confidence -- Gen. Mansfield Sorrel and Brig.-Gen. Ruggles. For Commodore we have old HOLLINS -- a NELSON in his way. We are ready to give the Yankees a hot reception when they come. Around all are mad with excitement and rage. Our only fear is that the Northern invaders will not appear. We have made such extensive preparation to receive them, that it were vexatious if their invisible armada escapes the fate we have in store for it." There are also said to be other formidable obstructions of various kinds in the river, to prevent the passage upward of a fleet. A correspondent at Ship Island, writing recently, says: "I have conversed with some prisoners recently taken, in reference to the obstructions placed across the Mississippi by the rebels to prevent the passage of Federal men-of-war. From them I learn there is an immense raft of logs, containing eighty thousand feet, stretched across the river at a point called the 'Jump.' The raft is secured to the banks of the river, on either side, by heavy chains, which are dropped when any of the Confederate steamers pass. This formidable obstruction is commanded by a strong battery." New-Orleans is the great commercial and financial emporium of the South. It is the great Southern cotton emporium. Superior cheapness of transportation by water draws thither all the cotton produced in Middle and Western Tennessee. Arkansas, Eastern Texas and Mississippi. The tobacco, hemp, and the cereals of our vast Western empire find their way thither from the same cause. Half a continent pours its productive wealth into its bosom, and finds thence its way to the markets of the world. It is, in brief, the key to the wealth, the prosperity and advancement of fifteen States, its possession would be of vast material benefit. It would afford us at once the means of forcing the States of Texas, Louisiana and Western Mississippi back to their allegiance, and serve as the point from whence we could force our other rebellious sisters of the Southwest back to their duty. The fact of its capture would inspire the utmost terror throughout the entire South. A moral paralysis would fall upon the boldest spirits of secessionism. The population of the City, by the census of 1860, was 168,472. This has doubtless been greatly reduced since that time, but, allowing for the operation of all reducing causes, and it still probably numbers considerably rising a hundred thousand souls. If we may not now daily look for news of its full, we may at least anticipate learning what is virtually the same thing -- that Gen. Butler and Capt. Porter have captured all its defences, opened up the river, and hold the contumacious city at the mercy of the mortars.

bottom of page