While the fate of the city was thus being settled at the forts, New Orleans preserved its mood of calm confidence. There was nothing in the bulletins sent up by Duncan to give cause for alarm. The prevailing impression was, that the enemy would not attempt to run past the forts until they had been demolished by the bombardment. After six days of tremendous firing they were virtually intact. Therefore, all that was necessary was to hasten work on the great "Mississippi," and she would soon drop down the river and disperse or destroy the Federal flotilla. The "Louisiana" could also be relied on to detain the enemy. So highly was the "Louisiana" valued that a few days before orders had been sent to Duncan to dismount one of his largest guns — mate of that one which did such effective work during the battle — and send it to her. New Orleans, moreover, underrated the size of the Federal fleet. It was believed to be composed for the most part of transports; the fighting ships were probably few. On the night of April 23rd the city fell asleep, serene, and expecting tidings of victory. In the public squares, and at Chalmette below and at Greenville and in Carrollton, above, the soldiers remained under arms; but that was in deference to the military situation, not that their services were likely to be required. They included the Confederate Guards, a command recruited from among the leading citizens of the city, elderly men who might be useful to co-operate with the police, but of whom little could be expected in the field. There was also the Foreign Brigade, which, it was understood, should be called on only to protect the peace and maintain public order. Both commands were poorly armed, having been stripped of their weapons to furnish the soldiers going to the front. The remainder of the garrison comprised ninety-day men, citizen soldiers, fragmentary regiments which had not been sufficiently organized or equipped to justify sending them to Corinth in answer to Beauregard's call for re-enforcements. Altogether, they did not constitute a full brigade.
It had been arranged that, in the remote chance of the Federal fleet passing the forts, the fire alarm bells should strike twelve, four times repeated. Early on the morning of the 24th the fateful news was received by telegraph. The bells sounded the dread signal. The stupefaction which prevailed in the city was extreme. By common consent business and virtually all other occupations were suspended. There was much excitement. Here and there feelings of anger and revenge led to demonstrations against persons known or suspected to be Federal sympathizers, but on the whole the community was concerned only for the fate of the forts, overwhelmed with grief over defeat and apprehension regarding the future. The members of the various military organizations assembled at their headquarters. Preparations were immediately begun to remove from the city the government archives and other property. The governor, his staff and the state officials in general "showed," in the bitter words of an eye-witness, "equal activity in providing for their own safety and for that of the property in their charge." The streets leading to the depot of the New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern p260Railroad were soon crowded with vehicles loaded with the baggage of the war offices. Colonel Lovell was instructed to seize all the river steamers necessary to remove the ordnance and commissary stores.
Hope revived for a moment when one of the local newspapers published a bulletin that only two of the enemy's ships had passed the forts. But the arrival of Lovell in the "Doubloon" brought tidings which left no room for doubt as to the extent of the disaster. The general had been slightly injured by a fall during the trip up from the forts, but was able to mount his horse at the levee and rode at once to his headquarters in Lafayette Square, where he issued the few orders that the situation required. One of these was to Brigadier General Smith and directed him to move the troops under his command in the camp at Carrollton to Chalmette and make whatever resistance might be possible to the advancing enemy. The confusion which the execution of these orders occasioned added to the excitement in the city. Orders were issued to burn all the cotton in the city and all shipyards and all ships without regard to ownership. Officers hurried to and fro with details of troops seizing drays and carts for the performance of this duty. The destruction of the cotton was accomplished with considerable deliberation. Fifteen thousand bales were taken from the cotton yards, piled up in the streets or on the levee and set on fire.
Other property was generally spared, although at one point the misguided zeal of an over-patriotic citizen caused an attempt to fire the warehouses containing tobacco and sugar. Then the ships at the wharves laden with cotton were fired, cut adrift and allowed to float down stream to warn the enemy of the desperate spirit of the people. All the river steamers except those requisitioned by Colonel Lovell to remove military property, were destroyed. Soon the whole extent of the harbor front on both sides of the river was belted with flames and a vast column of smoke rose over the city, in the shadow of which thousands of people engaged in a struggle for plunder stimulated by the general penury and want. Hogsheads of sugar, boxes of meat, barrels of molasses, all were broken open and the contents rifled. Women bore away what they could in their aprons. The gutters ran with molasses. Scraps of iron, bits of half-burned cotton — anything was regarded as fair prize. The better element in the population was at first so stunned by the disaster that they were unable to take measures to check these disturbances. At last the Foreign Brigade intervened, but ')" onMouseOut="nd();">succeeded in restoring order only at the point of the bayonet. In some instances the troops were defied as "Yankees in disguise," and nowhere did they dare break ranks for fear of assassination. The ringleaders were arrested and the trouble finally ceased — probably as much because the plunder was exhausted as for any other reason. By the end of the day the levees were swept bare of everything except a little debris, a few dismounted cannon and some broken machinery.
Meanwhile, at the Custom House — where in the basement a shop had been established for the repair of artillery — the material which might prove of value to the enemy was brought out into Canal Street, heaped up and burned. Timber and wood yards were next consigned to the flames. The workshops on the Algiers side of the river were stripped of their machinery, which was dumped into the water. This work was performed by the owners themselves. The large dock in Algiers, which cost several millions of dollars and which gave employment to several p261hundred persons, was sunk by the proprietors where she could not be raised.
On the evening of the 24th Governor Moore, the state and Confederate officials and their families, the families of Lovell and his staff, some furloughed Confederate officers and a few others departed on board the steamers "Magenta" and "Pargoud." Guards were stationed at the gangplanks to keep the citizens from thronging aboard. The Jackson railroad was likewise closed to passengers. The road was only available for the transport of government stores. The effect was to embitter the population. One of those thus condemned to remain in the city and share its fate has left us a description of what he terms "the deplorable lack of dignity, self-possession, manhood and fortitude and the gross manifestations of egotism and selfishness which appeared in the conduct and movements of the general-in-chief and several of his staff and of others in high command. When a devoted, self-sacrificing people found themselves by no delinquency of their own in the presence of a great calamity, which they had so long been assured by those to whom in the most generous confidence they had entrusted their protection and defense, would be kept from them — they naturally and justly looked to their chiefs for an exhibition of the spirit, the fortitude, the firmness, the calm and dignified devotion to duty and country which the great crisis demanded. [. . .] The time [. . .] was consumed by General Lovell and his staff in idle disputes and profitless gossip, in frequent visits to the clubs, [. . .] in earnest demands at the bank counters for specie to pay their expenses out of the city, and in careful arrangements for the safety and comfortable transportation of their families beyond the dangers to which the people would be left exposed."1 But in the midst of these depressing scenes an example of heroism was given by General Buisson and his men, marching to Chalmette to take part with Smith in the expected fighting with the fleet. Theirs was a forlorn hope; as they passed the spectators, knowing the desperate character of their mission, applauded wildly.
On the morning of the 25th the fires had not yet burned themselves out and smoke and ashes filled the air. A calmer mood possessed the city. Many young men were preparing to leave to join the Confederate army. Foreigners flocked to the offices of their consuls and deposited their valuables for safekeeping; so many, in fact, that in more than one instance it was necessary for the officials to rent large buildings to shelter these deposits. Several days before the banks had made arrangements to send away whatever specie was on hand, and now some $6,000,000 was dispatched by the Jackson railroad under the protection of the Confederate Guards, many of whom were stockholders in the very institutions of which they were thus helping to deplete. Some of the banks converted their specie into foreign bills, and thus the cash became the property of foreigners and was legitimately turned over to the consuls for safekeeping. Foreign flags were displayed wherever there was any possible excuse for them. Pillaging on a diminished scale began again on the levee. Excited crowds in other parts of the city made demonstrations against persons suspected of sympathizing with the enemy. Lovell, wounded at the manifestations of disapproval which had been made the previous day by persons denied the use of railroads or p262steamboats, made an attempt to vindicate himself by advertising, through a member of his staff, Col. S. L. James, for one hundred desperate men to board the enemy's ships when they arrived and capture them. The scheme was impracticable; even had it been feasible there were no boats left in which to convey the men to the points of attack.
Early in the day the "Mississippi," of which so much had been anticipated, was fired and set adrift. As she passed flaming in front of the city a wail of despair rose from the watching crowd. The great vessel lacked but a few days of completion. Vain attempts had been made to tow her up the river and her commander had only consented to her destruction when it was evident that she could not possibly be otherwise prevented from falling into the enemy's hands.
By now the mayor and the city authorities had recovered from the torpor into which the receipt of the news of the passage of the forts by the fleet had thrown them. Measures were taken to assure order. Gen. Paul Juge, a French veteran, was put in charge of the policing of the city. He discharged his duty with zeal and success. The mayor issued a series of proclamations urging merchants to open their shops, promising to continue the free market and denouncing those who refused to receive Confederate paper money in payment of accounts. These had a great effect in calming the populace.
In the meantime Farragut had sailed from the Quarantine, leaving two vessels there on guard. He came to anchor •eighteen miles below the city and there spent the night of the 24th. On the 25th he moved cautiously on, appalled at the burning wrecks which went floating by. At 9 A.M. the batteries at Chalmette were in sight and he made signals for the ships to engage them. These were open works on either side of the river, extending at right angles with the stream and forming part of a system of defenses intended to impeded an enemy's advance overland between the river and the swamp. At the present stage of the river the guns of the fleet dominated their entire length. They were really untenable. The 42-pounders with which these lines were supposed to be equipped had been removed and sent to the forts. The ammunition supply had been diminished for the same purpose. Smith, on arriving at Chalmette, had been obliged to set his men to work making cartridges. Several battalions of infantry, including the whole of Lovell's disposable force, was stationed on the plain at Chalmette to support the batteries. On the east bank the battery was armed with five 32-pounders manned by one company from the Twenty-second Louisiana Volunteers, under Capt. I. W. Patton; a squad of artillerists from Fort Pike, under Lieutenant Butler, and one company from the Beauregard Battery. Among the men was Toby Hart, a sign painter from New Orleans, whose name was afterwards widely known. Smith stationed himself on the opposite bank where a battery of 32-pounders, nine in number, were supported by three companies of Pinckney's battalion. When the first enemy's ship was within •half a mile the batteries opened fire. The fleet answered with a heavy broadside. The sound of the cannonading was audible in the city. The effect on the ships was small. One man was knocked overboard by the wind of a passing shell, but no other casualties were reported. On the other hand, the Confederates suffered the loss of only one man killed and one wounded. They continued to fire until the ammunition was exhausted. Then the men on the west bank retreated to the Opelousas Railroad and used it to make their way into Lafourche, p263while those on the east bank fell back into New Orleans. The encounter was a mere waste of powder and shot; the fleet was not even delayed.
Farragut was now before the city. It had, as we have seen, been stripped of everything of any possible value to the foe. On the levee a vast multitude watched the great vessels as they slowly glided by, not over •100 yards from the shore. For some time perfect silence reigned on both sides. Then a tumult rose, for which no reason has ever been assigned. A discharge of firearms rang out; the multitude swayed back and forth; a roar of voices was heard. Some said that the firing was directed at the ships; some that it was intended to silence some person of Union proclivities who had attempted to communicate with the fleet. Neither explanation is satisfactory; the latter, however, was later accepted by Farragut and made the subject of representations to Monroe, but at the moment he paid no attention to the incident and steamed silently on until the foremost vessel was opposite the upper limits of the city. Then the signal was given to anchor, and thirteen ships, carrying 200 guns, came to a stop in front of New Orleans, their batteries on a level with the lower floors of the houses, in positions where they commanded the principal streets. Just then a sudden rainstorm descended. This caused the crowd in a great part to disperse. In the midst of the rain a boat was seen to put off from the flagship with several Federal officers in it, but without displaying a flag of truce. These officers included Captain Bailey and Lieutenant Perkins, charged to proceed to the city hall and demand the surrender of the city. They landed at the foot of Canal Street and asked the bystanders to direct them. The answer was a curt intimation that they might find their own way. The two officers started up the street, followed by a constantly increasing crowd. Several citizens, realizing the danger which menaced, interfered to protect them, but were thrust aside, harshly treated and some even slightly injured in the scuffling. Finally two individuals whom everyone knew and respected, William Freret, ex-mayor of New Orleans, and L. E. Forstall, a member of the council, pushed their way through the unruly throng and took the arms of the unwelcome visitors, placing themselves between them and the mob, and thus escorted Bailey and Perkins in safety to their destination.
On the city hall was flying the state flag, a red, white and blue striped ensign with a large pale yellow star in the middle of a red field.a This had been run up by the mayor's secretary, Marion Baker, at the mayor's own order, as soon as it was known that the fleet had passed the Chalmette batteries. The mayor was in his office with Pierre Soulé, several members of the city council, and some of the committee on public safety. To these gentlemen Bailey explained that he was not merely bearer of a demand for the surrender of the city, but for the removal of the flag then floating over the hall, for which the United States flag would be substituted. He also required that the national emblem be placed above the Mint and the Custom House. The interview took on the character of an informal conference between the mayor, Soulé and the Federal officers. The mayor insisted that he as a civil magistrate could not perform a military action like the surrender of the city. That function properly belonged to General Lovell. The city was still under martial law. As for the flag on the hall, this the mayor refused to remove. The Mint and the Custom House were Confederate property; his jurisdiction did not extend to them. In these conclusions Mayor Monroe's advisers p264concurred. Lovell was sent for, and pending his arrival the conversation turned on general subjects. Bailey expressed regret for the destruction of property which had taken place. The mayor answered, somewhat brusquely, that the material destroyed was owned by private parties, who had the right to make any disposition of it that they pleased, and they had burned it as a solemn, patriotic duty, to prevent it from passing into an enemy's hands. Several Unionists intruded into the apartment during this discussion. They introduced themselves to Bailey and drew him apart, forming a little group separate from the Confederates, who lingered around the mayor's desk.
Lovell promptly appeared. Bailey repeated his demands, prefacing them with the statement that he had givenI\'ve supplied '+BadF+'he had given'+CloseF+'',WIDTH,220)" onMouseOut="nd();">º his message to the mayor and the council, but that they had refused to receive it. Lovell's answer was to refuse to surrender the city. He said, however, that he would withdraw the troops, thus leaving the civil authorities in a position to take whatever action was most satisfactory to them. Monroe decided to refer the question to the Common Council, and announced that he would forward a formal reply as soon as that body could act. Bailey and Perkins were then escorted to their boat by Colonel Lovell and Major James. The presence of these officers had caused a large crowd to assemble around the hall. In order to occupy their attention and prevent trouble, Soulé and Lovell now undertook to address them. Both urged the people to disperse and to maintain peace and quiet. These counsels of moderation were well received. Lovell was especially gratified at the manifestations of approbation which his remarks elicited. His administration had not been popular in the city. He seized upon the present opportunity to vindicate himself for the failure of the campaign. It was due, he said, to the lack of time and of means to offer a more determined defense.
The council met at 6.30 P.M. The mayor sent in a message describing the situation. "I am now in momentary expectation," he said in conclusion, "of a second peremptory demand for the surrender of the city. I solicit your advice in this emergency. My own opinion is that [. . .] it would be proper to say, in reply to a demand of that character, that we are without military protection; that the troops have withdrawn from the city; that we are, consequently, incapable of making any resistance, and that, therefore, we can offer no obstruction to the occupation of the place by the enemy; that the Custom House, the Postofficeº and the Mint are the property of the Confederate government, and that we have no control over them; and that all acts involving a transfer of authority be performed by the invading forces themselves; that we yield to physical force alone; and that we maintain our allegiance to the government of the Confederate States. Beyond this, a due respect for our dignity, our rights and the flag of our ')" onMouseOut="nd();">country does not, I think, permit us to go." Both boards of the council determined that an adjournment be taken till the following morning, in order to enable the members to reflect fully upon the proposed action. Mayor Monroe, fearing that, possibly, the delay might be misunderstood, on his own initiative that night sent Baker out to the "Hartford" to explain the situation, which he did to Farragut's satisfaction.
The council was due to meet at 10 A.M. Before that hour, however, the mayor received from Farragut the peremptory demand which he was anticipating. Farragut declined to occupy the city. "It must occur to your honor," he wrote, "that it is not within the province of a naval p265officer to assume the duties of a military commandant. I came here to reduce New Orleans to obedience to the laws of and to vindicate the offended majesty of the Government of the United States. The rights of persons and property shall be secure," and he thereupon repeated the demands already formulated through Captain Bailey. "I particularly request, he added, "that you shall exercise your authority to quell disturbances, restore order and to call upon all the good people of New Orleans to return at once to their vocations; and I particularly demand that no person shall be molested in person or property, for the profession of loyalty to their government." The letter closed with a reference to the firing of the previous afternoon on the levee while the fleet was passing. "I shall speedily and severely punish any person or persons who shall commit such outrages as were witnessed yesterday — armed men firing upon helpless men, women and children, for giving expression to their pleasure at witnessing the old flag."
The letter was delivered to Mayor Monroe by Lieut. Albert Kautz and Midshipman J. H. Read. They had had a thrilling experience between their landing place on the levee and the city hall. Kautz came ashore with a marine guard, which he expected to take with him to his destination. He was met by a howling mob. The marines drew up in line. Kautz first attempted to reason with the crowd, but this proving unavailing, he brought his men to the "aim." Before they could fire, however, women and children were pushed to the front. Rather than shoot these innocent persons, Kautz desisted. The situation was serious, as Farragut had promised that if a shot were fired at his emissaries he would instantly open on the city and level it with the ground. Fortunately, an officer of the Confederate Guards approached at this juncture. To him Kautz appealed. He undertook to escort the Federal officer to the hall, but urged that the guard be left behind, for fear of provoking a riot. Kautz took with him only a single soldier, to whose bayonet he fastened a handkerchief, as a symbol of truce. At the hall he was courteously received.
While these incidents were taking place, another, which was later to assume the gravest significance, occurred at the mint. Captain Morris of the U. S. "Pensacola," which was lying off the foot of Elysian Fields Street, ordered the United States flag displayed on that building. He came ashore with a landing party. After seeing the flag placed in position he returned to his vessel, warning the bystanders that the guns of the "Pensacola" commanded the vicinity and would fire if the national standard were molested. The men in the maintop of the ship had orders to open in that event with a howitzer loaded with grapeshot. The "Pensacola" lay in midstream. Morris left no guard on shore. There was nothing to indicate to late comers that the flag had been run up by proper authority. It was known throughout the city that the mayor had declined to surrender; that the town was still under the control of the Confederate authorities; that Farragut was not prepared to occupy the town, and that Lovell was talking of a scheme to resist the landing of the enemy. Viewed in any light, Morris' action was indiscreet, even if it were not, as believed at that time, deliberately designed to provoke an act which might justify the destruction of the city.
As soon as the flag was seen waving in the air there was a natural convergence of many hundreds of people towards the Mint. Several men climbed to the roof of the building and tore down the offensive p266bunting. Instantly the howitzer on the "Pensacola" was discharged. The charge passed high over the heads of the guilty parties and rattled harmlessly against the walls of an adjacent residence. The report startled the whole fleet. The ships cleared for action, there was great excitement among the crews, but fortunately no further firing occurred. The flag was brought down to the street in the hands of W. B. Mumford, Lieutenant Holmes, Sergeant Burns and James Peccel, all connected with the Confederate army. Followed by the mob, it was carried to Lafayette Square, where it was torn to pieces, which were distributed as souvenirs. Mumford and his companions arrived while Lieutenant Kautz and Midshipman Read were still closeted with the mayor. The demeanor of the gathering was so boisterous that Soulé suggested that the two officers lose no time in returning to their ships by a back way while he detained the mob by making a speech. This was done. The two men were hurried down the rear stair of the hall into a carriage and, accompanied by Baker, driven to the landing place at high speed. They were followed part of the way, but managed to outwit their pursuers.2
Farragut, to whom the episode was fully reported, did not take any action, except to describe it to Butler, who had that morning arrived by a schooner from the Quarantine. Butler was greatly irritated. He declared he would hang the person who had removed the flag. "You will have to catch him before you can hang him, general!" responded Farragut, smilingly. The responsibility of the affair will probably never be definitely fixed. Whether Morris acted on his own volition, or under Farragut's orders, is not clear. Baker, in his reminiscences, says that Farragut definitely informed him that he had no previous knowledge of Morris' intention. On the other hand, in a communication sent to Mayor Monroe on April 28th, Farragut referred to "the flag which had been hoisted on the Mint by my order." It seems likely that the flag was hoisted without Farragut's knowledge, but considering the excited temper of officers and men throughout the fleet he could not afford to disclaim the act. Mayor Monroe, in reply to Farragut's letter, protested against the violation of diplomatic usage in the premises. "Your communication is the first intimation I ever had that it was by 'your strict orders' that the United States flag was attempted to be hoisted on a certain of our public edifices, by officers sent on shore to communicate with the authorities. The officers who approached me in your name disclosed no such order, and intimated no such design on your part; nor could I have for a moment entertained the remotest suspicion that they could have been invested with such powers to enter on such an errand, while the negotiations for a surrender between you and the city authorities were still pending. The indifference of anyone under your command, as long as these negotiations were not brought to a close, could not be viewed by me otherwise than as a flagrant violation of those courtesies, if not the absolute rights, which prevail between belligerents under such circumstances." In fact, Farragut, when on the following day he determined to raise the flag on the Custom House, took pains to acquaint Monroe with his intention in advance, thus implicitly admitting the justice of the mayor's contentions.
In the meantime the council had adopted a resolution to the effect that "the sentiments expressed in the message of his honor the mayor p267[. . .] are in perfect accord with the sentiments entertained by those councils, and by the entire population of this metropolis; and that the mayor be respectfully asked to act in the spirit manifested by the message." This was signed by S. P. DeLabarre, president of the Board of Aldermen, and by J. Magioni, president of the Board of Assistant Aldermen. The mayor accordingly addressed a letter to Farragut in which he said: "To surrender such a place were an idle and unmeaning ceremony. The city is yours by power of brutal force, and not by any choice or consent of its inhabitants. It is for you to determine what shall be the fate that waits her. As to the hoisting of any flag than the flag of our own adoption and allegiance, let me say, sir, that man does not live in our midst whose hand and heart would not be palsied at the mere thought of such an act; nor could I find in my entire constituency so wretched and desperate a renegade as would dare to profane with his hand the sacred emblem of our aspirations. Sir, you have manifested sentiments which would become one engaged in a better cause than that to which you have devoted your sword. I doubt not that they spring from a noble though deluded nature, and I know how to appreciate the emotions which inspired them." (This was possibly an allusion to Farragut's former connection with New Orleans.) "You have a gallant people to administer during your occupation of this city — a people sensitive to all that can in the least affect its dignity and self-respect. Pray, sir, do not allow them to be insulted by the interference of such as have rendered themselves odious and contemptible by their cowardly desertion of the mighty struggle in which we are engaged, nor of such as might remind them too painfully that they are the conquered and you the conquerors."
This letter was sent to the "Hartford" by the hand of Baker. It was, except for the closing paragraph acknowledging the receipt of Farragut's communication of that morning, the work of Pierre Soulé. Soulé was the only prominent professional man in the city who at this critical juncture offered his services to the mayor. This was all the more creditable to him in view of the fact that he had opposed secession at the incipiency of the movement, and been an unsuccessful candidate for the convention of 1861 on a platform of opposition to the ordinance which that body ultimately adopted, withdrawing Louisiana from the Union. The mayor and his young secretary, Baker, had no experience in diplomacy, and were ignorant of international law. Soulé was both diplomat and lawyer. It is easy to see that he thoroughly enjoyed the management of the negotiations with Farragut, which were protracted over four anxious days. In spite of a good deal of rhetoric which served no purpose except to irritate the Federal commander, the papers which he prepared for the mayor's signature were statesmanlike compositions. Farragut appears to have been a good deal puzzled by the attitude of passive resistance adopted by the mayor and the council. Moreover, his decisions were warped by the reports of Union sympathizers who sought refuge on the fleet, alleging that they were in danger from the mob in the city. Their description of the situation on shore was exaggerated and misleading. It is clear from the tenor of the various communications which Farragut sent to the mayor between the 25th and 30th, that he had no desire to occupy the city; that all he hoped to do was to have the city government continue to function, acknowledging his authority and that of the United States; and to maintain some sort of order until Butler p268could arrive with the land forces to take possession. The fleet was probably short of ammunition; it would have been extremely unwise to send any part of its personnel ashore while the forts still continued to hold out; and it may be that Farragut was glad to have the negotiations drag their tedious length along until, on the 30th, he was able to announce the surrender of Duncan and Hollins. On the other hand, Monroe's dilatory tactics were supported by the mass of the population. Had the mayor consented to lower the flag at the city hall, it was freely asserted, the mob would interfere to prevent him from doing so.
Sunday passed without incident. On Monday came another letter from the "Hartford." It was brought by Capt. H. H. Bell and Acting Master H. B. Tyson. Farragut wrote that he was compelled to conclude from the tenor of the correspondence that the mayor and the council were determined not to comply with his demands, "all of which goes to show that the fire of this fleet may be drawn upon the city at any moment and in such an event the levee could in all probability be cut by the shells, and an amount of distress ensue to the innocent population which I [. . .] assure you I desire by all means to avoid. The election is with you. But it becomes my duty to notify you to remove the women and children from the city within forty-eight hours, if I have correctly understood your intention." Mayor Monroe was reluctant to believe that this threat was serious. In a communication which he sent to the council April 28th he wrote: "I am deeply sensible of the distress which would be brought upon our community by a consummation of the inhuman threat of the United States commander, but I cannot conceive that those who so recently declared themselves to be animated by a Christian spirit and by a regard for the rights of private property, would venture to incur for themselves and for the government which they represent the universal execration of the civilized world by attempting to achieve, through a wanton destruction of life and property, that which they can accomplish without bloodshed, and without a resort to those hostile measures which the law of nations condemns and execrates when employed upon the defenseless women and children of an unresisting city."
The council adopted resolutions approving the views of the mayor. They had "the unreserved approbation of this council," and embodied their "views and sentiments," and the mayor was "respectfully requested to act accordingly."
The mayor's letter to Farragut put the case very well. "Sir," he wrote, "you cannot but know that there is no possible exit from this city for a population which still exceeds, in numbers, one hundred and forty thousand, and you must, therefore, be aware of the utter inanity of such a notification. Our women and children cannot escape from your shells, if it be your pleasure to murder them on a mere question of etiquette. But if there could there are few among them who would consent to desert their families and their homes and the graves of their relatives in so awful a moment; they would bravely stand the sight of your shells rolling over the bones of those once dear to them and would deem that they died gloriously by the side of the tombs erected by their piety to departed relatives. You are not satisfied with the peaceable possession of an undefended city, opposing no resistance to your guns, because of its bearing its doom with some manliness and dignity; and you wish to humble and disgrace us by the performance of an act against which our p269nature rebels. This satisfaction you cannot expect to obtain at our hands. We will stand your bombardment, unarmed and undefended as we are. The civilized world will consign to indelible infamy the heart that will conceive the deed and the hand that will dare to consummate it."3
The population of the city in general, informed of the enemy's intentions, regarded the bombardment as inevitable. But there was no weakening on that account. A remarkable petition signed by hundreds of women, which was sent in to the mayor, urging him to stand firm, was symptomatic of the popular mood. There was some apprehension lest the timid or the Unionists might influence Monroe to submit, and a mob collected which proclaimed its intention to prevent any interference by those elements. Other influences were also at work to induce Farragut to reconsider his determination, if he had really arrived at a determination: a French man-of-war, the "Milan," which had recently arrived in port, had been sent to protect interests in New Orleans. Her captain, De Clouet, sent a note to Farragut protesting against the short term allotment for the evacuation of the city, on the ground that there were many French residents who would not leave within the period assigned, and demanding that if the "barbarous act" were to be consummated sixty days be allowed in which his compatriots might remove their effects. How far this protest influenced Farragut is not known; but, at any rate, on May 30, he addressed a final letter to Mayor Monroe deprecating the construction put upon his words, and stating that in view of the "offensive nature" of the mayor's reply, he would have no further intercourse with him nor with the City Government, but on the arrival of Butler, would turn the city over to that officer. "I venture to say," commented the mayor in a message to the council transmitting Farragut's letter, "that no reasoning mind can fail to place upon the note of the 28th inst., the interpretation attached to it by the people of this city. The notification to remove our women and children within forty-eight hours in case we adhere to our resolution not to haul down our flag, can be construed in no other way than as a threat to bombard the city. The meaning was plain, not only to us, but to the consuls of the foreign nations residing here. But in so clear a case argument is superfluous."
In the meanwhile several other important incidents had transpired. The "McRae" had come up in tow of one of the enemy's boats under a flag of truce, to bring the Confederate wounded who could not be properly cared for at the forts. From her passengers the people learned that the forts still held out and this information was at once forwarded to Lovell, who had retired to Camp Moore, seventy miles distant from the city. He promptly issued orders to stop the evacuation of the forts, which had already begun, under his previous instructions. This, however, came too late. Forts Pike, McComb, and Bienvenu had been abandoned on the 25th and 26th, and the garrisons were on their way to Madisonville. The gunboats under Captain Poindexter, which had been recently launched on Lake Pontchartrain, and were believed to be well armed and efficient, had been run ashore and burnt. The fortifications p270on the west coast of Louisiana — Forts Livingston, Caillou, Quitman, Berwick and Chêne, had been evacuated and the garrisons disbanded, a few members thereof making their way overland to Camp Moore. These steps had been taken by Lovell under the impression that Forts Jackson and St. Philip had surrendered. His order countermanding them were construed in New Orleans as evidences of panic, great dissatisfaction arose over the abandonment of these strong and well-provisioned places, which, it was believed, could have offered serious resistance to the Federals. In withdrawing from New Orleans, Lovell had unquestionably done the wise and prudent thing, but it is not so easy to justify his haste in evacuating these other points. Now he proposed to remedy as far as possible this mistake, and came hurrying back to New Orleans, to concert some sort of resistance to the Federals.
Down at Forts Jackson and St. Philip, Duncan, after the passage of Farragut's ships, was sanguine enough to prepare for further resistance. He managed to redistribute his artillery, originally mounted to bear downstream, in such a way as to command the up-stream approaches also. But on April 26 Captain Mitchell informed him that New Orleans had surrendered. Duncan thought the news was confirmed by the sight of the wrecks drifting by, the melancholy debris of the great fire in the city. Moreover, the enemy was closing in upon him. Enemy vessels were seen in the little bay in the rear of Fort St. Philip; a steamer was reported working her way up Fort Bayou, and a number of launches filled with Federal troops was moving through a network of little streams towards the Quarantine. The latter were troops from Williams' brigade of Butler's army. They succeeded in getting to the Quarantine, though only after heroic efforts, often dragging their boats by main strength through the shallow channels; but further progress was impossible without light steamers, and Butler hurried up to the city to ask Farragut to provide these. As a matter of fact, Farragut had no such boats, and the movements of this detachment were held up for several days.
Phelps, with another brigade, remained on the transports below the forts. This officer now divided his force, and put troops on each side of the river. This maneuver being visible to the garrison in Fort Jackson, they concluded that they were surrounded. At midday Porter sent a flag of truce with a demand for the surrender of the post. He offered favorable terms. Duncan and Higgins declined on the ground that there was as yet no official confirmation of the report that New Orleans had yielded to Farragut, and that it was their duty to hold out until such news were received. But the men in the forts were in no mood to prolong the resistance. There were many foreigners in their ranks. Duncan, who distrusted volunteers, had favored these troops, but he was now to have a demonstration of their defects which inhere in all mercenary military organizations. The 27th closed quietly, but at midnight the officers in Fort Jackson were aroused by a tumult outside of their quarters, and rushed forth to find a number of men reversing the guns, spiking others, and preparing to leave the fort with their arms. One company, the St. Mary's Cannoneers, composed of native Louisianans, refused to take any part in these proceedings. A part of the other troops was drawn up under arms. Duncan found the mutineers threatening the faithful remnant of his force. He saw at once that there was no course open but to permit the mutinous faction to leave the fort. Some 250 men accordingly put out in small boats. After their departure, he was mortified to p271discover that the remainder wanted immediate surrender. He was not able that night to get into communication with Fort St. Philip, but as the mutineers had been telegraphing thither at an earlier hour, this silence gave ground to apprehend that mutiny had also broken out there. The situation was very grave, for if Fort Jackson surrendered, Fort St. Philip would have no option but to do so too. Its shallow ditches, exposed situation and imperfect casements made it impossible to hold out when once the stronger fortification had passed into the enemy's hands.
At the approach of daylight Duncan sent messengers to the mortar fleet, which still lay in position below the forts, and proposed to resume the negotiations begun on the previous day by Porter. He also notified Mitchell, who still was on board the "Louisiana," but that officer took the ground that the surrender, if effected, need not necessarily apply to him, and he would fight. Duncan seems to have attached little importance to this announcement. In fact, he ignored Mitchell almost completely. The negotiations with the federals were opened without consulting the latter. Mitchell called a meeting of his officers, and found that they, like himself, were opposed to surrender. They favored destroying the vessel rather than let her fall into the hands of the enemy. Only one of them, however, wished to fight, and that was Lieutenant Bowen. Mitchell accepted the views of the majority. He ordered the tender "Burton" made ready to remove the crew. Just then the chief engineer, Lieutenant Youngblood, reported that the propeller engines were completed and could be used. Mitchell was nonplussed. He hesitated to order the destruction of this formidable fighting machine, at the very moment when her usefulness at last seemed possible. But Lieutenant Wilkinson had already begun the work of destruction, and after a few moments of indecision, Mitchell reluctantly directed him to proceed. The vessel was set on fire and in a short time was enveloped in flames. Mitchell then cut the ropes which moored her to the shore. She drifted down the river, abandoned by officers and crew, and blew up in less than a quarter of an hour. The explosion took place in front of Fort Jackson, and the flying fragments killed one man and wounded several in the garrison there. Another fragment struck Captain McIntosh as he lay wounded in a cot on board one of the towboats moored just above the fort. Such was the end of the "Louisiana." Many of her officers, subsequently expressed the belief that, handled with proper energy and boldness, she might have rendered important services to the Confederacy, or at least need not have been destroyed, but might have been taken down the river and around to Mobile. Even in her last moments the ill-fortune which had attended her from the beginning, pursued her. The Federals complained that her destruction was a breach of faith, but there was no ground for the charge.
With the exception of Captain Baker and one other officer, all of the crew of the "Louisiana" surrendered. Those two made their way to New Orleans. The negotiations for their surrender were made independently of the garrison in the forts. The Federals steamed up to Fort Jackson on board the "Harriet Lane" and three other gunboats, all flying flags of truce. At the fort a white flag was displayed on the flagstaff, below the Confederate colors. The terms were quickly drawn up and signed. Much good feeling was manifested on both sides. Several of the Confederate officers were old acquaintances of the conquerors. Hollins, for example, had been a messmate of Porter's in the old p272navy. It was agreed that the United States flag should not be raised over the forts until after the Confederate officers had departed for New Orleans. They accordingly went on board the U. S. S. "Kennebec," which promptly departed up the river. Colonel Jones, of the 26th Massachusetts, was put in command of the garrison at the forts. Lieutenant Weitzel, Butler's chief of engineers, now found himself commissioned to superintend their repair.
The mutineers from Fort Jackson were picked up in the course of the morning by a picket which had been posted by the Federals on the West bank of the river.4
Immediately upon the receipt of Farragut's final communication, on April 30, Mayor Monroe addressed to the Council a communication, in which he stated that his secretary, Baker, had had an interview with the Federal commander, with the result that "the latter had abandoned his purpose of bombarding the city, and signified his intention of removing the flag from this building (the City Hall) by means of his own forces." At the same time he issued a proclamation requesting "All citizens to retire to their homes during those acts of authority which it would be folly to resist." This advice was urged through fear that some disturbance during the removal of the flag might yet precipitate upon the city the fate which it had just avoided. It must be confessed that little heed was paid to the mayor's proclamation. An immense throng was present before the hall to witness the act which signalized the capture of the city. Farragut selected Captain Bell to remove the flag. Baker tells us that when he saw this officer on the "Hartford" just before starting for the City Hall, he was very nervous as to the kind of reception which he might expect ashore. Baker assured him that the crowd would offer no opposition to anything which Farragut might decide to do. Nevertheless the Federal command deemed it prudent to send a strong force with Bell. "Soon officers, marines, and sailors appeared in Lafayette Square," writes Baker, "with bayonets and two brass howitzers glittering in the sunlight. The marines formed in line on the St. Charles side of the square, near the iron railing which at that time enclosed it, and placed so as to command the thoroughfare either way. The crowd flowed in and filled the street in a compact mass above and below the square. They were silent but angry and threatening. Many openly displayed their arms. An open way was left in front of the City Hall, and their force being stationed, Captain Bell and Lieutenant Kautz passed across the street and entered the mayor's parlor. Approaching the mayor, Captain Bell said: 'I have come in obedience to orders to haul down the State flag from this building.' Mr. Monroe replied, his voice trembling with restrained emotion, 'Very well, sir; you can do it, but I wish to say that there is not in my entire constituency so wretched a renegade as would be willing to exchange places with you.' He emphasized this speech in a way which must have been very offensive to the officers. Captain Bell visibly restrained himself from reply, and asked at once that he might be shown the way to the roof. The mayor replied by referring him to the janitor, whom he would find outside. As soon as the two officers left the room, the mayor went out. Descending the front steps he walked out into the street and placed himself immediately p273in front of the howitzer pointing down St. Charles Street. Then, folding his arms, he fixed his eyes upon the gunner, who stood, lanyard in hand, ready for action. Here he remained without once looking up or moving, until the flag had been hauled down by Lieutenant Kautz, and he and Captain Bell reappeared."5 The mayor was apprehensive that some reckless person in the crowd might open fire on the officers engaged in the performance of their duty, and knowing that this would be followed by the discharge of the howitzer, was resolved that its bullets should find lodgment in his body, rather than in those of his people. Fortunately, the sad little ceremony passed off without interruption. When Bell and Kautz returned from the roof, the troops fell into column at a word of command, and as they marched off through the Camp Street gate of the square, Mayor Monroe remounted the marble steps of the hall, went to his office, and the people who had up till now maintained a gloomy silence, broke into cheers for the man whose heroic attitude they warmly appreciated.
- Capuchin A Catholic friar.
Text prepared by:
- Jacob Schlenker
- Taylor Thibodeaux
- Michael Horn
- Lasan Ihalekkankanamalage
Smith, Kendall J. History of New Orleans. Vol. 1 an 2. Chicago: Lewis Pub., 1922. Archive.Org. Chicago New York, The Lewis Publishing Company. Web. Apr.-May 2015. https://archive.org/details/historyofneworle02kend.