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The Operations of the Fleet before Port Hudson.—Its good services.—Gallant Exploits.-Farragut attacks the Batteries.—The Result.—The Hartford and Albatross pass the Batteries.—The rest repulsed.—The Loss of the Mississippi. —Enemy's Account of Farragut's Attack upon Port Hudson.—The Cruise of the Hartford and Albatross above Port Hudson.—Passing the Batteries at Grand Gulf. —At Warrenton.—Communicating with Admiral Porter and General Grant.—Relief sent to Farragut.—The Passage of the Switzerland and Lancaster.—The Wreck of the Wicksburg.— Return of Farragut and Fight with the Warrenton Batteries.—Off the Red River. — Blockading the Red River.—Communications cut off.-Bold attempts to renew them.—Adventures of a Party.—The Cruise of the Albatross on the Red River.-A Fight.—The Hartford and Albatross co-operating in the attacks by Banks upon Port Hudson.—Fall of Port Hudson.—Return of the Steamers to New Orleans.—Clearing the Mississippi.-The Enemy's Discouragement. —What they had lost by the fall of Wicksburg and Port Hudson.
DURING the protracted operations of General Banks, which resulted in the capture of Port Hudson, a sleet of armed steamers and gun-boats, under the command of Admiral Farragut, was constantly co-operating with the land forces. The service of the navy, though subordinate to that of the army, in the accomplishment of the final result, was of great assistance in securing it. Not only during the siege of Port Hudson, but in the movements which preceded it, the navy was rendering active and efficient assistance. In the course of the naval operations, many acts were performed which, if not always successful, were of a character which illustrate the heroic valor of our sailors, and claim the record of the chronicler. Having aided in clearing the enemy from the country bordered by the lakes and bayous in the immediate neighborhood of New Orleans, the fleet was free to operate upon the waters of the Mississippi and its tributaries. Admiral Farragut, who had already given proof,
in his daring passage of the forts below New Orleans, of his taste for bold expedients, now determined to confront the formidable batteries of Port Hudson. The land forces were placed in such position as to co-operate if required, and to take advantage of any success that might be achieved by the navy. Baton Rouge, which had been abandoned by General Butler, had been reoccupied by General Banks, and General Weitzel had advanced with his brigade to Berwick Bay. Admiral Farragut, having previously sailed from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, weighed anchor off this latter place at nine o'clock on the night of March 14th, and proceeded to the attack of the batteries of Port Hudson. His squadron was composed of the Hartford, the Albatross, the Richmond, the Genesee, the Monongahela, the Kineo, the Mississippi, and the Sachem. Before moving, the Albatross was lashed to the port side of the Hartford, the Genesee to that of the Richmond, and the Kineo to that of
the Monongahela. The squadron now
sailed up the river in the following
order: the Hartford towing the Albatross; the Richmond towing the Genesee; the Monongahela towing the Kineo ; followed by the Mississippi and the Sachem. The iron-clad Essex and a fleet of mortar boats had been sent in
advance, and were already moored with
in range of the enemy's batteries. “Our progress was necessarily slow,” wrote one” who was on the Richmond, “as our rate of speed had to be regulated by that of the flag-ship. We soon passed the head of Prophet Island, how
ever, and arrived abreast of the mortar
boats, which were headed by the Essex and the Sachem. Presently the gleaming lights, which had been on our starboard beam, shone on our quarter, and anon they were sparkling astern. And now we were nearing the point of danger. Signal lights were seen flashing from the direction of the batteries, the entire distance along, and were answered from the opposite shore. Right ahead, too, lights were seen from the rebel boats, as was afterward ascertained. It was evident the rebels were prepared to give us a warm reception. “Presently a large fire was seen on the Port Hudson side of the river, a little below the town. This fire was kindled right in front of the most formidable of the fortifications, in order that the gleam thrown across the river should reveal every vessel as it passed. The plan was an admirable one, and Succeeded to a charm. * * *
* Correspondent of N. Y. Herald.
“We had left the mortar boats well astern, when a sulphurous light was seen gleaming on the shore, on our port side. Flashing up for a moment, a dull explosion followed. It was evidently an imperfect rocket. Another was essayed; but, instead of ascending, it ran along the surface of the river close to the bank. A little farther up a third was tried, and with complete success. It ascended high in the air, where it burst in the usual manner. Instantaneously it was answered by a field piece from the opposite shore, aimed at the Hartford. The Admiral was not slow in returning the compliment. Three or
four guns fired from the flag-ship in
rapid succession testified to the alacrity with which the wager of battle was accepted. “The return of the rebel fire by the Hartford was promptly followed up by a hot fire from the artillery pieces of the rebels, and quite a brisk action ensued between them. The scene, as viewed from the Richmond, was both brilliant and spirited. The flashes of the guns, both on shore and afloat, were incessant, while the roar of cannon kept up a deafening and almost incessant sound. Great judgment was here necessary to prevent the Richmond from running into the Hartford, and, in fact, to keep the war vessels generally from running into each other. “And now was heard a thundering roar, equal in volume to a whole park of artillery. This was followed by a rushing sound, accompanied by a howling noise that beggars description. Again and again was the sound repeated. * * * It was apparent that the mortar boats had opened fire. * * * But while the mortar boats were at work, the Essex was not idle. Unmanageable as she is, especially in so strong a current, she did not follow the rest of the fleet, but remained at the head of the ‘bummers,’ doing admirable service with her heavy guns. “All this time the Richmond had to hang back, as Admiral Farragut seemed to be so enamored with the sport in which he was engaged as to be in no hurry to pass by. Once or twice, in consequence of the dense column of smoke that now rolled over the river, our bowsprit was almost over the taffrail of the IIartford, and there was an incessant call on the part of Second Lieutenant Terry, who commanded the forward part of the ship, to stop the engines. * * * “The Richmond had by this time got within range of the rebel field batteries, which opened fire on her. I had all along thought that we would open fire from our bow guns, on the topgallant forecastle, and that, after discharging a few broadsides from the starboard side, the action would be wound up by a parting compliment from our stern chasers. To my surprise, however, we opened at once from our broadside guns. * * * “Of course we did not have everything our own way; for the enemy poured in his shot and shell as thick as hail. Over, ahead, astern, all around us, flew the death-dealing missiles. It
must not be supposed, however, that because our broadside guns were the tools we principally worked with, our bow and stern chasers were idle. We soon opened with our bow eightypounder Dahlgren, which was followed up not long after by the guns astern, giving evidence to the fact that we had passed some of the batteries. * * * “The action now became general. The roar of cannon was incessant, and the flashes from the guns, together with the flight of the shells from the mortar boats, made up a combination of sound and sight impossible to describe. To add to the horrors of the night, while it contributed toward the enhancement of a certain terrible beauty, dense clouds of smoke began to envelop the river, shutting out from view the several vessels and confounding them with the batteries. It was very dislicult to know how to steer to prevent running ashore, perhaps right under a rebel battery or into a consort. Upward and upward rolled the smoke, shutting out of view the beautiful stars and obscuring the vision on every side. Then it was that the order was passed, “Boys, don't fire till you see the flash from the enemy's guns.' That was our only guide through the ‘palpable obscurity.’ “But this sole dependence on the flashes was likely to be attended with serious consequences, as the following incident will show : We had got nearly into the middle of the hornet's nest, when an officer on the topgallant forecastle called out: “Ready with the port