Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Battle of New Orleans-USN Takes Over the City

With the forts bypassed and the Confederate/state ships either destroyed or put to flight, Farragut's squadron steamed north.  Smaller forts upstream were destroyed and his ships anchored off of New Orleans' docks.   As there were no fortifications or garrison guarding the city proper, Farragut demanded the city surrender.  However, the U.S. Army's ground force was not ready to provide immediate help.  So, the Navy did it alone.  What happened over the next four days was a mixture of anxiety and awkwardness. 

Captain Theodorus Bailey, commander of Farragut's second division, adamantly volunteered for the job.  Accompanied only by his aide, Lieutenant George Perkins, Bailey marched past hostile crowds to City Hall looking for someone in charge to make his demands.  He could not find anyone and returned to Hartford. This was the first of several attempts by the U.S. Navy to get the city officials to accept the fact that there was a large squadron of U.S. Navy ships in the Mississippi River and they were not going away.

Attempt number two was tried by Hartford's Lieutenant Albert Kautz (who wrote a very detailed account for Battles and Leaders), a midshipmen, and twenty Marines.  Assisted through the crowds by the City Guards (the city's police force), the Mayor of New Orleans granted Kautz an audience under truce.  After reading Farragut's written demand to surrender, the Mayor claimed he had no military right to give up the city.  Confederate General Mansfield Lovell (a native of New York), commanding officer of Confederate ground forces, also refuse to surrender on the grounds he worked for the Mayor.  New Orleans city councilmen admitted they were clueless on how to properly surrender the city. Even though local officials knew that Farragut could level the city at any time, they stalled. This went on for three days.

Finally, Farragut had lost his patience. Under the command of his chief of staff/flag captain Henry H. Bell (a native of North Carolina), all of the squadron's Marines were assembled with two boat howitzers and marched into the city towards the Custom's House on April 29.  With the Mayor standing coldly in front of one of the howitzers and the city mob looking on in silence, Kautz struck the Louisiana state flag and raised the American flag. The Marines, with the assistance of local authorities, maintained order until General Ben Butler's troops arrived in early May to assume formal occupation. As humiliating the situation might have been for New Orleans residences, the Confederacy's largest city was spared the fate that would befall other Confederate urban areas such as Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia, Jackson, Richmond, and parts of Hampton Roads.

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