The Fall of New Orleans
The territory west of the Mississippi had provided nearly 30% of the Confederate troops by April of 1862 and an inexhaustible source of grain and staples as well as a major conduit for European arms and supplies through neutral Mexico. As Fleet Officer Foote of Cheshire in cooperation with General Grant had been successful in gaining control of the upper Mississippi and its tributaries through early April of 1862, New Orleans, the jewel at the mouth of the river, became a major strategic target for the Union.
With the surrender of Forts Jackson and Saint Philip, Farragut’s fleet could advance upriver to attack the city. The remains of the outmanned Confederate fleet provided little resistance and the guns at Chalmette were no match to the Union’s naval arsenal. Prior to the arrival at the gates of New Orleans, Confederate General Lovell sent artillery and ammunition upriver to Vicksburg and ordered the Confederate army to retreat by rail car. As the water level on the river side of the Mississippi brought the Union ships’ cannons above the level of the city streets and one break in a levee itself would cause widespread damage, destruction of the city was averted.
Occupying the city was far from easy, however. Col Cahill of the Ninth related in a letter to his wife on Franklin Street in New Haven, “the vagabonds of the City set fire to the vessels at the wharfs …… ; the Commodore sent a Flag of Truce asking for the Mayor and at the same time the boat’s crew set the American Ensign on the wharfs. While the officer was gone for the Mayor, the Rubble insulted the flag and finally tore it down and at the same time fired upon the flag ship killing a sailor on board. The Commodore instantly turned his gun upon them and it is said killed 25 of them at one discharge that quieted them; I suppose the troops will be ordered up to the City to take possession and preserve order.”
Highly praised for their action at Pass Christian, Mississippi by the iron fisted General Benjamin Butler, the Ninth was one of the first regiments to enter the Crescent City where they finally were supplied with sorely needed uniforms and shoes. Murray’s “History of the Ninth C V” relates, “The populace was in an ugly mood and soon after his arrival, Butler decided to parade a regiment through the city as an object lesson. He selected the Ninth Connecticut, then quartered at the Reading Cotton Press, for this purpose, an honor the regiment duly appreciated. The command made a fine showing, and the effect on the belligerent populace was a salutary one.”
Next, we'll take a look at the early phases of the first campaign to capture Vicksburg as we continue with the history of the Ninth and the events of 150 years ago.