James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
gunboats and Porter with a mortar flotilla of nineteen schooners and six armed steamships for guard and towing service, were before Forts Jackson and St. Philip. On April 18, the bombardment of Fort Jackson by the mortar boats began1 and continued for two days, inflicting considerable damage, but not sufficient to compel the Confederates to entertain the idea of surrender. At ten oclock in the morning of April 20, while the bombardment was at its height, Farragut signalled from his flag-ship, the Hartford, that he wished a conference with the commanding officers of his fleet. All who were not engaged in active work came.2 Porter, who commanded the mortar flotilla subject to Farragut, was unable to be present, but sent a communication in which he advised against running by the forts; We should first capture the forts, he said, and then we may easily take New Orleans; but if we run the forts we should leave an enemy in our rear.3 Some of the commanders agreed with Porter. As Farragut had promised Fox, he had given the bombardment by the mortar boats a trial; but, as forty-eight hours firing had failed to reduce the forts, he reverted to his original plan which, at the end of the conference, he put into a general order. The flag-officer, he wrote, having heard all the opinions expressed by the different commanders, is of the opinion that whatever is to be done will have to be done quickly and that the forts should be run.4 With all possible celerity, he proceeded to execute his plan. On the night after the conference, he sent a force to remove an obstruction in his way opposite Fort Jackson, a chain which
Note 1. Fort Jackson was one half mile below Fort St. Philip and nearer the mortar boats. [back]
Note 2. That is, of the fleet under Farraguts immediate command. Only one of the commanders of the mortar flotilla came and he was laughingly told that the signal was not intended for me. O. R. N., XVIII, 143. [back]