The capture of this vital southern city was a huge blow to the Confederacy. Southern military strategists planned for a Union attack down the Mississippi, not from the Gulf of Mexico. In early 1862, the Confederates concentrated their forces in northern Mississippi and western Tennessee to stave off the Yankee invasion. Many of these troops fought at Shiloh in Tennessee on April 6 and 7. Eight Rebel gunboats were dispatched up the great river to stop a Union flotilla above Memphis, leaving only 3,000 militia, two uncompleted ironclads, and a few steamboats to defend New Orleans. The most imposing obstacles for the Union were two forts, Jackson and St. Phillip. In the middle of the night of April 24, Admiral David Farragut led a fleet of 24 gunboats, 19 mortar boats, and 15,000 soldiers in a daring run past the forts up the Mississippi.
The river was then open to New Orleans except for the ragtag Confederate fleet. The mighty Union armada plowed right through, sinking eight ships. At New Orleans, Confederate General Mansfield Lovell surveyed his tiny force and realized that resistance was futile. If he resisted, Lovell told Mayor John Monroe, Farragut would bombard the city and inflict severe damage and casualties. Lovell pulled his troops out of New Orleans and the Yankees began arriving on April 25. The troops, however, could not land until Forts Jackson and St. Phillip were secured. Both forts surrendered on April 29, leaving New Orleans with no protection.
Crowds cursed the Yankees as all Confederate flags in the city were lowered and stars and stripes were raised in their place. Well-dressed Southern ladies picked up handfuls of dirt and horse droppings from the streets and threw it at passing Yankee soldiers –something they continued to do throughout and after the war.
The Confederacy lost a major city and a port from which Southern goods could be exported and vital supplies imported. The lower Mississippi soon became a Union highway for 400 miles to Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against stupidity.
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