"THE CAPTURE OF NEW ORLEANS, 1862" by Chester G. Hearn


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A scholarly, blow-by-blow account of the naval battle for New Orleans, a little-known but pivotal Union victory early in the Civil War. When it fell in April 1862, the Crescent City was the largest and richest of the Confederacy, guardian of the strategically important Mississippi River. Why then did the South do so little to protect it? Military historian Hearn catalogues the follies that led to the city's loss, including abysmal communication, petty jealousies, and self-serving maneuvering that extended from Confederate field officers to President Jefferson Davis himself. Drawing primarily on correspondence among the principals, the author documents the siphoning of men, weapons, and supplies that left New Orleans 0vulnerable. Most damning was Richmond's unwillingness to take seriously the possibility of Union attack from the Gulf of Mexico: Despite a downriver skirmish between Louisiana's puny Mosquito Fleet and Federal warships (a debacle known as ""Pope's Run"" in which the Union fleet nearly sunk itself in panicked retreat), Davis continued to concentrate defensive preparations upriver. Hearn's microscopic examination of the mechanics of mobilization, while tedious (especially when compared to his dramatic narration of the actual battles), reveals how thinly stretched were the fledgling nation's resources. The Confederate Navy had to be bailed out by private citizens; construction of two ironclads was delayed by a shipbuilder's strike. Alternating chapters describing the meticulous preparation of Union officer David Farragut form a stark, telling counterpoint to Confederate irresolution. An epilogue analyzes--too briefly and too late to give the book broader significance--the consequences of Union victory, which provided a much needed morale boost, raised the first doubts about the viability of the Confederate government, and cemented Europe's neutrality. Aside from its appeal to Civil War buffs, local history of predominantly regional interest.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0807130702
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.