Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Visit To New Orleans

From a lengthy correspondence in the New York Times of the 22d inst. we extract the following interesting paragraphs.


With our huge lump of a ship to drag, we were twenty-four hours getting to New Orleans.  I could not regret the fact, as it gave me a whole day in which to see the most interesting portion of the noble river, in the delighfullest time of the year.  The scenery along the winding banks is beautiful.  I believe to everybody, and especially so when, in my case, it is seen for the first time.  This year the river is unusually high, and the swollen waters seemed constantly about to overflow the artificial banks or levees like a brimming cup set up in a saucer and threatening to sweep a deluge of destruction over the fields of springing rice and sugar which are on both sides of the stream.


Judging from the demonstrations which were made as we approached the scattered plantation houses, or passed by a group of laborers hoeing in the fields, we were looked upon as welcome visitors.  The Negroes stopped their work, and watched our progress with more than curiosity.  Hats and aprons were jerked off and waved frantically, little children streaming like aunts out of the orange groves toddled comically to the river bank to see the big ship filled with men, and the steamer so different from those to which they were accustomed, old women, with the demonstrativeness of their race, knelt upon the ground and extended their hands as they prayed God’s blessing on us, old men, worn with age and infirmity, tottered from their cabins upon crutches to hail our advent.  But these constant expressions of gladness were not entirely confined to the negroes.  Occasionally a white man, dressed in loose garments, and wearing the conventional broad brimmed hat of a Southern planter, came down to wave his greetings and his wife and daughters, standing on the verandah or in the garden path, seemed none the less rejoiced.  All the way from the forts to the city there was an air of pastoral quietness – of the husbandman laboring, undisturbed by the discordant elements of war – that it was difficult to realize where we were, and the object of our coming.


Two Irishmen came alongside our vessel with milk and eggs.  Capt. Woodworth being slightly waggish, offered to pay them for what was purchased in Confederate scrip.  “Be gorra!” said Pat, “I thought yer was gintleman, and paid for what yez wanted.  Divil a bit of money have I seen for a year, and Confederate scrip has brought the wife and children to starvation almost.”  He was paid in the coin of Uncle Sam, when he broke out, “Hurrah for the ould flag!  They wanted to make me fight against it, but I never have fought and I never will fight for ‘em.”  And he turned the money in his hand, examining it curiously, as a child might a newly acquired toy.


I heard of one instance where respect for the old flag was shown.  While the Mississippi was opposite the city, she put her bows into the levee at Algiers, the tide having swung her ashore as she was turning in the river.  A large and boisterous crowd collected, and sought to provoke the officers and men by their remarks.  The Captain, to drown their noise, called the band and bade them to strike up Hail Columbia. – Involuntarily, as it were, the rabble ceased howling, and instinctively some of the old men in the throng raised their hats in acknowledgement of the strains which from their youth and inspirited them.


The stories which everybody has heard respecting cannon frowning from the roof of the Custom House are all untrue.  The authorities were so confident in the invincibility of Forts Jackson and St. Philip that they never thought it necessary to construct defenses on the southern side of the city.  The marines who were stationed at the Custom House to guard the flag, found in the building at least $50,000 worth of bells of all descriptions, from the ponderous cathedral bell to the smallest size of hand bells. – These had been contributed in response to the proclamation of Beauregard for gun metal, and were to have been worked up in the Algiers foundries.


Among the things destroyed was a formidable floating battery – the Mississippi – upon which the rebels had founded high hopes of success in their cause.  She had been seven months in course of construction, employing five hundred men the whole time, and would have been finished in three weeks.  Her length was 270 feet, and her depth 60, and her armament was to have been 20 rifled guns.  The frame of the hull was made of Georgia pine, nine inches thick and over the wood were placed three plates of rolled iron, making the thickness of the armor four inches and a half.  She was 5,000 tons burthen, and her motive power consisted of three propellers, which were calculated to give her a speed of 11 knots an hour.  Two millions of dollars are said to have been expended in building her.  We have heard from some of the prisoners, taken in the gunboats, that she was intended to break up the blockade and then cruise in the Gulf and near Havana for prizes.


I have seen an excellent drawing of Fort Jackson, prepared since its surrender by the officers of the Coast Survey, for Capt. Porter.  It shows the exact spot where every shell from the mortar first struck, and as nearly as possible the effect of the explosion.  I have been permitted, by Capt. Porter, to take from it some interesting data.  The drawing of the fort were completely destroyed, the cisterns were demolished, the casemates and passages were filled with water, the levee having been cut away.  The platforms for tents were destroyed by the fire of shells. – All the casemates are cracked form end to end and in some places the roofs are completely broken, and frequently masses of bricks have been dislodged.  Four guns were dismounted, and eleven carriages and traverses injured.  The outer works of the fort are cracked from top to bottom, in several places, admitting daylight freely.  It is computed that 3,339 shells were thrown into the ditches and overflowed parts of the fort, 1,080 shells exploded in the air over the fort, 1,113 mortar shells were counted on the slopping ground of the fort and levee, and 87 were round shot.  Altogether 7,500 shells were fired.  One shell passed through the roof of the water battery magazine, but did not explode.  On the parapet were 14 new graves.

– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, May 31, 1862, p. 1

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