James Ford Rhodes (1848–1927). History of the Civil War, 1861–1865. 1917.

Page 118

  conditions of the war required offensive work on the part of the Union forces. In this the Navy now bore its share under the leadership of a man of sixty who had been in the naval service from boyhood up, had thirsted for fame but had not achieved it. This was Farragut, whose opportunity had now come. From Washington he wrote to his home, “I am to have a flag in the Gulf and the rest depends upon myself.” 1  55   The importance of the Mississippi river had been appreciated from the first. If the North could get possession of it, the Confederate States would be cut in twain and the rich supplies from the West could not reach the East. New Orleans, one hundred miles from its mouths, commanded the lower part of the river and was moreover the chief commercial city of the South: its capture would be a damaging blow to the Confederacy. Gustavus V. Fox, the assistant Secretary of the Navy, though drawn from civil life by Welles, had been in the Navy eighteen years, and afterwards commanded mail steamers, acquiring the practical knowledge wherewith to support his fertile thought. Fox now conceived a plan for accomplishing the desired object. The main defences of New Orleans were two strong fortifications, St. Philip and Jackson, situated on opposite sides of the river about seventy-five miles below the city. Fox proposed that an armed fleet should run by these forts, after which, as the navigation of the river was not difficult, the great city would be at their mercy. He won the approval of his chief and the two broached the plan in conference with the President, McClellan and Commander David D. Porter, who had been engaged in the blockade of the southwest pass of the Mississippi. Porter suggested that the naval fleet be accompanied by a mortar flotilla which should reduce the forts before the passage was made. The Chief Engineer of the Army of the
Note 1. Dec. 21, 1861. N. & H., V, 257. [back]