Could the CSA have realistically defended New Orleans?

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Yes. If they had had substantial infantry forces in the area, New Orleans could not have been taken nor held as easily as it was; it was comparatively undefended, the locally-raised regiments largely having been shipped to Pensacola and then to Virginia.
Why didn't the Confederacy keep more soldiers in New Orleans, considering that it was such an important city?
 
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Bruce Vail

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Why didn't the Confederacy keep more soldiers in New Orleans, considering that it was such an important city?
Well, check your calendar dates for early 1862. At the same time that Union forces were threatening New Orleans, Gen. McClellan was beginning his march on Richmond (Peninsula Campaign). Protection of Richmond always took precedence over all else for the Confederate leadership.
 

J. D. Stevens

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With the resources General Mansfield Lovell had on hand at the time Admiral Farragut's fleet sailed up the Mississippi River, the short answer is NO. Once the defenses of the downriver Forts Jackson and St. Phillips had been passed and captured, there was basically no hope for New Orleans. To face Union troops and warships were only three thousand militiamen with limited military supplies and many armed with shotguns. Most of the artillery, ammunition, and troops raised in Louisiana had been sent east or to the captured forts 70 miles downstream. The defenses of New Orleans were designed to repel ground troops, not naval gunboats. The city was in a poor position to defend itself. High water outside the levees elevated elevated Farragut's gunboats with their large bore cannon above the city. Not only was New Orleans subject to a devastating bombardment, but if the Feds created a breach in the levee, the city would be flooded.
 
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leftyhunter

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It surrendered after being bombarded by the US Navy. Could the Confederates have done something different to hold the city for longer than they did?
As James McPherson recounts in his book " Battle Cry of Freedom" the mutiny of Foreign conscript's at the Forts defending New Orleans certainly didn't improve matters.
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leftyhunter

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It surrendered after being bombarded by the US Navy. Could the Confederates have done something different to hold the city for longer than they did?
Raider's do not a sufficient Navy make. The Confederacy made no serious effort to establish a sufficient size blue water Navy that could do what a Navy is supposed to do and that is secure it's ports and maritime trade routes.
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Raider's do not a sufficient Navy make. The Confederacy made no serious effort to establish a sufficient size blue water Navy that could do what a Navy is supposed to do and that is secure it's ports and maritime trade routes.
Leftyhunter
I guess it would have been exceedingly difficult to build a Navy to compete with the US.
 
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leftyhunter

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I guess it would have been exceedingly difficult to build a Navy to compete with the US.
Indeed it would have been. The failure of the secessionists to think thing through really crippled the chances of the Confederacy being successful in achieving independence. The secessionists simply thought that by firing a few cannon balls at Ft.Sumter the rest of the country would simply allow the secessionists to secede.
The leaders of the secessionists simply didn't have anything resembling a rational coherent response to a Union blockade.
What few successful raiders the Confederacy had were built in the UK and had mostly English sailors. The raiders were a nuisance but by no means were they crippling Union commerce.
The Union had much more immigration which provided skilled workers to build ships and also just as important naval recruits.
I for forgot the exact numbers and maybe @Mark F. Jenkins can confirm approximately forty percent of the Union sailors were immigrants and approximately twenty five percent of the Union sailors were African Americans.
The Confederacy had more then enough difficulty manning their army let alone a large navy.
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wausaubob

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The garrison force that surrendered at Donelson had not yet been paroled and exchanged. General Johnston massed a crushing counter attack at Shiloh and those were the troops that could have defended New Orleans. Odd that Johnston attacked at Shiloh. I suppose he hoped to get there before Buell could reinforce Grant. He was about 1 day late. He could have knocked out of the war completely, but most of Grant's force would have joined Buell under any circumstances.
 
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leftyhunter

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The Confederates successfully defended Charleston. But Charleston was not the international shipping port, banking center and center of the slave trade as was New Orleans.
Yes but once the Union Army seized Battery Wagner they were able to greatly restrict the blockade runners in and out if Charleston. Of course the seizure of Battery Wagner was due in large part to the heroic sacrifice if the 54th Massachusetts USCT.
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Carronade

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I don't recall New Orleans actually being bombarded, but the threat was there. I suppose it comes down to how bloody-minded Farragut was willing to be at that point in the war.

Butler's small army marched in after the city surrendered, but we might consider an alternative scenario: if the city simply declined to surrender to Farragut, and Farragut was not willing to pound a city full of civilians into submission, would Butler have been able to capture it against the Confederate troops available?
 

JeffBrooks

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I recall reading in Chester Hearn's book on the fall of New Orleans about the misallocation of resources and administrative delays that plagued the efforts to build the two ironclads tasked with defending New Orleans. If either of those ships had been finished, I imagine that defending New Orleans would have been a much brighter prospect for the Confederates.
 
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wausaubob

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I recall reading in Chester Hearn's book on the fall of New Orleans about the misallocation of resources and administrative delays that plagued the efforts to build the two ironclads tasked with defending New Orleans. If either of those ships had been finished, I imagine that defending New Orleans would have been a much brighter prospect for the Confederates.
It was April of 1862. In a year the US had formed a western Gulf squadron. They captured ship island. The cleared out Confederate naval vessels from the gulf. They built their mortar scows and got them to Louisiana. Then they got most of the fleet over the Head of the Passes and got a army support force in place. So it mattered immensely who had a naval tradition, a functioning finance system, and the industrial wherewithal to build new naval assets.
 

wausaubob

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And there is no reason to think that Farragut was unaware of the status of the unfinished ironclads. That he attacked before they were finished is evidence that they were spying on the projects.
 

wausaubob

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St. Louis built an ironclad fleet. New York built and staffed numerous naval vessels. But the Confederacy built one effective ironclad in Norfolk by the spring of 1862 and the US was able to neutralize it with an effective counter weapon.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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@Mark F. Jenkins can confirm approximately forty percent of the Union sailors were immigrants and approximately twenty five percent of the Union sailors were African Americans.
The numbers have been disputed for African-Americans-- estimates seem to settle in between 15% and 25%, so 20% would be a relatively safe middle ground. Of course, that doesn't mean that every ship was one-fifth African-American; some had very few and some had quite a lot; the riverine fleet in particular leaned heavily on free blacks and especially "contrabands" to make up their manning shortages. (Riverine gunboat skippers were encouraged to recruit "contrabands" because of the prevailing belief that they were better accustomed to the southern climate.)
 
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