Could the CSA have realistically defended New Orleans?

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archieclement

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While I'm ordinarily heavily Navy-oriented, I do feel that a lot of this (however interesting) is irrelevant. I'd like to reemphasize that the failure of the Confederacy to adequately defend New Orleans with land forces was the most important factor in its loss. If Farragut's fleet had run past the forts and then found New Orleans (or its outer defenses) teeming with a powerful and well-placed defense force, he could have done little other than bombard it or run past it further upriver.

What he accomplished at New Orleans was to bypass and cut off the primary defenses (Forts Jackson and St. Philip) as well as eliminate their naval covering force. Coupled with the (relatively small) Union land force, this effectively placed both forts in a state of siege with no realistic chance of raising it. The fall of the city itself was a strategic opportunity that Farragut perceived and took immediate advantage of, but even then it was a near-run thing-- he couldn't breathe easier until Porter and Butler completed the neutralization of the forts and sent troops upriver to garrison the city.

For their part, the Confederacy's mistakes seem to have been in overestimating the defensive value of the forts (as previously noted). It's important to remember that not everyone in the Confederate command fell into this error-- there was a lot of correspondence from local commanders and civil authorities in New Orleans basically pleading for the retention/return of troops that Louisiana had provided for use elsewhere, so the threat was correctly perceived at the local level. (But I'm sure being able to say "I told you so" was poor compensation for the loss of the South's largest city.)
Would think the defense of New Orleans from a naval threat, hinged on defending the river at the forts, which would require a brown water riverine defense to cooperate with the forts. A defense at the city is going to be hampered by the city being below sea level, if they had blew the levees, they might not have been able to take possession of the city......but would have left a land defence with little to defend.

The problem seems to have been no one realized steam had made forts obsolete by themselves if one was willing to accept losses to simply steam past them.
 
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USS ALASKA

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A defense at the city is going to be hampered by the city being below sea level, if they had blew the levees, they might not have been able to take possession of the city......but would have left a land defence with little to defend.
Unless the objective was to take the city and use it to further Union objectives. Flooding it denies NOLA to the Confederacy but wastes a vast potential base to the Union - a gain of less than half the loaf...
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archieclement

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Unless the objective was to take the city and use it to further Union objectives. Flooding it denies NOLA to the Confederacy but wastes a vast potential base to the Union - a gain of less than half the loaf...
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Then they should have brought a land force........if anything they seemed surprised the city surrendered and had little at the time to even take possession, doesn't seem to have been planned out to take the city at the time, but more a fortune of war.

What Farragut had available was a means to deny the city, not take it, if it had been defended by even the meager defense it did have.
 
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jackt62

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The CSA pinned all its hopes on defending New Orleans on its 2 forts, Jackson and St. Philip, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, by the time of the ACW, these forts, constructed under the so-called "Third System" of coastal defense after the War of 1812, were outdated and were highly susceptible to artillery fire from either land or sea. Additionally, the steam power of Farragut's flotilla allowed it to advance past the forts (as also occurred at Vicksburg a year later). Once the flotilla cleared the forts, there was no further realistic defense of the city of New Orleans.
 

DaveBrt

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The CSA pinned all its hopes on defending New Orleans on its 2 forts, Jackson and St. Philip, near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, by the time of the ACW, these forts, constructed under the so-called "Third System" of coastal defense after the War of 1812, were outdated and were highly susceptible to artillery fire from either land or sea. Additionally, the steam power of Farragut's flotilla allowed it to advance past the forts (as also occurred at Vicksburg a year later). Once the flotilla cleared the forts, there was no further realistic defense of the city of New Orleans.
The Confederates were fully aware of the possibility of steam ships running past the NO forts (it WAS a major port). So they put a chain across the river between the forts and backed it up with fire rafts to keep the place lit if the passage was attempted at night.

The chain was designed to hold the ships in the forts' kill zone. Unfortunately for the South, the chain has separated a day or two before the passage was attempted and had not yet been repaired.
 

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Unless the objective was to take the city and use it to further Union objectives. Flooding it denies NOLA to the Confederacy but wastes a vast potential base to the Union - a gain of less than half the loaf...
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Still however denying a key export port for the Confederacy is in itself a Union victory. The Confederacy was highly dependent if agricultural exports and military imports. There were many cotton plantations including Jefferson and Joseph Davis's that were located near or on the Mississippi River. With New Orleans eliminated as a Confederate port there cotton is essentially useless. The best the cotton/slave owners can do with their cotton is sell it to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar.
Leftyhunter
 
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wausaubob

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The naval victory against Fort Phillips and Jackson put the US Navy in a position to exploit the Confederacy's main problem in the west. There were not enough troops to defend everything. The publicity generated by the Anaconda plan, plus the fall of Nashville made them concentrate on stopping the downward river thrust. There was a makeshift fleet at Memphis a month later. Though a don't know if those extra vessels would have been a match of Farragut's squadron.
 

wausaubob

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The other aspect to consider is whether the unionist former Whigs in New Orleans, and the relatively more sophisticated free black population made New Orleans a hard city for the Confederates to defend if the was any US assistance available to those dissenting groups.
 

leftyhunter

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The other aspect to consider is whether the unionist former Whigs in New Orleans, and the relatively more sophisticated free black population made New Orleans a hard city for the Confederates to defend if the was any US assistance available to those dissenting groups.
The revolt of the immigrant soldiers in the Confederate Forts was all the help the Union required to seize New Orleans. I have never read of an urban insurgency in any city during the ACW. There were defiantly Unionist guerrillas in Louisiana in certain rural areas.
Leftyhunter
 
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jackt62

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The Confederates were fully aware of the possibility of steam ships running past the NO forts (it WAS a major port). So they put a chain across the river between the forts and backed it up with fire rafts to keep the place lit if the passage was attempted at night.

The chain was designed to hold the ships in the forts' kill zone. Unfortunately for the South, the chain has separated a day or two before the passage was attempted and had not yet been repaired.
Right, I almost forgot about that chain defense. I wonder whether it would have even been effective against a flotilla of ships running at full steam.
 
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Carronade

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Right, I almost forgot about that chain defense. I wonder whether it would have even been effective against a flotilla of ships running at full steam.
Didn't a couple of Union gunboats disable the chain a day or so before the main attack?
 

Carronade

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Could one of the reasons that the South didn't put more effort into the defense of New Orleans be that they didn't believe that the North was capable of launching a successful joint operation at that point in time? With the more than a few officers that came south from the USN and USA, did they bring with them an assessment that with the current state of readiness of the USN and USA, an operation of this magnitude, so far away from an easily supplied Northern controlled base, was beyond the capacity of the North?
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The Union had already conducted joint amphibious operations at Hatteras and other points along the North Carolina coast and at Port Royal, S.C. They had advanced bases at Pensacola, Key West, and the recently captured Ship Island. I don't think the Confederates were unaware of the potential danger; they just didn't have the resources to do everything they needed to.
 

jackt62

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Didn't a couple of Union gunboats disable the chain a day or so before the main attack?
From National Park Service Civil War Battle Summaries:

"One of the first steps in such operations was to enter the mouth of the Mississippi River, ascend to New Orleans and capture the city, closing off the entrance to Rebel ships. In mid-January 1862, Flag-Officer David G. Farragut undertook this enterprise with his West Gulf Blockading Squadron. The way was soon open except for the two forts, Jackson and St. Philip, above the Head of the Passes, approximately seventy miles below New Orleans. In addition to the forts and their armament, the Confederates had placed obstructions in the river and there were a number of ships, including two ironclads, to assist in the defense. Farragut based his operations from Ship Island, Mississippi, and on April 8, he assembled 24 of his vessels and Comdr. David D. Porter's 19 mortar schooners near the Head of the Passes. Starting on the 16th and continuing for seven days, the mortar schooners bombarded Fort Jackson but failed to silence its guns. Some of Farragut's gunboats opened a way through the obstruction on the night of the 22nd. Early on the morning of the 24th, Farragut sent his ships north to pass the forts and head for New Orleans. Although the Rebels attempted to stop the Union ships in various ways, most of the force successfully passed the forts and continued on to New Orleans where Farragut accepted the city's surrender. With the passage of the forts, nothing could stop the Union forces: the fall of New Orleans was inevitable and anti-climatic."
 
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MUTINY AT FORT JACKSON: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FALL OF NEW ORLEANS by MICHAEL D. PIERSON
This work has presented several startling possible historically and previously unrecognized events that had great bearing on the Fall of New Orleans. As I strongly promote the book please allow my list of some of the interesting events presented by the author and giving my wholehearted support and spin thereof:
  • The gunner and their officers in the Confederate Forts may have been deliberately poorly aiming their artillery guns to the gain of the Federals.
  • The Fort Jackson garrison was filled with troops inclined to support the Federal forces which lead to the mutiny that caused the surrender of both Forts.
  • The Confederate Ironclads may have been rendered a greatly reduced efficiency by sabotage in construction by those in sympathy with the Federals and with high bitterness to the Confederates. The author presents a documented act of serious attempt at sabotage and other acts of suspect nature.
  • The author documents materials supportive of the notion the City of New Orleans had a large community of Unionists from which the Forts garrisons and warships crews were recruited.
  • The Confederate Ram Fleet appears to have been mostly ran ashore and burned perhaps by crews supportive of the Federals. I will also submit to the readers that half of this massive Ram Fleet was sent to Memphis whereupon they performed in roughly the same behavior further causing support for the same thesis. The author does not discuss the Battle of Memphis.
 

Bruce Vail

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Still however denying a key export port for the Confederacy is in itself a Union victory. The Confederacy was highly dependent if agricultural exports and military imports. There were many cotton plantations including Jefferson and Joseph Davis's that were located near or on the Mississippi River. With New Orleans eliminated as a Confederate port there cotton is essentially useless. The best the cotton/slave owners can do with their cotton is sell it to the Yankees for pennies on the dollar.
Leftyhunter
Well, no, the cotton formerly exported via New Orleans could be re-routed by rail to one of the Confederate ports that was still open to blockade runners. Such exports become less profitable, or not profitable at all, but are nevertheless still a valuable asset to the Confederacy. The cotton is still an asset to the Confederacy even it it is traded to the Yankees on the illegal market, because it brings in needed hard currency and/or valuable goods.
 

Lost Cause

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Your ignoring the part where the dead bodies of the 54th Massachusetts plus dead Union soldiers from other regiments unearthed from constant Union bombardment produced such a foul oder that Confederate soldiers were compelled to abandon Battery Wagner.
Leftyhunter
Abandoning is not seizing. What relevancy is this to the current thread?
 
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leftyhunter

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Abandoning is not seizing. What relevancy is this to the current thread?
[/QUOTE
A distinction without a difference. The Confederate Army abandoned a valuable artillery battery position because they could not stand the stench of the dead 54th Mass troops. A win is a win.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

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Well, no, the cotton formerly exported via New Orleans could be re-routed by rail to one of the Confederate ports that was still open to blockade runners. Such exports become less profitable, or not profitable at all, but are nevertheless still a valuable asset to the Confederacy. The cotton is still an asset to the Confederacy even it it is traded to the Yankees on the illegal market, because it brings in needed hard currency and/or valuable goods.
The greater the cost of exporting cotton is to the Confederacy the more it helps the Union.
Obviously not much cotton was rerouted because well over one hundred thousand West European cotton workers were laid off.
Leftyhunter
 
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