Richard Taylor captures New Orleans in 1863?

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#1
In early 1863, Confederate Major General Richard Taylor proposed an audacious plan to move down the Bayou Pierre and recapture New Orleans. Nathaniel Banks had left the city very poorly defended (a 250 man detachment!) after moving most of his forces to Port Hudson, and the time seemed right. Taylor was even assembling a makeshift flotilla of his own, though their golden opportunity to crush the Union ships on the Atchafalaya was hopelessly bungled (http://www.brettschulte.net/CWBlog/2013/04/12/the-great-naval-showdown-that-wasnt/).Taking back the city would surely force the Union to shift the focus from Vicksburg and Port Hudson, but Taylor's superior, General Edmund Kirby Smith, believed the best way to aid the defenders of Vicksburg would be to threaten the Union supply lines on the western bank of the Mississippi. While Taylor still managed to take Brashear City, Kirby Smith still sent him to attack the Union supply line at Miliken's Bend.

Could Taylor have managed to capture, and hold, New Orleans had Kirby Smith given him Walker's Texas Division (the two men both needed the division for their respective plans), and the attack on the Atchafalaya gone according to plan?
 

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#4
He wouldn't have held it for more than a month, but the fall of such a major port city during the spring or summer of 1863 would have been devastating politically in Washington for a short time. It would have forced Banks to pull back from Port Hudson, and if it were Banks alone Taylor could probably handle it, but with the USN coming down the Mississippi he'd be in a mess.

On the other hand I wonder if it would have effected Grant's campaign to take Vicksburg? Would he have had to delay his movements, would part of his army be sent to Banks, would he replace Banks with someone like Sherman and so forth? I wonder.

One things for sure, there's a good chance no political ally of Banks could save him from being relieved and thrown out of the army. To loss New Orleans, even for a week would be a death sentence to one's military ambitions.
 
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#5
He wouldn't have held it for more than a month, but the fall of such a major port city during the spring or summer of 1863 would have been devastating politically in Washington for a short time. It would have forced Banks to pull back from Port Hudson, and if it were Banks alone Taylor could probably handle it, but with the USN coming down the Mississippi he'd be in a mess.

On the other hand I wonder if it would have effected Grant's campaign to take Vicksburg? Would he have had to delay his movements, would part of his army be sent to Banks, would he replace Banks with someone like Sherman and so forth? I wonder.

One things for sure, there's a good chance no political ally of Banks could save him from being relieved and thrown out of the army. To loss New Orleans, even for a week would be a death sentence to one's military ambitions.
Banks moving his forces to deal with Taylor could allow Gardner to break out of Port Hudson and join Johnston and the Army of Relief. Depending on how well Pemberton and Johnston react to Grant's landing, his division could prove useful. This is assuming the Union decide to prioritize Vicksburg and Grant doesn't have to send any troops to Port Hudson.
 
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#6
Banks moving his forces to deal with Taylor could allow Gardner to break out of Port Hudson and join Johnston and the Army of Relief. Depending on how well Pemberton and Johnston react to Grant's landing, his division could prove useful. This is assuming the Union decide to prioritize Vicksburg and Grant doesn't have to send any troops to Port Hudson.
Interesting hypothesis, but it opens up more questions.

1. Would Gardner move out of Port Hudson? (Its been so long since I read up on it I'm not sure)

2. Would such a move spur Johnston into moving from Jackson to attack Grant?

3. Would Pemberton, Johnston, and Gardner combined be enough to push Grant back?

4. Would Grant even attempt his Vicksburg Campaign, or continue it, with the fall of New Orleans or fall back and move south to attack New Orleans?

With a fall of New Orleans, if it were something like Breckinridge's retaking Baton Rouge in 62, Grant might not break off from Vicksburg. But if it were a case of Tayler taking New Orleans, holding it and then turning back Banks, or his successor Grant would have to break off from Vicksburg. He'd have two options:

1. Move south to retake New Orleans with a Confederate force under Taylor in his front, and Johnston, Pemberton, Gardner in his rear and only the USN's flotillas on the Mississippi to support him along with a presumably demoralized Army of the Gulf.

2. Fall back to Corinth, or Tennessee, or wherever, (I can't remember his base of operations he had originally launched from, dang I need to crack open a book), and wait to move south again in support of a USN attempt to retake New Orleans.

I suspect he would have went with option 1, and it would have been a mess. But on one hand it opens the possibility with success, of Grant moving up the ladder of command in the army to the top earlier in the War.
 
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#7
Interesting hypothesis, but it opens up more questions.

1. Would Gardner move out of Port Hudson? (Its been so long since I read up on it I'm not sure)

2. Would such a move spur Johnston into moving from Jackson to attack Grant?

3. Would Pemberton, Johnston, and Gardner combined be enough to push Grant back?

4. Would Grant even attempt his Vicksburg Campaign, or continue it, with the fall of New Orleans or fall back and move south to attack New Orleans?

With a fall of New Orleans, if it were something like Breckinridge's retaking Baton Rouge in 62, Grant might not break off from Vicksburg. But if it were a case of Tayler taking New Orleans, holding it and then turning back Banks, or his successor Grant would have to break off from Vicksburg. He'd have two options:

1. Move south to retake New Orleans with a Confederate force under Taylor in his front, and Johnston, Pemberton, Gardner in his rear and only the USN's flotillas on the Mississippi to support him along with a presumably demoralized Army of the Gulf.

2. Fall back to Corinth, or Tennessee, or wherever, (I can't remember his base of operations he had originally launched from, dang I need to crack open a book), and wait to move south again in support of a USN attempt to retake New Orleans.

I suspect he would have went with option 1, and it would have been a mess. But on one hand it opens the possibility with success, of Grant moving up the ladder of command in the army to the top earlier in the War.
I wonder if it would be at all possible to have the "Yazoo Monster" (CSS New Orleans, maybe?) be finished early, forcing Farragut to keep most of his fleet around Vicksburg. Alternatively, perhaps have an ironclad be built on the Atchafalaya?
 
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#8
I wonder if it would be at all possible to have the "Yazoo Monster" (CSS New Orleans, maybe?) be finished early, forcing Farragut to keep most of his fleet around Vicksburg. Alternatively, perhaps have an ironclad be built on the Atchafalaya?
I don't know, that idea goes into the territory of "if, if was a skiff we'd all take a boat ride". I'm just not sure it was possible, or would have made a difference.
 

DaveBrt

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#9
Taylor's big problem in holding NO would be the lack of supplies with which to feed the city. Supplies captured in the city would have lasted a while, but the SE Louisiana and SW Mississippi areas could not have fed the city. And even if supplies could be furnished, how would they be introduced into the city? You have to assume the USN would continue to control the river in the city's area, so not much will get into the city from the west. The New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern RR was totally destroyed in Louisiana, so nothing from Mississippi until it is rebuilt (by who, using what resources??).

I think Grant would consider the attack a raid and would have told Banks and the USN to deal with it while he kept after Pemberton.
 
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#10
Taylor's big problem in holding NO would be the lack of supplies with which to feed the city. Supplies captured in the city would have lasted a while, but the SE Louisiana and SW Mississippi areas could not have fed the city. And even if supplies could be furnished, how would they be introduced into the city? You have to assume the USN would continue to control the river in the city's area, so not much will get into the city from the west. The New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern RR was totally destroyed in Louisiana, so nothing from Mississippi until it is rebuilt (by who, using what resources??).

I think Grant would consider the attack a raid and would have told Banks and the USN to deal with it while he kept after Pemberton.
Taylor also captured a large amount of supplies from Brashear City, so we can probably add that to the supplies he can get from NO. He also took several large guns, but I don't know if he'd be able to move them to NO and actually set them up for defending the city.

I'm wondering if a completed Yazoo Monster could help Taylor clear the river at all.
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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#12
Frankly, if Milliken's Bend is any indicator, he may not have managed to get into the city. One thing that would have happened very quickly is that the USN would have moved quickly to block any movement in strength across the river, because that would have directly threatened the Navy's supply line; and what they ran into with the Choctaw at Milliken's Bend was nothing compared to the firepower a couple of Richmond-class sloops could lay down. He'd have had to move very fast indeed to beat the Western Gulf Squadron's sloops and gunboats to a river crossing.
 



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