The U.S.S. Hartford–Pride of the Union Navy
Background (cont'd from page 1)
"Who wants to go live with the Porter's?" their father asked. "I do!" seven-year-old Glasgow shouted. Bursting with confidence, the boy had an inherited love of the sea. He sailed with Captain Porter and at an early age he received his midshipman's commission. Captain David Porter gave him a gold watch inscribed, DP to DGF. James Glasgow Farragut had a new name: David Glasgow Farragut.
||After more than fifty years at sea, at the age of 61, Captain Farragut was chosen to command the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. The U.S.S. Hartford would be his flagship. The Hartford left Philadelphia where she had been dry-docked and took on final provisions in New Castle, DE. On January 26, 1862, Flag Officer Farragut boarded. The one-starred blue flag of flag officer, a rank newly created by Congress, was waived on the mizzenmast.
In April 1862, Captain Farragut began his campaign against New Orleans. He assembled eight ships, nine gunboats, and a group of mortar schooners, but no ironclads. Both the North and the South were racing to build these warships, having sides armed with metal plates. The mortar schooners were towed up the Mississippi, where they bombed Fort Jackson and Fort. St. Philip, the two main defenses between the Gulf of Mexico and New Orleans. Passing the forts, the Hartford's
rigging was damaged by shells from Fort Jackson. The river's swift current swept her across to Fort St. Philip, where a fire raft forced her inshore. Her bow stuck in the mud. Flames from the fire raft rushed through her gun ports and up the rigging. Crew members rolled three 20-pound shells off of the Hartford's
deck onto the raft. The shells exploded and the fire raft sank.
backed out of the mud and escaped up the river. She had been hit badly by the guns of Fort St. Philip. Two of her men were killed, six were wounded. But the Confederate ships, except for two of them, had been destroyed or had retreated. Writing to General Butler, who planned to attack Fort St. Philip from the rear, Captain Farragut stated, "We have had a rough time of it. But as soon as we have captured New Orleans, we will return and take care of the forts."
Seventy-five miles up the river, New Orleans was in a state of alarm and turmoil, knowing that Union gunboats had passed the forts. Some of their ships left to escape up the river. Some of their ships they set afire. They took cotton bales from the warehouses and burned them on the wharves. Union ships on their way upriver had to dodge the burning debris. The fleet proceeded, destroying the Confederates' fortifications. They continued on in two columns, now in full view of New Orleans, greatest prize so far, of the Civil War.
Union officers went ashore to carry the demand for surrender to the mayor. They were told that the Common Council would have to meet to discuss the matter! Finally, after meetings of the two councils, after communications between the mayor and Captain Farragut, after a mob had been controlled by martial law, finally the Union flag flew over New Orleans on April 28, 1862. To the relief of Flag Officer Farragut and his men, General Butler took possession of New Orleans on May 1. Hasty repairs were made to the Hartford
. The next objective was Vicksburg, up the river.
Captain Farragut was ordered to go 300 miles up the shallow Mississippi River with his oceangoing ships, then get back down before the higher water of spring receded Baton Rouge had surrendered Threatened by the Union fleet, Natchez surrendered. The defenses of Vicksburg were up on bluffs so high that the guns of the fleet could not be elevated enough to do damage. Farragut hoped the Union troops could overcome these defenses while his fleet attacked the city. This was impossible. The Northern troops under General Williams could not land from their transports in the fact of what amounted to 38,000 Confederates. The fleet turned around and headed down river.
By the end of May, 1862, the Hartford was anchored off of New Orleans. Captain Farragut read his many messages and letters. He wrote to his wife saving, "The Government thinks we can do anything ... expects me to navigate the Mississippi 900 miles, face batteries, ironclad rams ... run aground until next year, or more likely, be burned by the enemy." But Captain Farragut followed his orders. In June he started up the river, against the current, bound for Vicksburg. The Hartford ran aground again and again on shifting sandbars, and was damaged by Confederate bombardments.
That August, in 1862, Captain Farragut was notified of his promotion to Rear Admiral. The Hartford's one-starred blue flag was replaced with a flag having two stars.
For an entire year the fighting continued up and down the Mississippi. Union men on ships and in the troops suffered and fought, destroying Confederate boats and supplies. Not until May, 1863, did the North have the upper hand. Rear Admiral Farragut was able to turn over command of his fleet to fellow officers. He went back to New Orleans. The Hartford followed, after the fall of Vicksburg and the surrender of Port Hudson in July. The second great Civil War campaign of the USS Hartford was finished.
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