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Chapter II, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5


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The actual course of events was somewhat different. Captain Porter with his mortar-boats commenced shelling the forts on the 17th April; but the defence was well conducted, and little progress was made. On the other hand, all the attempts of the Confederates to set fire to the fleet of Federal transports and other vessels, by sending down fire-rafts among them, were neutralised by the carefully planned precautions of Farragut. On the third day of the bombardment, the gallant veteran called a council of war on board the Hartford, and it was decided that the attempt should be made to run past the forts with the fighting portion of the fleet. But it was necessary that the boom should first be broken, and this service was ably performed by Captain Bell that very night. The grand attack was fixed for the night of the 23rd April. The fleet was arranged in three divisions, that on the left led by Farragut in the Hartford, that on the right by Captain Bailey in the Cayuga, while Captain Bell, with a smaller division, was to keep the centre of the river. The ships under Captain Bell's command were unable to sustain the heavy fire of the forts, and retired down stream; but both Farragut and Bailey, after running the gauntlet past the forts with little loss, engaged in a strange midnight conflict with the Confederate flotilla, which they succeeded, being in greatly superior force, in destroying or putting to flight. Captain Farragut, in the fore-rigging of the Hartford, anxiously watching every visible movement through his night glass, had advanced within a mile and a quarter of Fort Jackson, when he was opened upon from that fort and repeatedly struck. Still steaming directly for the fort, and replying only from his two fore-castle guns, when within half a mile he sheered and gave them broadsides of grape and canister, which soon drove every man from their barbette guns; but those in the casemates rendered full and quick returns for every volley received. The Richmond, closely following, hurled grape and canister in profusion. The Brooklyn, bringing up the rear, ran over one of the hulks which had upheld the chain, during a hot fire from Fort St. Philip. Hardly had she been freed from the hulk and her head turned up stream, when the ram Manasses came butting into her starboard gangway, first opening her iron trap door at ten feet distance and firing at the smoke-stack of the Brooklyn a heavy bolt, which was caught and stopped by the sand bags protecting her steam-drum. A guard of chain armour which had been woven over her sides " (Farragut had ordered the adoption of this simple precaution in all the large steamers, viz., the protection of the machinery by chain cables, and the result proved with what accurate judgment) " shielded her from destruction by the ram, which soon slid off and disappeared in the darkness. A few minutes later, while still under a raking fire from Fort Jackson, the Brooklyn was attacked by a large rebel steamer, to which she gave a broadside at fifty yards, setting it instantly on fire, and putting an end to its career. Still groping onward in the thick darkness, Captain Craven soon found himself abreast of Fort St. Philip, and so near that his leadsman reported thirteen feet of water. Bringing all his guns to bear for a few moments, he poured in grape and canister so that the fort was completely silenced, and her garrison were seen by our men in the tops of the Brooklyn, by the fitful flashes of their bursting shrapnel, running like sheep to their coverts. Thus passing the upper fort, Captain Craven engaged several of the rebel gun-boats at sixty to a hundred yards. He was an hour and a half under fire, lost eight killed and twenty-six wounded, while his ship was badly cut up by shot and shell; but she bore her full part in the attack on the rebel batteries below New Orleans next morning."

The rest may be briefly told. On the next day, April 25th, Farragut steamed up to the wharves of New Orleans, the inhabitants of which, knowing that the city could be easily laid in ashes by the Federal squadron, abandoned the thought of further resistance. Very firm language was required from Farragut before the irritated people would leave the Union flag to fly undisturbed from the top of the City Hall. The civil government was committed to General Butler, and was by him administered with great firmness, and perhaps with no greater severity of repression than the circumstances substantially required. But being without the breeding of a gentleman, Butler did not know or feel that there are some means of repression which, whatever may be the previous provocation, must not be employed. He thus came to issue the celebrated proclamation, ordering that " hereafter, when any female shall, by word, gesture, or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation." The civilised world received this ebullition with astonishment and indignation, Lord Palmerston declaring, in the House of Commons, that " Englishmen must blush to think that it came from a man of the Anglo-Saxon race." Yet there is no ground to think that Butler's order, hateful as it is, was ever put in force - that it was more than a brutum fulmen; and, on the other hand, Englishmen who have known their countrymen order the living bodies of Hindoo prisoners to be blown into ghastly and gory fragments of quivering flesh from the mouths of cannon, cannot predict to what lengths even their portion of the " Anglo-Saxon race " may not proceed under circumstances of pressure. The execution of Mumford by Butler's order, for having been the ringleader of a mob which tore down the Federal flag from the roof of the Mint, after the Confederate forces had evacuated the city, was, perhaps, an act of extreme harshness, and not absolutely required for the security of a power which was then so firmly in possession; nevertheless, the plea of military necessity has been not seldom held sufficient to cover worse deeds.

Great progress was made in this year towards the complete emancipation of the slaves. Already Federal officers in command of corps or detachments serving in the Southern states had been forbidden to interfere in any way with the enjoyment of their freedom by slaves who had escaped from their masters within the Federal lines. Mr. Lincoln displayed sound statesmanship and a wise deliberation in this whole matter. So far as military interests seemed to require it, he gladly took and approved of measures which tended to emancipation; but he would not let himself be hurried by the Abolitionists into any such premature declaration against slavery, regarded as an institution, as would, while everything was still in doubt, have estranged Kentucky and Missouri from the cause of the Union far more decidedly than was now the case. He expressed himself very plainly, and with characteristic brevity, in a letter to Horace Greeley, written in August of this year. " My paramount object," he said, " is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it - if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it - and if I could save it by freeing some and letting others alone, I would also do that." In September, he published a proclamation, distinctly stated to be resorted to as a war measure, notifying that from the first day of January, 1863, all slaves owned in any state, or in any designated part of a state, which was then in rebellion against the Union, should be held to be from that time and for ever after free. In accordance with this notification, the President issued a second proclamation on the 1st January, 1863, which, considering the result of the war, practically amounted to the abolition of slavery in North America. This document, after reciting the previous proclamation, continued: " Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, by virtue of the power in me vested as Commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States in time of actual armed rebellion against the authority and government of the United States, and as a fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion, do, on this first day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty three... order and designate as the States and the parts of States wherein the people thereof respectively are this day in rebellion against the United States, the following, to wit: Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana [except certain parishes], Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia [except certain counties]... and by virtue of the power and for the purpose aforesaid, I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States and parts of States are and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognise and maintain the freedom of such persons." The military effect of this proclamation, considered as a war measure, was probably less than Mr. Lincoln had counted upon: for either it was carefully withheld from the knowledge of the slave population in the Southern states, or, if even its contents became known to any of them, the fierce and desperate resolution which animated the whites deterred them from attempting, or even planning, anything like a general insurrection. But the political effect was enormous; in every Christian country the cause of the Union was thenceforward identified with the freedom of the negro, so that even those who on many accounts sympathised with the South could not heartily and entirely wish their cause to triumph; moreover, the United States Government and people were irrevocably bound, in the event of their obtaining such military success as did in fact crown their arms, to maintain for the future that freedom of the negro population which had been thus proclaimed.

On the 1st of December, 1862, Mr. Lincoln sent down a message to Congress, thoughtful, lucid, and at times rising to a rugged natural eloquence, in which he laboured to show the physical unity of the territory of the United States, and thence to conclude to the political indivisibility of the Union. There is no line of boundary, he said, which could possibly be drawn between the great corn-producing region of the interior, lying between the Alleghanies, the Rocky Mountains, and British America, and the sea margins south, east, and west of the said region, that would not cut off its population from one or more of the outlets which Nature had provided for its trade. (An argument which, pressed by some future President, when the Union has a hundred millions of inhabitants, may perhaps be turned against the British, as marring and embarrassing the beneficent appointments of Nature, while we " cut off " the said population from the outlet of the St. Lawrence.) Mr. Lincoln argues the question ably and earnestly, yet, after all, he regards it solely from the commercial point of view. "What he says amounts to this: that because men cannot trade together quite so conveniently or profitably under two Governments as under one, therefore disruption is forbidden and branded by all laws, human and divine. Louisiana must remain one political community with Minnesota, however diverse may be the ideas, the political tendencies, the social habits, and the intellectual and aesthetic culture, of the two, because, if there were a custom-house between them, a percentage of profit might be lost to the Minnesota settler, and the " development " (by which is simply meant, in such reasonings, the filling up of a country with a motley, half civilised, and wholly uninteresting white population) of the interior region might proceed at a rather slower rate. And if it did, would the world be any the worse? Is not the rapid absorption of the vast and fertile prairies of America by a swarming semi-civilized population - insensible to the charm of ancient manners, dead to art, callous to philosophy, vulgarly self-confident in religion - one of the saddest among the many sad spectacles which the philosophic observer of mankind, during the last forty years, has been compelled to contemplate? What if some Virginian thinker had replied to Mr. Lincoln: Doubtless you may be right in maintaining that trade flourishes better - ceteris paribus - where there is but one political organisation; but man is not born for trade alone; and there is much reason for holding that literature, art, science - in a word, all that constitutes the highest culture of a people - flourish all the more for there being a number of cultivated independent centres. "Would Greece have taught us so much, had she been all Spartan, or all Theban, or even all Athenian? Is the oppressive moral monotony which prevails in a vastly extended state, in which the majority reigns supreme - is this no drawback to the account of prosperity? Again, utter want of harmony in religious beliefs may make it more desirable for two contiguous populations to be independent of each other, than to be politically united. No physical barrier divides Holland from Belgium; if commercial principles are to override all others, they ought to be one; yet we know that difference of religion, and diversity of historical memories and associations, made the two peoples fret against the tie which temporarily united them, and that since their separation each has prospered - in regard to all the higher forms of national prosperity - in an eminent degree. Bred up in the rough West, Mr. Lincoln, intelligent and virtuous as he was, could not but be blind to this whole class of considerations, which would have appeared to him mere fanciful refinements. Does it conduce to trade? that was his sole test by which to try every political organisation.

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Pictures for Chapter II, of Cassells Illustrated History of England, Volume 9 page 5

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