Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25, 1862

April 25, 1862: New Orleans, Louisiana - During the night of the 24th, crowds run wild in the streets as property is burned and looted. Orders for anything useful to the Yankees to put to the torch (food, arms, ships–and 30,000 bales of cotton, a fortune in cotton) quickly turns into a mass melee. George Washington Cable, age 13 at the time, records:

I shall not try to describe the day the alarm-bells told us the city was in danger and called every man to his mustering-point. The children poured out from the school-gates and ran crying to their homes, meeting their sobbing mothers at their thresholds. The men fell into ranks. I was left entirely alone in charge of the store in which I was employed. Late in the afternoon, receiving orders to close it, I did so, and went home. But I did not stay. I went to the river-side. There until far into the night I saw hundreds of drays carrying cotton out of the presses and yards to the wharves, where it was fired. . . .

Whoever could go was going. The great mass, that had no place to go to or means to go with, was beside itself. "Betrayed ! betrayed !" it cried, and ran in throngs from street to street, seeking some vent, some victim for its wrath. . . . The junior of the firm was within. I called him to look toward the river. The masts of the cutter Washington were slowly tipping, declining, sinking---down she went. The gun-boat moored next to her, began to smoke all over and then to blaze. My employers lifted up their heels and left the city---left their goods and their affairs in the hands of one mere lad (no stranger would have thought I had reached fourteen) and one big German porter. I closed the doors, sent the porter to his place in the Foreign Legion, and ran to the levee to see the sights.

What a gathering! The riff-raff of the wharves, the town, the gutters. Such women---such wrecks of women! And all the juvenile rag-tag. The lower steamboat landing, well covered with sugar, rice, and molasses, was being rifled. The men smashed; the women scooped up the smashings. The river was overflowing the top of the levee. A rain-storm began to threaten. "Are the Yankee ships in sight?" . . . Ah, me! I see them now as they come slowly round Slaughterhouse Point into full view, silent, grim, and terrible; black with men, heavy with deadly portent; the long-banished Stars and Stripes flying against the frowning sky. . . .

At about 1:00 PM, the U.S. Navy squadron arrives at the port waterfront, as the hulk of the CSS Mississippi, burning, drifts on the rolling river:

U.S.N. Mortar Vessel

The crowds on the levee howled and screamed with rage. The swarming decks answered never a word; but one old tar on the Hartford, standing with lanyard in hand beside a great pivot-gun, so plain to view that you could see him smile, silently patted its big black breech and blandly grinned.

And now the rain came down in sheets. About 1 or 2 o'clock in the afternoon (as I remember), I being again in the store with but one door ajar, came a roar of shoutings and imprecations and crowding feet down Common street. "Hurrah for Jeff Davis! Hurrah for Jeff Davis! Shoot them! Kill them! Hang them! " I locked the door on the outside, and ran to the front of the mob, bawling with the rest, " Hurrah for Jeff Davis! " About every third man there had a weapon out. Two officers of the United States navy were walking abreast, unguarded and alone, looking not to right or left, never frowning, never flinching, while the mob screamed in their ears, shook cocked pistols in their faces, cursed and crowded, and gnashed upon them. So through the gates of death those two men walked to the City Hall to demand the town's surrender. It was one of the bravest deeds I ever saw done.

Mayor Monroe of the city refuses to surrender the town, and the mob outside are threatening to lynch the two USN officers. Gen. Mansfield Lovell, in command of the Confederate Army there, also refuses to surrender the city, and he immediately takes his leave and marches his 4,000 troops out of the city. The two naval officers are smuggled out the back of city hall. Soon, a landing party of sailors and Marines take possession of the city. The Confederate flag and the Louisiana state flag are lowered and replaced by the Stars and Stripes.

The Federal fleet at New Orleans

---Fort Macon, North Carolina, near the port city of Beaufort, surrenders to troops under Gen. Burnside and naval forces under Flag Officer Goldsborough, after a long siege.

—The Richmond Daily Dispatch publishes this patriotic editorial about the Confederate government’s practice of impressing (confiscating) privately owned horses for use by the Army:
Impressment of horses.
–The people of Lynchburg are groaning over the fact that the agents of the Government have been twice in that region impressing and buying up all the serviceable horses to be found.–Richmond has never been "afflicted" in this way, and our mountain neighbors are unable to perceive the justice of the reason for the immunity hitherto granted her. They are right, and we trust that the next haul will be made from the surplus stock of horses in this region. We learn that some public back owners do not now permit their horses to be used, because Gen. Winder [provost marshal] has intimated that they shall conform in their charges to the rates prescribed by the city ordinances. This is not the time for horses or any other animals to be standing idle, therefore let the Government take not only them, but the carriage and private riding horses, if they can be made to contribute to the welfare of the Republic.

—Kate Cumming, Confederate nurse at Corinth, records this shocked observation of wartime morals and romance:

This morning, while at breakfast, I was not a little astonished to hear a very pretty widow say that she had never enjoyed herself so much as she had since she had been here; that, when she left home, she was told that she must try to catch a beau—and she had succeeded. The doctors, I thought, looked amazed, that any woman, at such a time, and in such a place, should be guilty of such heartlessness. Enjoyed herself! when it was impossible to look one way or the other without seeing the most soul-harrowing scenes that it has ever been the lot of mortals to witness; and at that moment the groans of the suffering and dying were entering the room. I looked at the sentinels who were at the door; they, I thought, looked as shocked as we. I trust that such women are very rare.

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