Question of the Week: 4/25-5/1/22

The capture of New Orleans in April 1862 can be seen as a turning point in the Civil War. In your opinion what are the top three outcomes/events that make it a turning point?

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68 Responses to Question of the Week: 4/25-5/1/22

  1. Mike Maxwell says:

    After careful consideration, it is my claim that the loss of Confederate New Orleans in 1862 was NOT a turning point in the war. Its potential as turning point was delayed and transposed… and occurred, instead, at the Surrender of Vicksburg in July 1863.

  2. Larry De Maar says:

    1. Loss of the Confederacy’s most populous city
    2. Loss of a major port
    3. Loss of the entrance to the Mississippi River

    • Mike Maxwell says:

      1. Loss of territory does not determine the outcome in war; defeat of Armies determines outcome. [What Army was defeated AT New Orleans?]
      2. Although the Confederacy lost the major port of New Orleans, it kept the major port of Mobile until the end of the war. [One example to consider: submarine developments initiated at New Orleans found their way to Mobile.]
      3. The loss of the lower Mississippi… The South was resilient and innovative: other ports, along with railroads and rivers connecting those ports substituted for New Orleans.

  3. nygiant1952 says:

    Agree with Mike Maxwell. Fall of Vicksburg is more of a turning point, since the loss did open up the Mississippi River, it split the Confederacy and a Rebel Army surrendered.

  4. Chris Kolakowski says:

    New Orleans was a serious reverse for the Confederacy and an important turning point. It had three important immediate effects:

    1. Loss of the largest city and one of the best ports (and shipyards)

    2. Opening of the Gulf Coast and Lower Mississippi River as fronts, forcing Confederate strength to be divided between the armies fighting in the north and protection of the coast

    3. Giving the Federals a major base for operations up the Mississippi River and along the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to Texas, which was exploited to the fullest

    All three of these effects lasted for the duration of the war.

    • nygiant1952 says:

      I think we can all agree that the Red River Campaign was a complete failure. And I think we can all agree that the attempts by Farragut to capture Vicksburg ended in failure. Twice as a matter of fact, he failed.

      • Chris Kolakowski says:

        I don’t dispute those were failures. Against those, I’d put Mobile Bay, Port Hudson, Baton Rouge, Mobile 1865, and the various Texas Coast operations – not to mention the transshipment of XIX Corps, General Grant, and others through New Orleans. The credit side far outweighs the debit side of the ledger.

        To your other comment, I don’t dispute Vicksburg’s importance is probably greater. But the fall of New Orleans should get more credit for its importance than it often does.

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Thank you fro your comment.

        I think we have to define what does one mean when they say…”a turning point of the war”.

        I interpret it to mean, a significant event that leads to changes in the actual fighting of the war. For instance, Antietam and the preliminary issue of the Emancipation Proclamation took foreign intervention to support the Rebels right off the table. Or, the loss of Vicksburg where the Mississippi River was opened up for commerce so that Midwestern farmers could send produce to England, and where a Rebel Army surrendered. Personally, my favorite is the intersection of the Old Orange Plank Road and the Brock Road where the Army of the Potomac continued the fight against the Rebels in the Overland Campaign.

        The campaigns you mention are peripheral campaigns that did not affect the fighting nor the outcome of the war. Now is Farragut had succeeded in capturing Vicksburg, then I would agree with you that the capture of New Orleans could be a turning point in the war. Or if the Red river Campaign had been successful.

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        “…now if Farragut had succeeded in capturing Vicksburg.” As nygiant1952 indicates, the failure of Farragut to capture the heights of Vicksburg, while there were fewer than 500 Rebel soldiers in position there, and Farragut had access to Butler’s Army of the Gulf (15,000 soldiers) and Porter’s massive mortars… is the crux of the matter. Butler was senior to Farragut; but MGen Butler’s orders (from McClellan, dated 23 FEB 1862) differed from Flag-Officer Farragut’s orders from SecNav Welles (dated 20 JAN 1862.) When Farragut moved for the Mississippi River, he left Butler and his Army behind on Ship Island; and Butler was only called forward late, “to deal with the Mayor of New Orleans” …allowing Farragut to continue up the Mississippi, without Butler or Porter, and fail in taking Vicksburg (which President Lincoln called, “the Key: let us get Vicksburg and that whole country is ours.”)
        If Vicksburg had fallen as easily as Natchez, we could talk boldly today about how “New Orleans was a turning point.” Unfortunately, it didn’t, so we can’t.

    • John+Foskett says:

      Chris: I agree. “Turning point” doesn’t necessarily mean “the day the war was lost”. New Orleans was an important port/facility and location. Its loss was significant for the reasons you mention.

      • Capturing Vicksburg only mattered because New Orleans had already been seized. If New Orleans still remained in Confederate hands in July, 1863, capturing Vicksburg would have been met with a collective shrug.
        Tom

  5. Shipdriver says:

    I agree with Chris and also note that the Confederacy lost their point of export for the entire Mississippi watershed, their best cotton-growing lands, and a therefore major source of potential income or exchange for goods and weapons in Europe, assuming of course that they could get by the blockade, which many did. The U.S. Navy was relieved of the necessity to blockade the port, which would have stretched resources even more and weakened other blockades.

    • nygiant1952 says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      The Rebels had already lost a major source of income. They refused to send the cotton crop harvested in 1860 and 1861, losing that income. The loss of New Orleans did not suddenly result in a loss of income from cotton.

    • Mike Maxwell says:

      The withholding of Southern cotton from the world market, beginning 1861, expedited the British search for alternative suppliers. India and Egypt increased production substantially during the American Civil War, with India in particular proving to be an increasingly viable alternative, even after American cotton returned to the market in 1865/66. [See https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-american-civil-war-built-egypts-vaunted-cotton-industry-and-changed-country-forever-180959967/

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        Reference for India’s cotton production 1861- 1865 here: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2594052

      • nygiant1952 says:

        I agree with Mike. The rebels on their own, decided not to export cotton. You can’t then say that the loss of NO denied them a chance to sell their cotton overseas. They had already made that decision.

        The Union, adapted to the temporary loss of commerce on the Mississippi River. Mid-Western wheat and corn was shipped to Chicago, transported over the Great Lakes to Buffalo, then transported East to Albany on the RR and the Erie Canal, and then transported to NYC where it was exported to England.

        Realize that in 1860, Great Britain had to import food to feed its population. Upwards to 50% of food Great Britain imported, came from the American Mid-West.

  6. What Chris and others have said. With the loss of N.O., the Confederates lost a very large population base from which to recruit and millions of dollars in exported goods. The burning of cotton on the N.O. wharves when Farragut approached in April, 1862 alone was a huge number.
    Tom

    • nygiant1952 says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      As far as the loss in exported goods is concerned, the Rebels had had already made a decision to with-hold cotton. The rebels significantly over-estimated their ability to obtain immediate income from the cotton harvests of 1860 and 1861, and the dependence of English cotton mills on those exports. Parliament was not going to bow down to Rebel extortion.

      The Rebels cotton embargo meant that the holes in the Anaconda Plan were strategically insignificant.

      • Well, yea, but until the cotton is actually burned, it still remains as potential export. It still has value, even if only as potential revenue. The Confederates burned millions of dollars worth of cotton on the N.O. wharves when Farragut approached. The CSA withheld cotton only as long as it took to bring Britain and France around – or until the CSA realized they could not bring Britain and France around. Removing the port removed the possibility or potential of continued trade.
        Tom

      • nygiant1952 says:

        The Rebels refused to sell the 1860 and 1861 cotton crop, so in essence, they are the ones who put an embargo on the cotton. It had no value if the Rebels were unwilling to sell it.

        The fact is, Great Britain never yielded to Rebel extortion. France was out of the picture since they would never act without the assistance of Great Britain.

  7. Neil P. Chatelain says:

    The 1862 NOLA Campaign had major repercussions.

    1. Military Significance: The Confederacy lost Its best river shipyards. Lost factories produced shoes, gunpowder, and artillery. US forces pushed inland using NOLA as their base to create another front.

    2. Naval Significance: You needed armies, forts, and ships to control the Mississippi. Up to April 1862, the Confederacy challenged US riverine ships with their own (albeit improvised) squadrons. After, they could not easily replace lost warships. This campaign ensured US naval superiority, and by the end of 1862 the US Navy had riverine naval supremacy. With no major shipyards left (though the Confederacy tried reconstituting ones up tributaries), there was no major challenge to the US Navy which shifted to direct field army support. The US Navy used NOLA shipyards as a blockade repair facility. The blockade became easier. US success propelled Farragut and Porter. A failed US campaign might see both relegated to desks.

    3. Political Implications: The loss of NOLA meant loss of CS international prestige. European governments were taken aback when the city (the Confederacy’s largest and one with European flair) fell so quickly. The city became a cauldron for testing US policies. African American soldiers were trained in NOLA and US armies sent them into combat at Port Hudson. Reconstruction policies were tested there, including implementation of reconstructed governments through Lincoln’s 10% plan.

    The Confederacy survived losing New Orleans. It continued fighting for three more years after all, but this city’s transfer to US control had major implications for how the rest of the war continued.

    • nygiant1952 says:

      Thank you for your comment.

      The fact that the Rebels continued to fight for 3 years after the loss of New Orleans, backs my point as to the lack of significance of the loss of New Orleans.

      1. There was never another front.

      2. The Rebels bought ships built in England, until threatened with war with he United States.

      3. Parliament was not going to bow to the Rebels extortion, by the Rebels own embargo of cotton.

      • Neil P. Chatelain says:

        To add one more element to the conversation. You mentioned the Confederates bought ships in England as a response to my noting they lost their Mississippi River ship construction abilities. This is very true. Part of the standing orders for the Laird rams built in England was that if they ever got to sea, they would do so with the intention of recapturing New Orleans. That is why their building specifications were so specific. Unfortunately for the CSA, even these European-built ships were stopped.

        I will be diving much deeper into that aspect of the Laird rams in this August’s ECW Symposium, where I will present on the ambitions and challenges of a Confederate Navy European-built ironclad squadron.

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Neil, thank you for your comment. And thank you for verifying my previous comment.

        The diplomatic history of the Civil War is an interesting subject.

        I think we can agree that the only formidable navy to be able to intervene on the Civil War, was the Royal Navy of Great Britain. And while it was unfortunate for the Rebels not to obtain the Laid ram, it was fortunate for the US Navy and Great Britain that the Rebels never obtained it.

        Fortunate for the US Navy, for they did not have the ships nor the weapons to combat the Laird rams

        Fortunate for Great Britain because they risked a war with the United States that may have ended up with the dissolution of their Empire.

        1.If you believe in the Tectonic Plate theory of Geology, the distance that the British felt was tenuous in 1777, was even longer in 1863.

        2. The St Lawrence River freezes in the Winter, making re-supply rather difficult.

        3. The forts along the US-Canada border used in the war of 1812 had fallen into dis-repair. There was nothing to stop the United States from invading Canada.

        4. There was a large population of Irishmen in the United States that would have readily enlisted to fight Great Britain. And if the US had won, one of the terms of the treaty ending the war, would have been the establishment of a free and united Ireland.

        5. While both countries had ironclads, the British ironclads could not go up any rivers, making any amphibious landings doubtful. US ironclads could go up rivers.

        6. 1n 1860, Great Britain had to import food to feed its population. Upwards to 50% of the food imported to Great Britain was imported from the United States. Would Great Britain bite the hand that feeds it?

        7. While Palmerston had said in Parliament that Great Britain had no permanent friends, just permanent interests, he did not say what these interests were. If you read the preceding paragraph and following paragraph, he is talking about a revolution in Poland. The permanent British interest was not allowing a European power to dominate the continent…not cotton, not British interest in American railroads, not slavery.

        8. As the British laborer realized that the American Civil War was a war between slave labor and wage labor, I doubt the British would have enlisted.

        9. Palmerston had to get a bill through Parliament in order to declare war against the United States.

        10. There was an extra layer to the British Government, that we don’t here in the United States…The Queen. Palmerston would have had to get the approval of the Queen before sending a bill to Parliament declaring was on the United States. As her husband had been pro-American, I tend to believe this would not have happened. Palmerston did rattle sabers, and sent the equivalent to the US Army 6th Corps (12000 soldiers) to Canada…but there was no war despite the saber rattling.

        11. To those who think that Queen Victoria had no influence on British policy, I submit the following. Palmerston had threatened Prussia with military and naval intervention if Prussia invaded Denmark for possession of Schleswig-Holstein. When they did invade and annex Schleswig-Holstein, Great Britain did nothing, because Queen Victoria was pro-German, much to the displeasure and consternation of her Danish-born daughter-in-law.

        12. During the Maryland Campaign, Queen Victoria was on the European Continent, in Prussia along with some of those same cabinet ministers that were going to meet with Palmerston. That is a reason why the Cabinet meeting was canceled.

        Now, the last reason is the most significant. Great Britain was tired of always being threatened with the loss of Canada in any dispute with he United States. So, in 1867, 2 years after the American Civil War, Canada was given its independence. On July 1, 1867, with passage of the British North America Act, the Dominion of Canada was officially established as a self-governing entity within the British Empire. Great Britain was now saying…Let the Canadians deal with the Americans.

      • Taylor says:

        In reply to nygiant:

        I can’t reply directly to your post, so I will do so here. I admit to digressing from the focus of the discussion, but you have raised some interesting points. I will not address them all, but I will mention that Canadian Confederation was, to a great extent, a response to the U.S. Civil War and the perceived risk of invasion in the years following that war. The structure of “confederation” was in part an attempt to strike a balance between what was seen to be the more centralist U.S. federal government structure on the one hand and the rights of the individual states within the Confederacy on the other. The object was to avoid if possible some of the political divisions that appeared to have played a part in bringing about the Civil War. To this day, for example, the jurisdiction of the Canadian provinces is so broad that each province has the right to enter into many types of agreements with independent nations that I understand the individual states of the union cannot.

        However, in my opinion it is not totally correct to say that as of 1867 “the Dominion of Canada was officially established as a self-governing entity within the British Empire.” Canadian foreign policy was substantially controlled by Great Britain until the Statute of Westminster in 1931. That statute removed most of the British parliament’s authority to legislate for various Dominions, and essentially made those Dominions sovereign nations although still within, and (supposedly) largely under the protection of, Great Britain.

        Canada had a plan to defend against an invasion by the United States. That plan was revised from time-to-time at least into the 1920s, if not later. It essentially had the Canadian military, and probably as much civilian participation as could be mobilized (I studied this many years ago and have forgotten the details), holding off the Americans until relieved by the Royal Navy and the British Army. It was not one of “let the Canadians deal with the Americans,” as the defense of Canada in the event of an invasion by the United States even well after 1867 was based on British military intervention. Canada did not even have its own official army until about 1899, and was dependent on the Royal Navy for the defense of its coastlines. Of course, whether Britain would actually have intervened in such a case is another discussion. My understanding is that all parties assumed it would.

        I am not sure how the plan would have worked, given the small armed forces Canada maintained, but that was the plan. I still think of it as more applicable to the situation of 1812 than the 1920’s or later.

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Taylor, thank your your comment.

        As I understand it, the passage of the British North America Act, the Dominion of Canada was officially established as a self-governing entity within the British Empire. The provinces requested to become a single dominion with a Constitution similar in priciple to that of the United Kingdom. This was made so that Canada could be a mostly independent nation.

        The threat of an American invasion, helped urge Canada to its own confederation and independence. As a British dominion, the united provinces were no longer a colony, and Canada was free to act like its own country with its own laws and parliament. It also gained financial independence and the responsibility to defend itself

        And I will admit, England itself found that governing and financing its far-flung colonies was expensive and burdensome.

        No longer could the United States threaten Great Britain by saying it would invade Canada,once given its own independence.

  8. curtlocklear says:

    Top three would include the demolition or what little river navy the South had, then the loss of the most vibrant port or the South, then the fact that the South generally just gave it up with no real attempt to retake it.

  9. nygiant1952 says:

    Neil…..What Confederate Navy European-built ironclad squadron?

    Do you mean the ironclads sunk by American diplomats?

    • Neil P. Chatelain says:

      Yes, the talk will look at ambitions to forge a CSN European squadron (the Laird rams, ironclads in France, wooden steamers in France, and even wooden warships from Austria), as well as the challenges of getting them completed, efforts by the US to prevent their completion/delivery (which were successful), and the challenges of how the ships would have operated if they all ended up in the Confederate Navy.

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Thanks for your response! That sounds like an interesting presentation!!

        If Great Britain had been successful in supplying the ironclads, the United States would have declared war on Great Britain.

  10. Douglas Pauly says:

    Virtually every source that I have read throughout my life lists the loss of New Orleans as a ‘turning point’ in the War. Until it fell to the Union forces, it was a major source of troops, armaments, and supplies to the Confederate Army. Prewar, It was a major export center for the entire country, and still a port from which the Confederates hoped to send and receive commerce and supplies. It was the most populous city of the entire Confederacy.

    The morale boost alone was considerable when it was taken. It was THE gateway to the rest of the Mississippi watershed. By taking NO, the Union owned the Mississippi between NO and Vicksburg. Because of NO’s loss, Vickburg’s fate became one that was more “when”, not “if”. The Union determined early on that NO was worthy of a major operation to secure it. The Confederacy in turn tried to take it back after they lost it. The Union possessing NO opened up a lot of possibilities for them, and they successfully exploited some of those. So, IMHO, the loss of NO for the Confederacy was indeed a true ‘turning point’ in the war. Perhaps it’s not as ‘sexy’ as some others ones, like the aforementioned Vicksburg, or Antietam, or Atlanta, but it was a turning point none the less.

    • nygiant1952 says:

      Hi Doug,

      Could you list for all of us, the sources that you have read which claim that the loss of New Orleans was a “turning point” in the Civil War? Book, author and page number so we can read it for ourselves?

      Also could you list for us the number of times the rebels attempted to take it back? I was under the impression that General Richard Taylor attempted to recapture New Orleans in 1863 but was prevented from doing so, first, because he was redirected north to attack Grant’s supply line, then, later, was forced to abandon an attack after Port Hudson surrendered.

      • Douglas Pauly says:

        Hi Giant…

        “Could you list for all of us, the sources that you have read which claim that the loss of New Orleans was a “turning point” in the Civil War? Book, author and page number so we can read it for ourselves?”
        No. I can’t. Some of those sources are from a long time ago. I am not going to comb through what’s left of my considerable, lifelong book collection to find the “offending passages”. As stated, I have read books and other ‘sources’ throughout my life (my interest in the Civil War started in the second or third grade). Regardless of the historic subject matter, I’ve never made it a point or habit to memorize things like most authors names or make notes pertaining to page numbers of such works, except in the very rarest of circumstances like for school courses. (Please tell me there will NOT be an ‘exam’ following all this!) For the record, I don’t know those authors political leanings or blood types either if anyone should be curious about those. What can I say? Also, just to be clear, and I take the hit for this, my post was not meant to convey that there have been LOTS of sources throughout my life that make claims about NO and turning points. How I worded that is, again, on me. BUT, of those that mentioned NO or had it as its main subject, the expression of its loss being a turning point was prevalent. How could it not be?

        Now, as to your question about Confederate attempts to retake NO, the Battle of Baton Rouge is presented in SOME SOURCES as being part of a broader attempt (realistically, more of a hope) by the Confederates to set the stage for retaking Louisiana, and hence NO, IF and AFTER they could succeed at Baton Rouge. Obviously, that did not happen, and the Confederate loss there effectively ended any thoughts or hopes of getting Louisiana, including NO, back by the Confederates. The Confederates had some hopes along the lines of a citizen uprising to help them in that. Those hopes were not realized.

        Many if not most of the posts on here appear to agree that the capture of NO was a turning point. The actual question (of the week) itself alludes to such. Are those posters going to be challenged by you to produce authors and titles and page numbers to support their contentions? Are the historian’s past and present wrong about their assertions that NO was a turning point? Nobody that I know of said it was THE turning point, as discussions on this site have covered the subject of CW turning points pretty well. Interestingly, if you type in a search centered on “Civil War turning points”, many of the usual choices (Antietam, Vicksburg, etc.) are included in them. Some even attempt to answer what THE turning point was (it’s usually Gettysburg that shows up). For what it’s worth, Wikipedia’s entry on that lists New Orleans as ONE turning point. And Wiki is never wrong, right? LOL..

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turning_point_of_the_American_Civil_War

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Hi Doug, Thanks for your response.

        Maybe you and I should combine our books, and over a few bottles of beer, make a definitive list of Civil war Turning points!

      • Douglas Pauly says:

        You know Giant, I would like that! Though I’m more of a bourbon guy these days. What can I say?!

      • nygiant1952 says:

        When we meet at an Emerging Civil War symposium, we’ll have a few pints!

  11. nygiant1952 says:

    Neil…another question. While I would find the diplomatic efforts to prevent the Rebels from procuring obtaining ironclads to be significant, I don’t understand why a discussion on the challenges of how the ships would have operated if they all ended up in the Confederate Navy.

    They didn’t end up in the Rebel Navy.

    Doesn’t this this add fuel to the Lost Causers and give them more reasons why the Rebels were defeated?

    I’m not looking for an argument, but just an explanation of why we need to study things that never happened? I’m having enough trouble just learning and understanding what did happen!…smile.

    • Neil P. Chatelain says:

      So the easiest answer is that the 2022 ECW symposium’s theme is “Great ‘What Ifs?’ of the Civil War”

      There is real value in examining the CSN European ironclads through this lens. It is all about context. In general the CSN had major ambitions through multiple avenues (river squadrons, ironclads, commerce raiding, torpedoes, etc). These were often realized to a degree, but almost never to the full vision of those ambitions. You are right that the European built ironclads (besides CSS Stonewall) never flew a Confederate flag. The point of the “What If” exercise here is to take a hard look at the actual goals, ambitions, and activity of Confederate naval forces in Europe. People point to the diplomatic activity that prevented most of these ships from joining the CSN, but often overlook the other elements of getting ships to sea (manpower, supply, friendly ports, seaworthiness to name a few). Besides, these ships were envisioned to break the blockade. Whether they were capable of doing so (and what challenges they faced in the form of US naval countermeasures) is worthy of that conversation as well.

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Hi Neil, Thanks for your response.

        I can see where a discussion of the diplomacy behind the building of the ironclads world be of interest. And how the British evaded their own laws on arming belligerents. The Brits finally realized that they risked a war with the United States if they had decided to continue.

        We will have to agree to disagree as to the challenges of how the ships would have operated or whether they would have broken the blockade.

        It just didn’t happen.

        I put all ‘What ifs” in a bin that also contains, what if Jackson had been at Gettysburg?

  12. Mike Maxwell says:

    To further clarify my position… Although New Orleans was not a turning point, it WAS a significant morale boost for the Union (and a kick in the guts to the Confederacy.) Most noticeable: the debate over “Who won Shiloh,” which had persisted for nearly a month, was abandoned, knocked off newspaper front pages by the undeniable fact: Confederate New Orleans had fallen under Federal control.
    But to be remembered, the New Orleans Campaign consisted of four elements, to be accomplished in order: Federal occupation of Ship Island (accomplished NOV/Dec 1861); neutralize the Lower Mississippi forts of Jackson and St. Philip; establish Federal control of New Orleans; clear the Mississippi River of all Rebel strongholds above New Orleans to Memphis. When it was revealed that Farragut had failed to take Vicksburg, officials in Washington were beside themselves. And that Naval officer was strongly encouraged to “proceed up the River, in accordance with your orders.”
    But the moment had been lost; despite renewed efforts, delay resulted in Rebel reinforcements establishing formidable defense of what would eventually be known as “the Gibraltar of the Confederacy.” And that problem persisted for the Federals to solve… for one… more… year.

  13. Douglas Pauly says:

    This is an interesting discussion. Emerging Civil War has had several discussions about “turning points” since I first signed up on here a few years ago. The posts that comprised those discussions were often all over the map (literally) when it came to turning points and why participants viewed them as such. One set of events that some listed as turning points were the taking of Forts Henry and Donelson by one US Grant in early 1862. I have seen the capture of those labeled as turning points in other sources and venues. The reason given pertain to the options they opened up for the Union, due to the access they then had to target Tennessee and other points south. So, if the capture of those forts is considered a turning point, how can the taking of New Orleans NOT be?

    By taking it, the Union had options they didn’t have before. Taking it gave them access they previously did not possess. Unlike those forts mentioned, NO was the Confederacy’s most populous city, and a political, commercial, and military center for the entire region. It guarded the southern end of the Mississippi River, which was (and still is) such a vital waterway. I think the term ‘turning point’ can manifest itself in a number of ways, and some turning points are more evident than others, and might not be realized as such until much later after they have occurred (scholarship and research can contribute to that), or they do not “gleam” as much as other such events that took place in the same time frames. But they remain ‘turning points’ none the less.

    • Mike Maxwell says:

      Why was Federal control of Fort Pickens not a turning point?
      Why was the Federal occupation of Nashville in February 1862 not a turning point?
      Why was the return of Federal control to Memphis in June 1862 not a turning point?
      Not every noteworthy achievement enjoys “turning point” status…
      As regards Forts Henry and Donelson: their captures by Federal forces turned Fort Columbus, and led to that Rebel Gibraltar’s evacuation; and initiated the opening of the Mississippi River to Federal use. Therefore, Forts Henry and Donelson have turning point status, while the actual evacuation of Fort Columbus does not. [Significant Rebel forces were captured at Forts Henry and Donelson; no one was captured at Fort Columbus.]

      • Douglas Pauly says:

        Hi Mike. I don’t argue some of your points (like that of “Not every noteworthy achievement enjoys “turning point” status”). Yet, when it comes to New Orleans, it appears to indeed have such a status. I didn’t determine that, others appear to have done so, but I do agree with their conclusions. Perhaps more scholarship and research will determine that it wasn’t? OR, that same further scholarship and research might arrive at a conclusion that it was a much BIGGER turning point than originally purported. The same for Fort Pickens and your other examples.

        Your post here supports the perspective that the aforementioned Forts Henry and Donelson were indeed turning points. You mention the ’cause-and-effect’ they initiated, and the OPTIONS that were thus offered the Union forces by taking them. Many of those same things also happened for the Union forces when they took NO. They opened up the Mississippi River from the south for the Union Navy and other forces all the way up to Vicksburg. It gave them the ability to effectively target other cities, towns, and areas in that region of the country. .

        You also mention the surrendered troops at Forts Henry and Donelson. Are casualty figures a necessary component for something to be a ‘turning point’? I can offer some instances where ‘turning points’ real and perceived did not involve actual casualties (not directly), in the Civil War and in other conflicts.

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        No one was captured at Fort Columbus because that garrison of 14,000 men successfully evacuated, with about 6000 joining Beauregard; and over 7000 becoming the garrison at Island No.10… to become ANOTHER thorn in the side of Flag-Officer Foote.
        The problem did not go away until that garrison went away.

  14. Mike Maxwell says:

    The occupation of New Orleans by Federal forces in 1862 was not a turning point; control of New Orleans was one step on a ladder, those steps being Ship Island, mastery of the Lower Forts, Flag of the United States flying over New Orleans, mastery of Baton Rouge, mastery of Natchez, mastery of Vicksburg, then complete the join of Farragut’s force with the Western River gunboats under command of Flag-Officer Charles Davis below Memphis. In climbing that ladder, Farragut’s force stumbled at Vicksburg…
    And when Leaders in Washington learned in mid- May 1862 that Vicksburg “was yet to be taken” a strong letter of encouragement was sent to Farragut via the fastest route possible. It required about ten days to reach that Naval Officer. [See letter from Gustavus Fox to Farragut of 17 May 1862.]
    Had Vicksburg been taken while the Rebels there numbered fewer than 500, and had Farragut subsequently completed his join with Davis, the ladder thus described, a.k.a. “the New Orleans Campaign,” likely simplified to “New Orleans,” could rightly be proclaimed, “a turning point of the war.” Instead, Farragut’s New Orleans Campaign was a missed opportunity, the highlight of which was not “occupation of New Orleans,” but “the Defeat of Forts Jackson and St. Philip, and destruction of the Rebel gunboats attempting their defense.”
    Mike Maxwell

    • Mike Maxwell says:

      It has come to my attention that no link was provided for the above- mentioned Letter of Fox to Farragut. It can be found, along with other interesting Naval communications, in the 1920 by-subscription publication, “Confidential Correspondence of Gustavus V. Fox” (The Vinnes Press) page 314 [pdf page 340]. Many of the other letters and such, beginning page 292 [pdf page 318] to page 322 [pdf 348] are also worth a look https://civilwarnavy.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Gustavus-V.-Fox_Volume-I.pdf

    • Douglas Pauly says:

      I’ll reckon we’ll just have to disagree on it all Mike. Many if not most of the acknowledged ‘turning points’ of the War involved and/or resulted in ‘missed opportunities’. Vicksburg did not control the ability of Confederate shipping to get into or out of the Mississippi River via international waters (the Caribbean), New Orleans did.

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        As there is apparent agreement that “Capture of New Orleans SHOULD have been a turning point,” the obvious question asserts itself: WHY was it not? Farragut’s own actions acknowledge existence of a more broad strategy, a grand plan, with most of it included in his (and Butler’s) orders. The join of Farragut’s force with Davis’s gunboats should have been the culmination of Farragut’s involvement with that plan; and Federal possession of the heights of Vicksburg should have been the penultimate step. [It was, only 14 months late.]
        How and why did the New Orleans Campaign of 1862 come unstuck?

      • Douglas Pauly says:

        I’m getting lost here a bit, Mike. Are you saying that because Vicksburg was not taken in 1862, by Farragut, that thus means that the capture of NO was not a turning point? Should Vicksburg’s capture in 1863 thus NOT be a turning point because of the multiple failures, including some by Grant (and Farragut), in NOT being able to capture it prior to then? And if NO had not been captured and thus securing that ‘flank’ for the Union, not to mention the options and access that provided for them, would the taking of Vicksburg have even been possible?

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Vicksburg is a turning point because it opened up the Mississippi and allowed Midwestern farmers to send their produce to Europe ( Especially Great Britain. In 1860m, upwards to 50% of the food imported to Great Britain came from the US. They could not feed their population). And an entire Rebel Army was taken off the map.

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        As alluded to in an earlier post, if Farragut (and Butler) had taken lightly-held Vicksburg in May 1862, the operation would not be known as “the Vicksburg Campaign,” for the same reason it would not be called “the Natchez Campaign.” New Orleans was the MOST recognizable name on the list of accomplishments; so “New Orleans” would have been the abbreviation, the “sum it all up” label awarded to the totality of the successful mission.
        The New Orleans Campaign of 1862 failed because it did not take Vicksburg. However, elements of that Campaign WERE successfully accomplished; and if anything is to be given “turning point status” from that campaign, it is the subjugation of Forts Jackson and St. Philip and the associated destruction of the Rebel fleet in vicinity… turning point for both the Capture of New Orleans (undeniably a significant morale boost for the Union, despite NOT being a turning point of the war) and initiating the opening of the Mississippi River from the south.

      • Douglas Pauly says:

        Giant, the ability of Midwestern farmers to send their produce to world markets could not have happened without New Orleans being in Union hands. The Union controlled MOST of the Mississippi River thanks to the campaigns north of Vicksburg (Forts Henry and Donelson) and the subsequent capture of New Orleans. Of course the capture of Vicksburg secured complete control of that. Vicksburg did result in the loss of an entire Confederate army. Losing NO cost them an entire city, their most populated and one vital to their fortunes. It was a manufacturing center, a supply center, and a political center. If the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson are turning points, so is the capture of NO for many if not most of the same reasons.

      • nygiant1952 says:

        Doug, yes they could!

        Produce could be sent to Chicago, and then transported across the Great Lakes to Buffalo, and then by train or Erie Canal to Albany and New York City. And that is what happened. And Great Britain was the recipient of that produce.

        Losing an army was a greater loss, as the Rebels had a finite population from which to draw soldiers. Those men who surrendered were lost to the Rebels.

  15. Mike Maxwell says:

    As nygiant1952 suggests, “opening the Mississippi” was the mission, the goal of the New Orleans Campaign of 1862. That campaign failed.

    • Douglas Pauly says:

      It is doubtful that Vicksburg’s capture could have happened before it did without the options the control of New Orleans and hence that part of the Mississippi River provided for the Union. But, I say again, we’ll just have to disagree. My mind hasn’t been changed by what’s been presented, and my arguments haven’t changed those who believe otherwise.

  16. Mike Maxwell says:

    In reply to Official Reports sent by Flag-Officer Farragut following the capture of New Orleans, and which arrived in Washington on May 9th via Captain Bailey, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus V. Fox sent the following to Farragut on 12 May 1862:
    My Dear Sir: Your unparalleled achievements are before the country and gratefully acknowledged throughout the breadth of the whole land.
    I am sure I have never read anything equal to it. Having studied up the localities and defenses in conceiving this attack, I can fully appreciate the magnificent execution which has rendered your name immortal.
    The rebellion seems caving in all around, and I fancy you will have very little difficulty in taking the whole coast. The only anxiety we feel is to know if you have followed your instructions and pushed a strong force up the [Mississippi] river to meet the Western Flotilla. We only hear of you at Baton Rouge. The opening of the Mississippi is of more importance than Mobile, and if your ships reach Memphis in the next few days Beauregard’s Army is cut off from escape. We listen most anxiously for word that your forces are near there…
    …I will write you again in a few days. In the meantime, believe how happy I am at having relied entirely upon the Navy to capture New Orleans. I maintained it, and the country is satisfied with the result.
    Sincerely, yours,
    G. V. Fox
    [As context, remember Fort Columbus at the northern end of Rebel-controlled Mississippi River was evacuated end of February 1862, and Island No.10 fell April 8th. Flag-Officer Charles Davis (and Colonel Ellet) continued down the river, and on June 6th Memphis would fall under Union control due to Naval action. Between Memphis Tennessee and Union-controlled Natchez Mississippi there was nothing… except the commanding bluffs at Vicksburg. And those heights were virtually undefended in early May 1862, a ripe plum waiting to be enjoyed… by whoever got there with sufficient force first.]

    • Douglas Pauly says:

      Your entire rationale here is based on Vicksburg not being taken in the same time frame that New Orleans was. There are NO attempts on Vicksburg, regardless of any chances of success, without New Orleans being taken. As pointed out before, New Orleans gave Union leaders and commanders access and options they didn’t have previously.

      • nygiant1952 says:

        And as already mentioned above, those options never achieved fruition. And the Rebels had already taken cotton off the table when they refused to send it to England, hoping to extort Great Britain into entering the war and breaking the blockade.

      • Mike Maxwell says:

        Incorrect. Gustavus Fox believed Vicksburg should have been captured by Farragut’s available force in May 1862; and so did Gideon Welles. In the above Letter of 12 May 1862 Assistant Secretary of the Navy Fox states: “We only hear of you at Baton Rouge.” If New Orleans was the Be all, End all, then the capture of Baton Rouge should have been additional icing on the cake. Obviously, it was not.
        Another comment included in the above letter is revealing: “The rebellion seems caving in all around…” During the period Jan-June 1862, the Union experienced euphoric highs: Mill Springs, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson, Island No.10, capture of Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis, Pensacola… In the West many believed “one more victory will finish rebellion out here.” That “one more victory” could only have followed from Union control in May 1862 of the heights of Vicksburg.

  17. Mike Maxwell says:

    After taking possession of Baton Rouge on May 10th, elements of Farragut’s fleet continued north and stopped at Natchez. Terms for surrender were presented; and on May 13th the insufficiently defended city recognized its situation, and the Mayor of Natchez, John Hunter, allowed the few Rebel soldiers in vicinity to evacuate… and then accepted the terms. [See OR (Navy) Ser.1 Vol.18 pp.489 – 491.]

  18. Mike Maxwell says:

    Farragut’s “force” arrived at Vicksburg, having suffered four days of delay at New Orleans, and a day of delay at Natchez. Expectations were high: Commander S. P. Lee presented to the Mayor of Vicksburg a version of the same terms and demands that worked to good effect at Natchez: “[You are ordered] to surrender your city and its defenses to the lawful authority of the United States…”
    But Vicksburg was not Natchez: the bluffs here were taller, towering 300 feet above the Mississippi River; and although numbering in the hundreds, the small force of Rebels tending perhaps thirty pieces of artillery were a potential hazard to Farragut’s squadron… when it arrived. At the moment, Farragut and most of his cruisers were at Natchez; Porter’s schooners, carrying 13-inch mortars that could reach the top of the bluffs, were somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico; and Butler’s two divisions of soldiers were mostly scattered between Fort Jackson and Baton Rouge, with less than 3000 men aboard transports at Natchez.
    On 18 May 1862 there was not much Federal force threatening Vicksburg besides the 1000-ton screw steamer, USS Oneida. And she mounted about half as many pieces of artillery as the Rebels in her face.
    The Rebel commander, Brigadier General Martin Luther Smith, sent north just days earlier by MGen Mansfield Lovell to expedite a credible defense, gaged the situation and weighed his options. And finding that the Mayor of Vicksburg was in agreement with his assessment, Smith issued his reply on 18 May: “Your communication of this date addressed to ‘the Authorities of Vicksburg,’ demanding the surrender of the city and its defenses, has been received.
    “Regarding the surrender of the defenses, I have to reply that having been ordered here to hold these defenses, it is my intention to do so as long as in my power.”
    General Smith may have been a poker player: his was one of the biggest bluffs of the war…

  19. Pingback: Symposium Spotlight: Goals of the Confederacy’s European-Built Ironclad Fleet | Emerging Civil War

  20. Mike Maxwell says:

    Isaac Newton Brown departed the USS Niagara at Boston in Spring 1861 and ended 25+ years of service with the U.S. Navy. Because his intention to join the Rebel Navy was known, Brown was taken into custody and imprisoned at Boston; but the Mayor, in a fit of compassion, had him released. Former-Lieutenant Brown made his way to Canada, then re-crossed the border and journeyed south, and found sanctuary in a Southern State… and was accepted into service with the Confederate States Navy. Assigned to duty in the Western Theatre, Lieutenant Brown CSN became involved in converting a passenger steamer into an ironclad gunboat at Cerro Gordo, Tennessee. Simultaneously, he made frequent trips to Memphis and assisted Dr. A.L. Saunders with production of contact-fused torpedoes (which he then delivered to Rebel forts Henry and Columbus and supervised their deployment in the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers.) But his CSS Eastport was captured before it could be completed; and the torpedoes did not produce the expected results. LT Brown, after renewing contact with Confederate Naval officer Mathew Fontaine Maury in Virginia, appears to have been assigned oversight of two new ironclads under construction at the former Memphis Navy Yard. But before these vessels could be completed, a Federal gunboat flotilla made its way south down the Mississippi, past the abandoned Fort Columbus; overwhelmed the Rebel defenders at Island No.10 and continued south in spite of significant losses at Plum Point Bend on 10 May 1862. Realizing this Federal Naval force would soon reach Memphis, one unfinished Rebel ironclad was ordered burned; and the other, in a near-complete state, was towed to safety downriver, where with assistance of floating workshop CSS Capitol, it was rushed to completion at the upper reach of the Yazoo River.
    On 15 July 1862 this Rebel ironclad, CSS Arkansas, commanded by Lieutenant Isaac Newton Brown, departed Yazoo City, steaming down the Yazoo River on her fateful run… and single-handed, put an end to Farragut’s SECOND effort to take possession of Confederate Vicksburg.

  21. Mike Maxwell says:

    On this day, 160 years ago, Flag-Officer Farragut pulled the pin on any further efforts to subjugate Confederate Vicksburg, and commenced his return to New Orleans. Rear Admiral Farragut would return in 1863 and assist Major General U.S. Grant with the ultimately successful campaign that ended with Confederate surrender on 4 July 1863.

    • Mike Maxwell says:

      How would Farragut help Grant in 1863? By focusing on Port Hudson, allowing the more compatible personalities of U.S. Grant and David Dixon Porter to act as a team in “solving the problem” of Vicksburg.

    • Mike Maxwell says:

      In March 1863 RADM Farragut was back in the Mississippi River, north of New Orleans in vicinity of Port Hudson. He sent a series of communications to MGen U.S. Grant dated 20, 21 & 22 March, implying an offer to assist MGen Grant with his operation against Vicksburg. But on 22 March 1863 acting-Rear Admiral D.D. Porter (then operating in support of U.S. Grant, and in vicinity of the Yazoo River) sent a reply to RADM Farragut, which included: “I would not attempt to run the batteries at Vicksburg if I were you; it won’t pay, and you can be of no service up here at this moment.”
      And with that, any possibility of Farragut and Grant operating jointly came to an end. [See OR (Navy) Ser.1 Vol.20 pp.7- 11].

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