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Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip. Louisiana in the Civil War. During the Civil War, the Union army planned to seize control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy.

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fort jackson and fort st phillip
Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip

Louisiana in the Civil War

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During the Civil War, the Union army planned to seize control of the Mississippi River from the Confederacy.

One critical step was for the Union to enter the mouth of the Mississippi River and capture New Orleans. New Orleans was largest city in the south at that time. The Port of New Orleans was a big part of the economy. Union leaders knew that by capturing the city and the port, the Union could succeed at closing off the entrance to Rebel ships and cripple the area.

The plan began by battling Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip about 70 miles south of New Orleans.

Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip

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The battle of Forts Jackson and Fort St. Philip ran from April 16 to April 28, 1862, during the American Civil War. Confederate-controlled forts were besieged for 12 days by the fleet of U.S. ships led by Navy Flag Officer David Farragut.

Fort St. Phillip

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In mid-January 1862, Union Navy Officer David G. Farragut undertook this enterprise with his West Gulf Blockading Squadron. The way was soon open except for the two forts, Jackson and St. Philip, approximately seventy miles below New Orleans.

Fort Jackson Entrance

Union Navy Officer David G. Farragut

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Confederate leaders believed that Union would try to attack a more northern city first. Faced with a dilemma, the Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Richmond decided to put almost all of its efforts in defending the cities to the north, trusting that the two forts fronting on the river south of the city, would be able to handle any attack from that direction.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Fort St. Phillip

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Farragut based his operations from Ship Island, Mississippi, and on April 8, he assembled his ships near the Head of the Passes.

Confederates had placed obstructions in the river and there were a number of ships, to assist in the defense.

By April 14th 1862, Farragut's navy vessels had entered the Mississippi River and assembled near Head of the Passes. Farragut led 47 ships to take New Orleans. They moved up the river and took positions just out of range below the forts.

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Farragut ordered David Porter, the commander of the Union boats, to open fire on Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip on April 18, 1862. It was said that the constant fires could be heard fifty miles away.

Fort Jackson

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Late on April 23rd(and early morning hours of the 24th), Farragut sent his ships north to pass the forts and head for New Orleans. The Rebels attempted to stop the Union ships in various ways, but were unsuccessful. With the passage of the forts, nothing could stop the Union forces. Now, the fall of New Orleans was inevitable Cut off and surrounded, the garrisons of the two forts surrendered on the 28th.

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Fort Jackson fell on April 28th. With defeat of both battles, the Union Army was able to move on and capture New Orleans.

On May 1, 1862, Union General Benjamin Butler took command of New Orleans.

Capture New of Orleans

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Fort Jackson now….

Following the engagement, Fort Jackson was used as a Union prison. Fort Jackson was later used to train men for World War I. Fort Jackson was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The fort has been owned by Plaquemines Parish since 1962. The fort site was later opened as a park. The fort was badly damaged by Hurricane Katrina storm surge in 2005. Between Katrina and Hurricane Rita the following month, much of the fort sat under water for up to six weeks. Photos from Wikipedia.

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What river did the Union Army want to gain control over?

  • Can you explain why the Confederacy would want to capture the Port of New Orleans and the city?
  • Was this a wise decision for the Union Army? Explain why or why not.
  • What were the names of the two forts which the Union took over right before New Orleans?
  • Do you think Confederate President Jefferson Davis made a decision that was wrong by not protecting New Orleans in a better way? Explain why or why not.
  • What date did the shooting begin at Fort Jackson?
  • What date did the battles of Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip end?
  • What was the name of the commander who took over New Orleans on May 1, 1862?
  • What was the name of the Navy Leader which led the attacks at Fort Jackson and Fort St. Phillip?
  • How many ships did he bring to fight that battle?