Rumor of action at New Orleans had made the pages of the Democratic Banner in April 1862. Finally, on May 6, Banner readers were told New Orleans had been captured.
Commodore David Farragut had run past Forts Jackson and St. Phillip and accepted the surrender of the city. Confederate Gen. Mansfield Lovell had evacuated his inadequate force and the city government felt it had no choice but to surrender to Farragut’s ships.
The city was soon occupied by Union forces commanded by Gen. Ben Butler.
“We have intelligence from various sources, placing its truth beyond all dispute,” the Banner reported, “That New Orleans is now in possession of the Federal army. Before reaching the city, the gun boats had a protracted and desperate fight at Fort Jackson, but we are without particulars as to the result. Whether the fort was surrendered, or the gun boats ‘ran the blockade,’ we have no means of knowing. It is said that the fleet consisted of 35 war vessels and 21 mortar boats, carrying several thousand troops under the command of General Butler. All the facts relative to the capture, received up to the hour of closing our paper, are given elsewhere.”
Farragut’s capture of New Orleans was a dramatic moment: A ship’s captain taking a small contingent of officers to City Hall, then heading back again through hostile crowds.
The amount of the Mississippi River controlled by the Confederacy was steadily shrinking. And almost unbelievably, President Jefferson Davis seemed to not understand the importance of the river. He had given Lovell an inadequate force to defend the Crescent City and strategic blindness would hamstring Confederate armies in the West for the rest of the war.
As for the news from the East, the Banner reported: “From Gen. McClellan’s great army in front of Yorktown, we have but little news — But all accounts agree in saying that grand preparations are being made for a terrible siege of the Rebel works. When the struggle comes it will unquestionably be bloody and desperate. We entertain no doubt whatever of McClellan’s success, although the Abolitionists and Secessionists wish to see him defeated. Both classes of fanatics and Union-haters will be sorely disappointed.”
In the West, where Gen. Henry Halleck continued his creeping advance on Corinth, Miss., the Banner printed: “It is reported that Beauregard has evacuated Corinth, and fallen back on Memphis. — We can scarcely credit this report, but it may be true nevertheless. We think the rebel general has only ‘jumped from the frying pan into the fire,’ and we suppose he will next jump into the Mississippi river and drown himself!”
Beauregard did evacuate Corinth in the face of Halleck’s creeping advance, but he had the Union general convinced reinforcements were coming into Corinth, while he was getting out.
He also “jumped out of the frying pan,” but not into the fire. He left the army, saying he needed a break for health reasons. Davis, irritated because Beauregard left with getting his leave cleared first, replaced him with Braxton Bragg.
Of Halleck’s army, the Banner reported: “ Gen. Halleck’s grand army, which combines the divisions of Generals Grant, Buell and Pope, is now in front of Corinth, pressing closely upon the rebel. It is reported that the strength of the army is one-hundred and sixty-two thousand, by actual count of the muster rolls.”
Grant, after Halleck took command of the combined forces after Shiloh, was named second-in-command, but was given nothing to do. Depressed, he considered resigning from the army, but was convinced not to by Gen. William T. Sherman.