THE DARK DAYS OF 1862
The dark days of 1862 were in April brightened by the all-important news that Admiral Farragut had succeeded in bringing the Federal fleet, or at least the leading vessels in this fleet, past the batteries of Forts St. Philip and Jackson on the Mississippi, and had compelled the surrender of New Orleans. The opening of the Mississippi River had naturally been included among the most essential things to be accomplished in the campaign for the restoration of the national authority. It was of first importance that the States of the North-west and the enormous contiguous territory which depended upon the Mississippi for its water connection with the outer world should not be cut off from the Gulf. The prophecy was in fact made more than once that in case the States of the South had succeeded in establishing their independence, there would have come into existence on the continent not two confederacies, but probably four. The communities on the Pacific Coast would naturally have been tempted to set up for themselves, and a similar course might also naturally have been followed by the great States of the North-west whose interests were so closely bound up with the waterways running southward. It was essential that no effort should be spared to bring the loyal States of the West into control of the line of the Mississippi. More than twelve months was still required after the capture of New Orleans on the first of May, 1862, before the surrender of Vicksburg to Grant and of Port Hudson to Banks removed the final barriers to the Federal control of the great river. The occupation of the river by the Federals was of importance in more ways than one. The States to the west of the river—Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas—were for the first two years of the War important sources of supplies for the food of the Confederate army. Corn on the cob or in bags was brought across the river by boats, while the herds of live cattle were made to swim the stream, and were then most frequently marched across country to the commissary depots of the several armies. After the fall of Port Hudson, the connection for such supplies was practically stopped; although I may recall that even as late as 1864, the command to which I was attached had the opportunity of stopping the swimming across the Mississippi of a herd of cattle that was in transit for the army of General Joe Johnston.
In April, 1862, just after the receipt by Lincoln of the disappointing news of the first repulse at Vicksburg, he finds time to write a little autograph note to a boy, “Master Crocker,” with thanks for a present of a white rabbit that the youngster had sent to the President with the suggestion that perhaps the President had a boy who would be pleased with it.