This left Vicksburg as the single barrier to the complete opening of the Mississippi, and that barrier was defended by only six batteries and a garrison of six Confederate regiments at the date of Farragut’s arrival before it. But Farragut had with his expedition only two regiments of troops, and the rebel batteries were situated at such an elevation that the guns of the Union fleet could not be raised sufficiently to silence them. Neither help nor promise of help came from Halleck’s army, and Farragut could therefore do nothing but turn his vessels down stream and return to New Orleans. There, about June 1, he received news from the Navy Department that the administration was exceedingly anxious to have the Mississippi opened; and this time, taking with him Porter’s mortar flotilla and three thousand troops, he again proceeded up the river, and a second time reached Vicksburg on June 25.
The delay, however, had enabled the Confederates greatly to strengthen the fortifications and the garrison of the city. Neither a bombardment from Porter’s mortar sloops, nor the running of Farragut’s ships past the batteries, where they were joined by the Union gunboat flotilla from above, sufficed to bring the Confederates to a surrender. Farragut estimated that a cooeperating land force of twelve to fifteen thousand would have enabled him to take the works; and Halleck, on June 28 and July 3, partially promised early assistance. But on July 14 he reported definitely that it would be impossible for him to render the expected aid. Under these circumstances, the Navy Department ordered Farragut back to New Orleans, lest his ships of deep draft should be detained in the river by the rapidly falling water. The capture of Vicksburg was postponed for a whole year, and the early transfer of Halleck to Washington changed the current of Western campaigns.
McClellan’s Illness—Lincoln Consults McDowell and Franklin—President’s Plan against Manassas—McClellan’s Plan against Richmond—Cameron and Stanton—President’s War Order No. 1—Lincoln’s Questions to McClellan—News from the West—Death of Willie Lincoln—The Harper’s Ferry Fiasco—President’s War Order No. 3—The News from Hampton Roads—Manassas Evacuated—Movement to the Peninsular—Yorktown—The Peninsula Campaign—Seven Days’ Battles—Retreat to Harrison’s Landing
We have seen how the express orders of President Lincoln in the early days of January, 1862, stirred the Western commanders to the beginning of active movements that brought about an important series of victories during the first half of the year. The results of his determination to break a similar military stagnation in the East need now to be related.
The gloomy outlook at the beginning of the year has already been mentioned. Finding on January 10 that General McClellan was still ill and unable to see him, he called Generals McDowell and Franklin into conference with himself, Seward, Chase, and the Assistant Secretary of War; and, explaining to them his dissatisfaction and distress at existing conditions, said to them that “if something were not soon done, the bottom would be out of the whole affair; and if General McClellan did not want to use the army, he would like to borrow it, provided he could see how it could be made to do something.”