April 16, 1863: Porter Runs the Batteries

Admiral David Dixon Porter

On the dark evening of April 16, 1863 at 9:15 PM, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter had his fleet cast off from its anchorage above Vicksburg.  Not a light gleamed on the ships of the fleet and the engines were muffled.  Porter had to get his fleet south of Vicksburg to rendezvous with Grant’s Army of the Tennessee and transport it across the Mississippi from the Louisiana side of the river.

It was very much an open question as to whether the fleet could successfully run the batteries without ruinous losses.  Grant had spent the months since December 1862 attempting to arrange an alternative route for the fleet that did not involve it steaming in front of the guns of Vicksburg, to no avail.  Now, the great experiment was underway.

The Confederates quickly realized the fleet was coming, and  barrels filled with tar and cotton bales drenched with turpentine were set ablaze to illumine the river.  Each vessel was hit repeatedly, but, with the loss of one transport, the fleet succeeded in passing Vicksburg and could now transport Grant’s army across the river for the Vicksburg campaign to begin in earnest.

Charles A. Dana, a War Department investigator who was with the fleet, wrote Secretary of War Stanton a report of the passage of the fleet: (more…)

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 16, 1863: Porter Runs the Batteries  
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