An important mission

During the first few months of the war, Farragut served on naval committees and boards far from any military action. In late 1861, however, the leadership of the U.S. Navy interviewed him for an important mission. They wanted someone to lead a daring assault on the strategically vital Confederate port of New Orleans. According to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles (1802-1878), Farragut assured him that he would restore New Orleans to Federal control, or never return. "I might not come back . . . but the city will be ours." When Welles heard Farragut's determination, he decided that he was the right man for the job.

Located in southern Louisiana near where the Mississippi River flows into the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans was used by many Confederate ships looking to obtain supplies from Europe. Farragut's superiors recognized that if he could capture the city, their larger plan to clamp a naval blockade (a line of ships designed to prevent other vessels from entering or exiting an area) over the entire Southern coastline would have a much greater chance of success.

Farragut knew that New Orleans had strong defenses, including a small fleet of ships and two big military outposts (Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip) that guarded New Orleans against attacks from the south. But the veteran naval commander received plenty of support for the upcoming attack. When he set sail for the Gulf of Mexico in the spring of 1862, he led a fleet of 46 warships armed with a total of 286 cannons.

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