Naval Battle Letter – Captain Albert Phillips, U.S.S. Iroquois – With Cover – Great Description of the Battle of New Orleans, May 1st, 1862

This 3-page letter written in nice dark ink on blue legal size stationery comes with its original envelope postmarked from Key West, Florida.  Albert Phillips is listed as “Captain Forecastle” (The forecastle is the raised deck at the bow of a ship).  Phillips served on several important ships.  Our letter was written while he served on the U.S. sloop of war Iroquois.  The letter is headed, “U.S. Str. Iroquois, New Orleans, May 1st, 1862”.  The battle of New Orleans had taken place one week earlier on April 24-25, 1862.  Here is the content that Phillips tells his brother:

·         U. S. Str. Iroquois, New Orleans, May 1st 1862.  My Dear Brother, I thought as I had just been through a glorious fight, I would write and let you know the particulars. 

·         We left St. Thomas W. I. the 17th of last March bound for the Mississippi River where we arrived on the 27th of last March, stopping on our way at “Havana” and Ship Island.

·         When we arrived here we lay outside of the Bar one day and got up Anchor on the next to try and go over the bar, but could not succeed, therefore we backed off, took a pilot on board & started afresh. When we succeeded and steamed up the River to a place called Pilottown where some of our fleet were stationed. All the mortar boats in particular, (vessels each with a solid mortar on board) numbering 27 in all. 

·         We did not find the Flag Officer [Admiral David G. Farragut] there, and we hauled up to his ship the “Hartford” and reported ourselves. Nothing of importance transpired until the 18th of April last when the mortar boats drew up in line of Battle to fire at these forts (Jackson & St. Phillips). 

·         We commenced bombarding on the next day, the 19th and continued until the afternoon of the 24th without intermission, having fired 9,000 shells. These mortars are damageable when they fall clearing the ground for 2 or 300 yards and fall to the enormous might of 9 tons. 

·         On the morning of the 24th we beat to quarters at 3 o’clock a.m. to open fire on these forts. We being the 5th ship in line of battle, we attacked the forts one on each side of us (mounting altogether 230 guns) and opened fire on them. 

·         Finding they were too much for us, we ran by them after having stood their fire for 32 minutes. The Commodore’s main object being to capture New Orleans and then the forts, would give in themselves.  After having got by the forts, there were 12 Rebel Gun Boats and 2 Battery Rams (vessels coated over with iron and mounting 18 guns apiece). We succeeded in sinking one of the battery’s and 9 Gunboats but the rest ran away up river. 

·         We then started up for New Orleans, 13 miles above us and met nothing to obstruct our way until we arrived at Slaughter House Point about 8 miles below New Orleans. We then went on up to New Orleans and SUCH SIGHTS OF DESTRUCTION as met us on all sides never was before seen…

·         …the Rebels burning everything they thought we could get hold of. When we arrived at the city the Commodore sent his flag of truce ashore accompanied by his proclamation stating that if the City was not given up in 24 hours we would lay it in ashes. 

·         The Mayor of the City then came on board, and gave the City up, but the mob would not surrender. But the troops are fast concentrating there and they will soon fly an American Flag over the City of New Orleans. 

·         The Commodore then started up the River and took a Rebel Battery of 40 guns without their firing a shot. 

·         This ship then hauled down the River to cut off all supplies with the forts and last Monday the forts surrendered after having blown up their battery Ram and given us 2,000 Rebel prisoners. 

·         So the American Flag now flies over Forts Jackson and St. Phillip and the City of New Orleans. So ends another page to be recorded in American History. We have on board this ship 9 killed and 16 wounded; in the fleet about 160 killed and wounded and lost one Gunboat, the “Varona,” but the crew were saved. 

·         We received orders yesterday to coal up, take in provisions and ordinance stores to go up the River as far as Memphis, Tenn. So I expect soon to be able to tell you of another victory accomplished by this gallant little fleet. 

·         Hoping this will find you in good health.  I Remain Your Affectionate Brother Albert Philips.  To Mr. Geo. Philips.

Phillips would eventually have his assignment changed to the U.S.S. Ondia where sadly he fell during Farragut’s famous “Dam the torpedo” naval charge at the battle of Mobile Bay on August 5, 1864… his left leg was carried away by a cannon ball and he died within two hours of being wounded. 

The letter and cover are in very good condition and make for a wonderful display.  

#L5-1-62 – Price $695

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