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						161
                          Port Hudson.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
of mention.  Nearly a fortnight s rather barren so-
journ at Louisiana s capital has rendered me not un-
willing to diversify both the scene of my labors and
the subject.
  I thought, however, that I was  in for a good 
thing,  reportorially, on the evening of the 22d,
when I was privately informed that Gen. Banks
meditated a voyage up the river as far as Port Hud-
son, on board the Richmond.  That would have
been something.  A sight of the Rebel stronghold
which bars our progress northward, the name of
which is every day assuming importance only second
to, if not equal to, that of Vicksburg: the prospect
of guerrillas, submarine torpedoes, and artillery
practice from the summit of the high bluffs on which
the enemy bids us defiance these were experiences
not to be missed on any account.  Consequently; I
traversed, hastily and nocturnally, the deserted
streets of Baton Rouge, descended the muddy de-
clivity of the levee, and got rowed to the New-
Brunswick, there to be informed by Gen. Banks,
with his usual courtesy, that the proposed expe-
dition would not come off.  It had been spoken of,
and he invited, he added, but for the present the
project was indefinitely postposed, if not abandoned.
So I returned to my quarters, my disappointment
slightly relieved by the knowledge that I shouldn t
have to rise before daylight in order to go on board
the Richmond.
  In the absence of personal observation of the lo-
cality in question, the results of a good deal of in-
quiry of those who should be familiar with it, may
prove of interest.  I tender them accordingly.
  A glance at the map of Louisiana will show you
Port Hudson, on the left bank of the Mississippi, 20
miles above Baton Rouge and 155 from New-Or-
leans.  Ninety miles further is Fort Adams, 10 be-
yond that, Ellia s Cliffs; 30, Natchez.  Vicksburg
lies 125 miles above the latter city, being just 400
from that from which I address you.  All of these
localities, including 245 miles of the river, are in un-
disturbed, possession of the Rebels.
  Port Hudson stands on an almost perpendicular
cliff; full 200 feet in hight, the river below making
one of those sudden serpentine curves which render
the Mississippi the most tortuous stream in the
world, and abruptly narrowing its dimensions to
three-quarters of a mile from twice that width,
above and below.  Thus contorted and contracted,
the current rushes southward at its swiftest,
irresistibly impelling anything afloat toward the
bluff, directly in range of the Rebel batteries.  Upon
this fact the enemy relies for the destruction or dis-
comfiture of our gunboats, should they attack from
below; while in the event of a simultaneous bom-
baedment from either side, our vessels would run 
considerable risk of shelling each other.
  Inland, too, the position is eminently favorable to
the Rebels, because difficult of success to our troops.
Unlike Vicksburg, the approaches to which are as good
as could be desired for an invading army, consisting
for the most part of hard, well-made roads, the 
country at the back of Port Hudson is generally
swampy, intersected with cotton-woods, ravines,
and other topographical obstacles.  The only roads
are of the poorest description; the railroad being a
one-horse, or one-mule line, ordinarily used for the
conveying of cotton from the interior, for transporta-
tion down the river.  The plantations in this vicin-

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
ity are almost exclusively devoted to this staple,
the comparative coldness of climate not admitting of
the profitable cultivation of sugar.
  Port Hudson is unquestionably heavily fortiied,
many siege guns of formidable caliber having been
conveyed from Vicksburg for that purpose.  The 
number of its defenders is now confidently estimated
at 20,000 men, principally newly-arrived troops from
Western Texas, a locality at present entirely cleared
of them.  They are however, but indifferently
armed with old muskets, fowling pieces, duck-guns,
bowie-knives, etc.  Their offices have but very
recently brigaded, and are working very hrd in
drilling and preparing.
  It is known that both Van Dorn and Lovell are
in command at Port Hudson.  They are reported
neither to be in friendly relations with each other, 
or to b popular among their men. Still, the major-
ity of these rouge, hardy, ignorant fellows, famil-
iar with the wild life on the Texas frontier, and
fully persuaded that in every battle between United 
States troops ad Rebels the latter have achieved
a glorious victory will fight, and that desperately.
  Previous to the battle of Murfreesboro the enemy
sent nearly all of his best regiments from Vicksburg
thither, retaining only one or two, with some 2,000
conscripts.  Since that disaster to the Rebel arms,
these regiments have returned either to Vicksburg
or Port Hudson.  The defeat has probably induced
a change of plan, or rather the resumption of one 
well known to be a favorite with Jeff. Davis the
contraction of his military lines, and the making a
stand-point on the Mississippi.  That is vital to him,
and everything indicates Port Hudson as the specific
locality.  Geographically it possesses the greatest ad-
vantages for defense, and, unlike Vicksburg, its cap-
ture involves the closing of the Red River and the
cutting off of all supplies of men and munitions from
Texas.  Vicksburg taken, the Rebels fall back upon
Port Hudson, there to play their last bloody stake
against the isolation of the  Southern Confederacy. 
Its siege may yet become as familiar in the mouths 
of men as that of Richmond I hope with less dreary
associations.
  Port Hudson disposed of (I wish it were, in an-
other sense!) I am at liberty to speak of New-Or-
leans.  In company with Gen. Banks I came hith-
er on the New-Brunswick, which reached this city
at 11 p. m. on the night of the 22d, nothing of any
interest marking the voyage.  Such of the General s
staff as accompanied him to Baton Rouge of course
returned also, as did Gen. Weitzel.  I am informed
by the way, that he intends to follow up his success
in destroying the Rebel steamer Cotton, at Ber-
wick s Bay, by other actively hostile proceedings in
the La Fourche country.  May I be there to see and
to report them!
  The worst bit of news awaiting me at New-Or-
leans comes, I know not by what source, from the
Texas coast, forming an appropriate sequel to that
chapter of disasters involved in our  cleaning out 
of Galveston.  You know that the Brooklyn and
Scioto were dispatched thither, just to see how
things looked and to await contingencies.  Well,
we hear nothing of the latter, but it is said that on
the morning of the 19th the Brooklyn was seen in
chase of the Harriet Lane, evidently manned and
equipped by the Rebels for a privateering cruise 
akin to those of the notorious Alabama probably
with the intention of joining her, as she is yet cruis-
ing in the Gulf, since the destruction of the unfortu-
Page
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty-One: page one hundred and seventy-seven
Description:Newspaper clipping written by Gunn for ''The New York Tribune,'' regarding the state of affairs at Port Hudson.
Date:1863-01-24
Subject:Alabama (Ship); Banks, Nathaniel Prentiss; Brooklyn (Ship); Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Harriet Lane (Ship); Journalism; Military; New York tribune.; Scioto (Ship); Van Dorn, Earl; Weitzel, G.
Coverage (City/State):Port Hudson, Louisiana; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Galveston, Texas
Scan Date:2010-11-18

 

Volume
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty-One
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of his experiences as a war correspondent for ""The New York Tribune"" at New Orleans, Louisiana, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; boarding house living; a visit to the Rawlings family; a fight with Mr. Blankman at his boarding house; his journey on the North Star with the Banks expedition; the re-occupation of Baton Rouge by Union forces; a visit to a sugar plantation in Louisiana; and Fanny Fern's daughter Grace Thomson's death.
Subject:African Americans; Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Military; Publishers and publishing; Transportation; Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York; New Orleans, Louisiana; Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.