On April 25, 1862, New Orleans fell to the Union troops barely a year into the American Civil War, making it the first city in the Confederacy to be captured.

New Orleans, the most populous city in the Confederacy, was a major manufacturing and distribution center, a key to supplying the Confederate forces with clothing, knapsacks, tenting and tinware. Workers in the city’s shipyards also constructed naval vessels for the rebellion. 

But on the evening of April 24, 1862, Union Admiral David G. Farragut led a fleet of 43 ships into the lower Mississippi River against the rebel fortifications at Forts Jackson and St. Philip. The military leaders of Louisiana had created chain blockades from timber in hopes of halting the Union’s forces. But due to the damage from recent storms, the chains were weak and 17 of Farragut’s ships were able to plow through the blockade.

Forts Jackson and St. Philip were captured and Confederate Gen.  Mansfield Lovell surrendered and withdrew his 3,000 troops. 

The city would be under Union control within the week. 

On April 26, Farragut raised the Union flag over the New Orleans branch of the United States Mint, “making New Orleans the first Confederate city captured and occupied by Union troops.” 

The Louisiana State Museum notes that on April 29, Farragut marched to city hall to take formal possession of the city and on May 1, Gen.  Benjamin F. Butler arrived with 1,400 troops to take military control of New Orleans.

Union occupation of New Orleans not only put the North in charge of a crucial supply center, it also gave Union forces control of the lower Mississippi River valley, which would eventually seal the fate of the seceding states.

It would take another three years of brutal fighting before the Confederate states would surrender, opening the way for the restoration of the Union and the end of slavery.  

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J’Brionne Helaire is a senior mass communication major at Dillard University. She is the editor-in-chief of Dillard University’s newspaper, The Courtbouillon. Helaire has interned for The Times-Picayune,...