The Battle of Forts Jackson and St. Philip Through Maps

By neub9
2 Min Read

The Mississippi River played a crucial role in the commerce and travel of 19th century America. This week marks 162 years since a significant Union victory in the Battle of Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip, leading to the capture of New Orleans and the lower Mississippi River. Detailed maps drawn at different scales offer us a deeper insight into this historic battle and its aftermath.

Flowing through New Orleans and then into the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River passes Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip in Plaquemine Parish. These forts, strategically positioned to defend New Orleans and control the river, are depicted in John Bachmann’s 1861, Birds eye view of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and part of Florida.

Pictorial map view of the Mississippi River Delta and locations of New Orleans, Fort Jackson, Fort St. Philip, and the Head of Passes.
Detail of Birds eye view of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and part of Florida. Bachmann, John, 1861. Geography and Map Division.

Prior to Fort St. Philip, the site was occupied by Fort San Felipe, built by the Spanish in the 1790s. Under American control post the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, the fort was strengthened and withstood British attacks during the War of 1812. Fort Jackson was built in the 1820s on the opposite riverbank, enhancing the defense of the area. Positioned along a sharp bend in the river, these forts were strategically advantageous, forcing enemy ships to slow down along the riverbank, making them vulnerable to attack.

As the Civil War unfolded and Louisiana came under Confederate control, the Union aimed to control the lower Mississippi River through the Gulf of Mexico. Led by U.S. Navy flag officer David G. Farragut, reconnaissance operations commenced in April 1862 to assess Forts Jackson and St. Philips. The map below, part of our collection, illustrates these crucial reconnaissance efforts.

Diagram of river path with reconnaissance notes on riverbank to south of Forts Jackson and St. Philip.
Reconnoissance of the Mississippi River below Forts Jackson and St. Philip : made previous to the reduction by the U.S. Fleet, under the command of flag officer D.G. Farragut, U.S.N . United States Coast Survey, 1863. Geography and Map Division.
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