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A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy

Early in the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln stressed the strategic importance of the Mississippi River. He knew that ultimately the Union would have to capture New Orleans to control that waterway. As the largest city in the South—and third largest in the U.S.—New Orleans was the key to the Mississippi and commercial gateway for the Confederacy. Lincoln and key cabinet and military leaders, devised a plan to attack New Orleans from the Gulf of Mexico with a formidable naval flotilla under one commander, David G. Farragut, who would have complete decision-making authority.

The Confederates also knew the importance of New Orleans. They began defense readiness in earnest. However, hampered by a dearth of manufacturing facilities, lack of supplies and anemic leadership they fell woefully behind in their preparations.To compound this, the authorities in Richmond remained steadfastly undecided about where the threat to the city lay. Aged fortifications seventy miles downriver were the main protection for the city. Thrust into the middle was new commander, General Mansfield Lovell. He put a sound plan in place, improved the defenses and bolstered the confidence of the citizenry. However, as the Union fleet drew precariously near, he was hampered by conflicting orders from Richmond and subordinates he could not command. Meanwhile, Farragut proceeded with unchallenged authority.

The spring of 1862 saw a furious naval battle begin at Forts Jackson and St. Philip. The city entered the Easter season with a sense of dread. The distant bombardment reached their ears portending an ominous outcome. The drama that unfolded once the Union fleet and army reached the city was an early harbinger of the dark days to come for the Confederacy.

History has not devoted a great deal of attention to the fall of New Orleans, a Civil War drama that was an early harbinger of the dark days to come for the Confederacy. In A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862, historian Mark F. Bielski tells of the leaders and men who fought for control of New Orleans, the largest city in the South, the key to the Mississippi, and the commercial gateway for the Confederacy.

As noted in the forward by Gerald J. Prokopowicz, a professor of history at East Carolina University and host of the Civil War Talk Radio podcast, “With this book, Mark joins the ranks of Emerging Civil War Series authors at Savas Beatie, which is producing a series that excels at bringing forward new voices in Civil War scholarship. As a New Orleanian, and a professional trained history, Dr. Mark Bielski is ideally qualified to tell the story of what happened to the Crescent City in the first full year of the Civil War.”


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Book Authority

“Bielski has written a heavily illustrated, approachable introduction to the subject for a general audience—an achievement by any standard. The narrative is offset by marginal notes featuring character sketches to humanize the action, and useful maps provide a visual anchor for the battle sequences, making A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy: The Fall of New Orleans, 1862 a worthwhile contribution to the literature.”

-S.A. Cavell, Journal of Southern History

“As both a popular first-line approach to the topic as well as a solid historical summary for readers of all backgrounds to consider, Mark Bielski’s A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy is highly recommended reading for those seeking modern answers to the many how and why questions attached to Union triumph and Confederate failure in the critical New Orleans campaign of 1862.”

Civil War Books and Authors

“As the title suggests, A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy engages debates about where the Civil War was won and lost. Unlike previous works, Bielski suggests that the mortal blow to the Confederate states did not come at Vicksburg, but rather with the loss of its greatest city. Supporting his arguments with relevant archival work, maps, and a keen understanding of the New Orleans coastal region, Bielski’s account is highly recommended.”

-Riley Sullivan, Historian, Civil War Monitor

“A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy is a long-needed addition to the story of the fall of the Confederacy and will make a fine addition to the reading list of anyone interested in the history of the Civil War, explaining why New Orleans fell seemingly due to its negligible resistance.

Bielski has hit a home run with A Mortal Blow to the Confederacy, and Savas Beatie has added another good book to their “Emerging Civil War” series.”

-David Marshall, President, Miami Civil War Round Table Book Club,