Ship Island to New Orleans. 1st Sergt. A. J. Nichols, Co. I
April 13th. Sunday. Sunrise. Clear and Pleasant. 7 1/2 a.m. Co. Inspection. 8 1/2 Regimental Inspection. 11 a.m. Divine Service. 6 p.m. Dress Parade. Receive marching orders. Cook three days rations tonight.
April 14th. Sunrise, Cool and Pleasant. 7 a.m. Battalion formed line. Have ball cartridges dealt out to us. Draw three days rations of hard bread. 3 p.m. A member of Co. D buried, who died in hospital.
April 15th. Sunrise. Pleasant. 7 a.m. Battalion formed line, then had Co. Drill. 3 p.m. Battalion formed and marched down to the Dock. After no little delay we embarked on the steam tug Lewis with the 26th Mass. Regt. to be carried out to the steamer Mississippi. Got alongside. Her smoke pipes caught on one of the Yard Arms of the Mississippi, and broke them both off close to her deck. Nobody was hurt but it was a narrow escape, some were badly frightened. A little after dark all were safe on board.
April 16th. Sunrise. Cool and pleasant. The deck is covered with men asleep. There are over two thousand on board. 4 p.m. The fleet make ready to sail. Sailed about 11 p.m. with the North American in tow, which is also loaded with troops.
April 17th. 1 a.m. Anchored at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Sunrise. Warm but Pleasant. Weighed anchor in the night; our course a little north of west. Have four guns of Capt. Everett’s and the guns of the 4th Mass. Battery on board. 8 p.m. Anchored for the night in the South West Pass.
April 18th. Sunrise. Cool and Pleasant. Still at anchor. The Colorado and a British Frigate of War — 74 guns — lie near us. 8 a.m. Took on a pilot, weighed anchor; crossed the Bar, and stood on up the River, passing several of our vessels loaded with Troops. 11 a.m. Came to anchor at Head of Pass. Gen. Butler and Staff (who were on board with us) went ashore to a house on starboard side.
April 19th. Sunrise. Warm. Still at anchor. 2 p.m. Gun Boat Jackson, with signals flying, came alongside. Gen. Williams came on board, then Generals Butler and Williams went on board the Jackson, which started up the River. 10 1/2 p.m. Spoke the gunboat Saxon coming down from the fleet. General Butler came on board again.
April 20th. Sunday. Sunrise. Cloudy. 8 a.m. began to rain. Our mortar boats are bombarding Forts Jackson and St. Phillip [sic]. We could see the shells in the air and hear the roar of the guns all night.
April 21st. Sunrise. Cool and pleasant. Hoisted a large rifled gun which was on board the Mississippi, on board the Gun Boat No. 8, this morning. She then left for the Fleet. Heard the steady roar of our Guns which are still bombarding the Forts, all last night and today. The men are getting impatient to go ashore, for we are crowded together like a lot of sheep.
April 22nd. Sunrise. Cool. 8 a.m. Very warm. Saxon and Lewis on starboard side. 11 a.m. Steamship Matanzas gone down the River. 12 M. Weighed anchor and started the River. Met a small steamer running very fast, she bringing news that the cable at the Forts is cut. Look out for Fire Rafts tonight. Came to anchor in sight of the Fleet. Heavy firing up at the Fort. 10 p.m. Weighed anchor and run to the Fleet. Stood on deck and watched the Shells as they shot up into the air and then dropped into the Forts, (or somewhere else.) A Deserter from the Rebels came on board and says Fort Jackson is silent since yesterday, that there are some three hundred men in Fort St. Phillip [sic], and they have four large guns that do good execution. 12 Midnight. The “Rebs” sent a Fire Raft down the River, but an Iron Clad Gunboat ran alongside of it and kept it close in shore and ran it into the bay not far from where we lay, so it has done no harm.
April 23rd. Sunrise. Cool and pleasant. 8 a.m. Very warm. The bombardment of the Forts still continues. Sometimes a shell bursts so we can see it from our deck. Our Gun Boats are trimming their masts and shrouds with green boughs. A disguise, by means of which, they intend to run by the Forts at night. A small boat capsized alongside of us, but no particular damage done. No firing from the Forts today. Can see two flags on Fort Jackson, and the Smokestacks of twelve steamers behind the woods. They say about one in ten of the shells burst inside the Forts. We hope to hear good news from there by morning.
April 24th. Before light. Saw a large fire near the Forts. Report says it is the great Battering Ram built by Hollins of the Rebel Navy, who said he would clear the River with it. It was destroyed by our forces. 3 1/2 a.m. The shells are flying thick and fast, we can see from eight to fifteen shells in the air all the time for an hour. Some of our Gun Boats have passed the Forts and some of the Rebel steamers are between them and our Fleet. The boats were fired on from Mud Batteries as they passed up the River. 8 a.m. The firing has nearly ceased. 10 a.m. Gen. Butler comes down on the Saxon and orders two days rations cooked for every man. 11 a.m. Gen. Butler orders us to drop down to Head of Passes. 1 p.m. Came to anchor. Cannot hear any firing now. 5 p.m. Raised anchor and ran down over the Bar. 8 p.m. Stood out to sea in the direction of Pass A Loutre, running all night.
April 25th. Sunrise. Cool and pleasant. 6 1/2 a.m. Light shower. 9 a.m. In sight of land and a Light House. 3 1/2 p.m. Came to anchor in Black Bay in rear of Port St. Phillip [sic] after running a good deal out of our way. 6 p.m. Capt. Conant, Co. G, brought three Rebel prisoners aboard. They (the prisoners) say our Flag floats over the Forts. Gen. Butler tells them he will hang them in the morning if they have not told the truth. After dark. Saw a fire on shore, did not learn what it was. It exploded three times, and then went out. Saw another fire during the night.
April 26th. Sunrise. Cool and good breeze. Still at anchor in the Bay. 11 a.m. Saxon and Lewis came alongside then Lewis put off toward the shore. 12 M. Gun Boat Miami came astern and lay to. 4 p.m. The 26th Mass. Regt. went aboard the Miami. 6 p.m. The Miami started for the shore with seventeen serf boats in tow, heartily cheered by our Regiment, their band playing “The Red White and Blue” They lay aboard the Miami all night. The Rebels kept a fire on shore all night. A boat from the Miami chased one of our boats which had gone ashore, supposing them to be Rebels. Spoke with one of the Miami’s crew who says the crew of the Gun Boat Mississippi boarded three of the Rebel Gun Boats and the Battering Ram, and found them deserted of all but the Dead and wounded.
April 27th. A lovely Sunday morning. 7 a.m. Gen. Butler went over on board the Lewis. 8 a.m. Matanzas with Great Republic in tow came into the Bay and anchored near us. 1 p.m. Saxon here too, near us. Gen. Butler went on board of her and started for the shore.
April 28th. 9 a.m. Miami came back to take the Troops off from Great Republic. 10 a.m. Saw a dense volume of smoke rise up in the direction of the Forts, and heard a report like thunder. We suppose it is a Floating Battery which the Rebels blew up. 3 p.m. Saw the North America moving up the river. Lewis came alongside. 4 p.m. The 31st ordered aboard the Lewis. Got aboard and started towards the shore. Lay aboard her all night, within range of the Fort guns.
April 29th. Sunrise. Pleasant. 7 a.m. On board the Mississippi again. 10 a.m. Weighed anchor and put out of the Bay. Matanzas with Great Republic in tow following. 5 p.m. Are steaming up the River again. Passed part of our Mortar Fleet, one Gun Boat and several Transports at Pilot Town. We are told that New Orleans and the Forts have surrendered. Band struck ” Dixie” and “Hail Columbia” “Who would not be a Soldier.” Despatch from. Gen. Butler sent aboard at Pilot Town says “Hurry up the Troops for they are trying to mob the City.”
April 30th. As the sun rises this morning it finds us at anchor between Forts Jackson and St. Phillip [sic], which are surrendered to our Forces with a loss of only sixty men killed. Could not learn the number of wounded. The morning is lovely. Cottages, Orange trees and other scenery line the shore. The land all lays below the level of the River. 9 1/2 a.m. Came to anchor at the Quarantine grounds of New Orleans. The 26th Mass. is here to Garrison the place. There is a store house of brick and two large hospital buildings here. Eight Gun Boats and two Mortar Boats are at anchor here. Gen. Butler has gone down the River to hurry up the Troops. 10 a.m. Regimental Muster. Prisoners on shore taking the Oath of Allegiance. 12 M. U.S. Mail Steamer Rhode Island passed us on her way up the River. 5 p.m. Steamer Diana (a prize taken from the Rebels) gone up the River loaded with Troops. 6 1/2 p.m. The “Old Lewis” with the Batteries on board came up and anchored near us, as did also the Saxon from Ship Island, with mail for us. Gen. Butler and wife came on board tonight.
May 1st, 1862. We shall all remember this day as long as we live. Raised anchor and started from Quarantine at 1 a.m. Passed the Magnolia Sugar Plantation at sunrise. This Plantation has a large steam Sugar Refinery. The morning is bright and beautiful. The slaves are at work on the Plantations which we pass. The trees in many places are loaded with white and scarlet blossoms, and altogether the scenery, etc., presents a sight lovely beyond description. 11 a.m. passed a Water Battery on either side of the River. The Guns are all dismounted. Landed Capt. Conant and six men for Picket duty here, then ran along up the River to the City and came to anchor opposite the City Hall. 5 p.m. The troops began to disembark, our Regiment being the first to land. With our Regiment at the head, the Column took up its line of march through the City to the New Custom House, where our forces planted their Batteries and quartered for the night.
Abram J. Nichols
1st Sergt., Co. I,
31st Mass. Regt.
Fort Pike, La., July 17th, 1863.