Misfortunes seemed to crowd the old ship and it looked that only a miracle could save her. We were hard aground, the engines backing with all their power, and could not relieve her, in flames from water to masthead from the fire raft, the cabin ablaze from an exploded shell, and the ship the center of a terrible storm of shot and shell, the crew in a death struggle with the flames, heat and smoke, the latter at times so thick that we were compelled to grope our way while connecting the hose.
Firing broadsides all the while, the Hartford's crew eventually subdued the flames and finally freed the ship from the mud. A lesser man might have seen this as a reprieve and abandoned the hazardous mission, but Farragut pressed on. "The passing of the forts . . . was one of the most awful sights and events I ever saw or expect to experience," he later reported. "The smoke was so dense that it was only now and then you could see anything but the flash of the cannon and the fireships."
Despite the heavy fire from the forts and numerous attacks by Confederate ships, the Union force successfully passed the forts and continued upriver to New Orleans, where Farragut dropped anchor on the morning of 25 April 1862 and demanded the surrender of the city. Even though the Federal troops had not yet arrived, the high tide caused the powerful Union naval force to look down on the city, and the civil authorities were sufficiently intimidated to surrender. The North was jubilant at the capture of the busiest port in the South, and three months later, when Congress established the grade of rear admiral, David Farragut was the first to be promoted to the new rank.