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Ch. XXVIII.] RUNNING THE VICKSBURG BATTERIES.
put into execution the plan which, on consultation, had been adopted as the only feasible one, all things considered.
The great strength of the defences of Vicksburg on the north, and the inutility of attempting an attack again in that direction, led Grant to the conviction that his approaches must be made from the southerly side. For this pur-, pose, he must get his army below the city of Vicksburg, a task by no means easy of accomplishment, since the vast rebel batteries would almost certainly destroy all the transports which might undertake to sail past them. In this position of affairs, work was recommenced upon the canal across the peninsula on the western side of the river; but, as before, the project proved a failure, and early in March, a rapid rise in the river swept away the dam and flooded the entire vicinity. Meanwhile, it was an object of the first importance to cut off the rebel communication on 'the river between Vicksburg and Port 1863 Hudson, which Banks, with the fleet of Farragut was besieging, and to put a stop to the receipt of supplies which the rebels were drawing from Texas. Porter, therefore, resolved to run the risk of sending some of the gun boats down the river, which, if they succeeded in getting past the batteries, would be of especial value below. The first of the vessels which set out upon this daring undertaking was the wooden steam ram, Queen of the West (see p. 299). Col. Ellet, commander of the ram fleet, was on board the Queen, and gave a graphic account of his movement, in his report to Admu*al Porter. Very early on the 2d of
February, the Queen started on her perilous journey, and was struck only a few times, although hundreds of guns sent forth their iron rain for her destruction. Her cotton barricade got on fire, but the fire was finally put out by cutting the bales loose. Proceeding down the river, the Queen captured three rebel steamers and a number of prisoners, and on the 10th of February, set out on an expedition for much the same purpose, passing the Warrenton batteries, and reaching the Red River the following evening. During several days' active work, Ellet was quite successful in capturing rebel boats, etc., but through the treachery of a pilot, he was compelled to abandon the Queen, and to reach the Mississippi as best he could in his tender, the De Soto. Meeting, near Natchez, the Indianola, a splendid iron-clad, which had run the batteries on the night of the 13th of February, Ellet conferred with the commander of that vessel as to the expediency of attempting again to ascend the Red River, and destroy the rebel works at Gordon's Landing. Lieut. Brown thought the plan feasible, and the Era, one of the vessels captured by Ellet, led the way. Having advanced about three miles, they discovered the W. H. Webb, a very swift rebel steamer, coming towards them, who, as soon as she got sight of the Indianola, turned and fled. Lieut. Brown, on further reflection, concluded not to try to ascend the Red River, and Col. Ellet in the Era made his way up the Mississippi to a station below Vicksburg, after passing the fires at Grand Gulf. War renton, etc., without injury.
A short time after, Brown left the vicinity of the Red River, and took the Indianola to the mouth of the Big Black, which enters the Mississippi at Grand Gulf, forty miles below Vicksburg. On the evening of the 24th of February, as she was preparing to move up the Big Black, two rebel steamers were seen approaching. One was the Webb, and the other the Queen of the West, which had been repaired after the affair on the Red River, and was now brought into action. Attended by several other vessels, the Webb and the Queen attacked the Indianola with great force and energy, who, on her part, responded with the utmost intrepidity. In the course of an hour and a half, the Indianola was struck seven fearful blows, and beginning to sink, she was run ashore and surrendered.*
Meanwhile, the canal project opposite Vicksburg having failed (seep. 305), other undertakings of a similar kind were entered upon, which seemed to promise better success. One was the cutting a channel from the Mississippi to Providence Lake, on the west side, and another, the cutting a channel to Moon Lake, on the east side of the river, and thence entering the Yazoo Pass. Lake Providence is situate in
* Admiral Porter, in an interesting letter, tells of his sending a " sham monitor" to run the batteries during the night, and of its excellent success; for not only did it frighten the Queen of the West down the river, but it led to the rebel authorities ordering the blowing up of tho Indianola. This was accomplished, happily, before they discovered how neatly they had been taken in, and while countermanding orders were under way to prevent it. We may also mention here, that a week later, another old coal barge was sent in the darkness down the river, and that tho rebel batteries expended a large amount of ammunition and skill in the steady fire which they kept up upon it.
the north-east corner of Louisiana, about j seventy-five miles above Vicksburg, and a mile or more west of the Mississippi . The Tensas River flows from it in a southerly direction, and, joining the Washita, the two form the Black River, which empties into the Red River. Grant's idea was, by cutting a canal into the lake to secure an inland passage, and avoid the batteries at both Vicksburg and Port Hudson. The j canal was finished, and the water let in on the 16th of March, and a considerable region of territory was flooded; but on trying the pass, and Ending serious difficulties in the wav, especially as regarded the channel of the Tensas River, the whole matter was given up as impracticable.
The Moon Lake and Yazoo Pass pro ject offered better prospects of success. The passage across the lake (which is eight miles below Helena, Arkansas) to the mouth of the pass is about eight miles, and thence 'through the pass twelve miles, the Coldwater River is reached. This, after a crooked passage of about forty miles, joins the Tallahatchie, which, in turn, pursues its tor- \ tuous way some fifty miles, when it unites with the Yallobusha, the two forming the Yazoo River, with a course of over 200 miles through a very fertile country, to its outlet into the Mississippi, a short distance above Vicksburg. The advantage of securing the navigation of this long and circuitous stream was to take Yazoo City, a hundred miles above the river, in the rear of the works at Haines' Bluff, and to gain a position whence Vicksburg could be approached from the interior. It
Ch. XXVITL] Southerly Approaches To Vicksburg
was necessary to cut the levee at the "mouth of the Yazoo Pass, which was 1863 ^one, and an expedition sent by this route on the 25th of February. The stream is about 100 feet wide and arched over by cypress and other trees, lining its banks, which retarded the passage to the Coldwater River. Gen. Ross was in command, with a division of McClernand's corps and two regiments of sharpshooters on the gun boats. Coldwater was reached on the 2nd of March, after much difficulty and trial. The expedition passed on to Greenwood, where was Fort Pemberton, extending from the Tallahatchie to the Yazoo, the two rivers being here a few hundred yards apart. The land around the fort was overflowed, and the gun boats, after several hours' trial, found that they could not silence the rebel batteries. The project consequently was abandoned, and the expedition returned to Helena.
Shortly before this, Porter started an expedition which came very near being an entire success. It consisted of five iron-clads and a detachment of Sherman's troops, and was conducted by Porter through Steele's and Black's Bayou, so as to reach Haines' Bluff by Deer Creek aud Sunflower River. After eight days of toil and trouble, the rebels continually opposing fresh obstructions, Porter gave up the attempt as useless.
Farragut sent a messenger overland on the west side of the Mississippi, asking aid from the fleet above. Two rams, the Lancaster and Switzerland, attempted to run the batteries at Vicksburg, on the 25th of March. The Lan
caster was destroyed by the firing of the rebel guns; the Switzerland, though badly injured, got past without being sunk. She was repaired, and did good service during the next fortnight in aiding the attack on the batteries at Grand Gulf, blockading the Red River, and destroying the enemy's transports and a large quantity of corn stored at Bayou Sara for rebel use.
All attempts against Vicksburg from the northerly side were henceforth abandoned as inexpedient, and Grant resolved, with Porter's aid, to get his troops below the city, and make his attack from the lower or rear side, which, it was well understood, was the most easily assailable, and promised the best results. Accordingly, on the 29th of March, Gen. McClernand, with the 13th army corps, moved from Milliken's Bend toward New Carthage, about thirty-five miles below on the Mississippi. Other corps were to follow as rapidly as supplies and ammunition could be transported to them. The progress was very slow and tedious, in consequence of the bad state of the roads, the breaking of the levee at Bayou Vidal, etc., and some weeks were spent in this necessary but fatiguing work.
While this movement of the army was going on, preparations were made for running transports and gun boats past the Vicksburg batteries, these being requisite in order to give the soldiers means of crossing for operations on the Mississippi side of the river. Eight gun boats, the Benton, Porter's flag-ship, the Lafayette, the Price, the Louisville, the Carondelet, the Pittsburg, the Tuscumbia, and the Mound City, were selected for the service. AH of these, except the Price, were iron-clads, and all had such additional protection as could be afforded by bales of cotton and of hay, heavy timbers, railroad iron, and other means which experience had taught to be efficient. The transports were the Forest Queen, the Henry Clay, both side-wheel steamers, and the propeller Silver "Wave. They were laden with supplies, and protected, as far as possible, by hay and cotton placed round their machinery.
On the night of the 16th of April, everything was in readiness, and the expedition set out on its dangerous journey. The plan was, for the ironclads to pass down in single file, a few hundred yards apart, and that when in front of the batteries they should pour in their broadsides, and under cover of the smoke, the transports should strive to pass unnoticed.* A little before eleven o'clock, the batteries opened their fire, and were at once responded to by the iron-clads discharging their broadsides of grape and shrapnel directly against the city. The transports endeavored to pass, as ordered, under cover of the smoke; the Forest Queen was disabled by a shot, the Henry Clay was set on fire and burned, but the Silver Wave escaped
* A correspondent of the New York Timet gives a graphic account of the assembling of a party of ladies and gentlemen, inclnding Gen. and Mrs. Grant, at a point a few miles above Vicksburg, for the purpose of witnessing the daring movement which was to take place that evening. The liveliness, however, of the party, as he reprovingly says, "indicated anything but an appreciation of tho fact that the drama about to open was a tragedy instead of a farce."
without any injury. On reaching Warrentou, the gun boats poured in their broadsides the injtant they reached position, and so continuous and terrible was their fire that the rebels scarcely ever attempted a response. The Forest Queen was taken in tow by a gun boat, and the fleet, with the exception of the loss of the Henry Clay, i and one man killed and two others 1 wounded on the Benton, passed the dreaded ordeal in safety.
On the 2 2d of April, by Grant's order, six additional transport steamers, with officers and crew chosen from the regiments in the vicinity, conducting as many coal barges, were sent in like manner past Vicksburg. They suffered more or less injury; but all, with one exception, got below the batteries. Two tugs, with four hay barges, also, a few nights after, followed in safety. At the end of April, I the army was fairly on its way from Milliken's Bend overland and past Kichmond, by a military road constructed over swamps and bayous for about !1 seventy miles to Hard Times, Louisiana, a point opposite Grand Gulf.
On the 29th of April, the 13th army | corps reached the Mississippi, and the 17th was not far behind. Grant embarked a portion of the troops, and | moved to the front of Grand Gulf. The j' plan was, that the iron-clads should i ] silence the guns of the enemy, and that 'j the troops should land under cover of 1 the gun" boats and carry the place by 1I storm. The attack was begun about | eight o'clock in the morning and continued for five and a half hours, during which time, as Porter stated, in his
dispatch, "we silenced the lower batteries, but failed to silence the upper one, which was high, strongly built, had guns of very heavy calibre, and the vessels were unmanageable in the heavy current. It fired but feebly toward the last, and the vessels all laid by and enfiladed it, while I went up a short distance to communicate with Gen. Grant, who concluded to land the troops and march over to a point two miles below Grand Gulf. I sent the Lafayette back to engage the upper batteries, which she did, and drove the persons out of it, as it did not respond after a few fires. At six P.m. we attacked the batteries again, and, under the cover of the fire, all the transports passed by in good condition. The Benton, Tuscumbia, and Pittsburg were much cut up, having 24 killed and 56 wounded, but they are all ready for service. We land the army in the morning on the other side, and march on Vicksburg."
Acting on information derived from an intelligent negro, that there was a good road from Bruinsburg, two miles below Grand Gulf, to Port Gibson, where the rebels were in force, Grant determined on landing the troops at Bruinsburg as speedily as possible. At daylight, on the morning of April 30th, the gun boats and transports began the work of ferrying them across the river. Port Gibson is situate on the Bayou Pierre, twenty-eight miles from its mouth, and between sixty and seventy miles south-west of Jackson, capital of the state. A railroad connected it with Grand Gulf. Grant's dispatch, a few days later, stated the result in few words: "We
landed at Bruinsburg, April 30th, moved immediately on Port Gibson, met the enemy, 11,000 strong, four miles south of Port Gibson, at two A.m. on May 1st, and engaged him all day, entirelv routing him with the loss of many killed, and about 500 prisoners, besides the wounded. Our loss is about 100 killed and 500 wounded. The enemy retreated towards Yicksburg, destroying the bridges over the two forks of the Bayou Pierre. These were rebuilt, and the pursuit has continued until the present time."
An important movement was successfully carried out at this time, for the purpose of facilitating Grant's operations and destroying the enemy's lines of communication; we refer to the bold cavalry raid under Col. B. H. Grierson. This brave officer had proposed some time before, this descent into Mississippi, which did not, however, receive the approbation of Grant until early in April, when he ordered Grierson to enter upon the work. He was stationed at Lagrange, Tennessee, about fifty miles east of Memphis, and after a series of skilful movements, tending to deceive the rebels as to his real purpose, he was prepared by the middle of April to march into Mississippi, and traverse, as he did, its entire length, passing between the great lines of communication, the Mobile and Ohio and Mississippi Railroads, passing in the rear of the works at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, and coming out triumphantly, on the 1st of May, within the Union lines at Baton Rouge. For details, we must refer to Col. Griersonis