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[442] This great river, which in time of peace contributes relatively as much toward a supply of the increased wants of mankind as the Nile did to those wants in the time of the Roman Empire, is now again opened to the inland commerce of the country. Steamers descend the river and its tributaries from the navigable floods to the Gulf of Mexico. It is not to be doubted that the insurgent losses in these operations upon the Mississippi amount to fifty thousand men and three hundred pieces of artillery, a large portion of which were of heavy calibre. Johnston's army, which, at the time of the surrender, was advancing to threaten the besiegers, at once fell back to Jackson, and it was again driven from that capital by a detachment which General Grant had committed to the command of General Sherman. In retiring, Johnston fired many buildings filled with munitions of war, and abandoned a large quantity of railroad locomotives and cars, which had been detained at that place by reason of the railroads north, south, east, and west of Jackson having been previously cut by the Government forces.

General Sherman now desisted from the pursuit of Johnston and returned to Vicksburgh, where a portion of the army is enjoying repose, not. more necessary than well earned, while others are engaged in expelling from the vicinity of the Mississippi roving bands of the insurgents, who infest its banks and fire from thence upon passing steamers. It is reported that Johnston, with the troops at his command, now said to be twenty-five thousand, has fallen back to Meridian, on the eastern border of the Mississippi, a hundred and twenty miles east of Vicksburgh, so that the State, whose misguided people were among the earliest and most intemperate abettors of the insurrection, is virtually abandoned by its military agents.

In Louisiana, General Banks succeeded General Butler. After spending some months in organizing the department and disciplining the new levies which constituted its force, General Banks made a rapid and successful series of marches and contests, in which he drove the insurgent troops out of the Attakapas and Teche regions, well known as the richest portions of that very productive State, captured Alexandria and Donaldsonville, the seats of its fugitive seditious executive and legislative authorities, crossed the Mississippi at Bayou Sara, and there receiving an additional column which was ascending from Baton Rouge, invested Port Hudson, which, excluding Vicksburgh, was the only remaining stronghold of the insurrection on the great river.

It will be remembered that on the twenty-second day of September, 1862, the President issued a proclamation requiring the insurgents to lay down their arms and return to their allegiance, under the penalty that in all the districts where the insurrection should be still maintained with the support of the people, he would on the first of January then next proclaim, as a military measure, the freedom of the slaves. The warning was generally rejected and defied, but the proclamation which it heralded was duly issued. As the National armies advanced into the insurrectionary territories, slaves in considerable numbers accepted their freedom and came under the protection of the National flag. Amidst the great prejudice and many embarrassments which attended a measure so new and so divergent from the political habits of the country, freedmen with commendable alacrity enlisted in the Federal army. There was in some quarters a painful inquiry about their moral capacity for service. That uncertainty was brought to a sudden end in the siege of Port Hudson. The newly raised negro regiments exhibited all necessary valor and devotion in the military assaults which were made, with desperate courage, and not without fearful loss, by General Banks. This protracted operation engaged nearly all General Banks's available forces. While it was going on, insurgent troops which were called up from Texas reoccupied much of the south-western portion of Louisiana, which he had before reclaimed. The surrender of Port Hudson, however, set his army at liberty, and he has already made considerable progress in restoring the national authority thus temporarily displaced.

The complete occupation of the Mississippi by the national forces has effectually divided the insurrectionary region into two parts, and among the important features of this division, one which is of the highest practical significance is, that the field of military operations of the insurrection is chiefly on the eastern side of the river, while its supplies have been mainly drawn from the prairies of Arkansas and Texas, which stretch away from the western shore. These prairies can no longer supply the insurgents with cattle for sustenance and use in the field, and, on the other hand, arms, ordnance, and ammunition can no longer be sent from the eastern manufactories and deposits to forces employed or in garrison in the West. The value of the acquisition of the Mississippi in this respect was illustrated only a few days since in the capture by General Grant, near Natchez, of five thousand beeves and two thousand mules, which had crossed to the eastern bank, and at the same time many hundred thousands of cartridges and other stores which had just been landed at the western end of the same ferry.

A vigorous blockade has been maintained at Charleston, and although fast steamers, of light draught and painted with obscure colors, occasionally succeed in slipping through the blockading squadron in the morning and evening twilight, many are destroyed and more are captured. An attack by the fleet, made on the seventh day of April last, upon the forts and batteries which defend the harbor, failed because the rope obstructions in the channel fouled the screws of the iron-clads and compelled them to retire after passing through the fire of the batteries. Those vessels bore the fire of the forts, although some defects of construction were revealed by the injuries they received. The crews passed through

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Joseph E. Johnston (4)
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