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[202] protecting batteries, by which the guns of the enemy are silenced, and a curtain of riflepits and galleries, by which he is intimidated from strengthening his position.

In the selection of the site for this chain of works, the rebels have of course seized all the advantages which the very remarkable ground afforded. The highest hills and steepest hollows have all been duly taken into their account, and whenever the finale shall permit, the few square miles between us and the river will show some of the most remarkable fortifications the engineering world has ever seen.

Running in a slanting line from the north side of the city of Vicksburgh, backward toward the railroad, runs a prominent ridge with a system of spurs or branches. Along the north side of this rests the rebel left, crossing the main ridge at the centre in the position assigned at present to the division of General Logan. On the crest of this backbone they have constructed, in the system of intrenchments, a salient fort, originally designed for a number of guns. The guns originally in this work have for three weeks been silent, and more recently been removed. Here as elsewhere our sappers have been at work crawling up to the side of the fort. On the outer side the fort overlooked a steep chasm. Here the ingenuity of sapping was at fault.

On Saturday last, we had a general bombardment, and advantage was taken of it to send a couple of adventurous diggers across the ravine, who commenced an earnest excavation under the very walls of the fort, hewn as they are, in part, out of the natural sedimentary cliff. Since then the miners have been faithfully at work, the rebels have been kept silent by our ever-watchful sharp-shooters, and perhaps ignorant of the operations going on under their very feet. Indeed, nothing is more striking in this whole siege than the fact that the two lines are so close together that at points the muzzles of the rifles are not more than twenty feet apart, and those of the cannon not more than two hundred and fifty yards.

Here have we seen for days the forts blazing in lightning flashes and storming thunder crashes at less than half the usual distance, although all the protection is a rude wall of earth thrown up in front of gabions, which latter are planted under fire of the concealed riflemen of the enemy. In fact, the lines described by the works of bth parties may be indicated in outlines by conceiving two thirds of a circle. On the chord rests Vicksburgh; on the same side are heavy guns and rifle-pits, with which we have no present concern. On the circle commencing from the supposed centre is, first a line of heavy batteries of the enemy; at a distance of perhaps a mile to those quarters is a second line of abandoned forts from which the enemy has been driven by successive bombardment; between these is one ground chain of rifle-pits.

Beyond and still further from the centre, about two hundred yards, is a line of national rifle-pits with crooked branches extending toward, touching at points, the last mentioned line. Further out still is a line of abandoned rifle-pits, with their branching saps, and an irregular line of forts on every considerable crest of the series. Thus the lines present two sets of lines for each party; an interior double line for which we are contending, and which is at places blended and interplexed; on each side of it a line of batteries.

Our superiority in artillery has aided to force the rebels back from their original line. While we have more than a hundred guns of every desirable calibre and pattern along our line, the enemy is not supposed to have more than fifty movable pieces, and the same number of heavy pieces on the river-bank, where they silently grin at the equally silent navy's long-range cannon.

On yesterday afternoon, about three o'clock, the troops all along the line might have been seen in order of battle, the guns keeping up their usual din and the sharp-shooters more than usually brisk with their fire.

Several prominent officers might have been seen, glasses in hand, and their eyes turned in two directions; mainly, however, on the hump of land in the centre. Presently a movement might have been seen of the earth; upward it rose, as if some slumbering man of the mountain were shaking off the superfluous covering; in a moment more, through a gaping crater, a shaft of white smoke rushed through, and then a cloud of dust. An instant clatter of fire-arms then commenced, and raged with painful intensity for an hour, when, out of the confusion of smoke something might have been seen of two sets of combatants, almost, as you may say, at arm's length.

All this while, before and after the explosion, there was a terrific cannonade. Previously every gun along the line was in play, and the intervals of a few seconds not filled with the burst of shells, the crack of guns of all calibres, were closed up by the more awful crackle of the infantry along the whole line. It is true that no assault was being made along the line, but the whole circuit of muskets was firing, firing into the aimless air; nobody was to be seen; there were the bleak ridges as ever; there the silent forts; but the bullets were whizzing into their intrench. ments in myraids of radial lines. We have come to learn and to realize how fatal all this shower of leaden hail may have been, if it had no ulterior purpose, though not a soul was to be seen. Its real purpose was, however, to prevent any concentration on the critical points, by feigning an attack at all. Besides the one on the centre, another was selected on Blair's front, which, as we learned afterward, proved abortive, there being an insufficiency of powder, or it being placed too loosely in the mine.

The way in which the fort on McPherson's front was exploded is, as we learn from some of the participants, as follows: After the diggers had cut across the middle of the fort, which was a prominent fort, and, by reason of our flanking it, has been so pierced as to be almost of the

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J. B. McPherson (1)
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