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[59] full of difficulties, for it was a position of great natural strength, affording no vantage-ground for an attack, and it had been industriously fortified. The rebels knew its importance to them, and they spared no pains to make it secure. At the first indications of a movement against it, they extended and strengthened its defences, and concentrated their forces so as to be able to present, at any point of attack, numbers at least equal to the assailants.

General Grant believed from the first that the only way of capturing Vicksburg was by an attack in the rear, or a siege. Such had been his plans before the expedition down the river had been determined upon; and when his communications were cut, had he known what he then learned by experience, and what was then first tried by any considerable force,--that he could subsist an army on the enemy's country,--he would have moved promptly on Vicksburg. But the river expedition was now the favorite one with the government, and at this time, perhaps, the most advantageous one, and he bent all his energies to secure its success, aiming still to get to the rear of the rebel position. It was impossible to carry the enemy's works in front, or on their flank, an attack at the only practicable point, on the Yazoo, having already failed; and it was equally impossible to pass the rebel batteries on the river with a sufficient number of transports and gunboats in order to flank them on the south. The problem was, therefore, somewhat difficult in theory as well as in practice.

The year previous, a Union force, under the command of General Williams, had been sent up from New Orleans by General Butler, with a part of Admiral

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