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[60] Farragut's fleet, and being, unable to pass Vicksburg, had commenced cutting a canal across the neck of land formed by the bend in the river opposite Vicksburg, with the view of turning the waters of the Mississippi, and securing a safe passage, while leaving Vicksburg some miles inland. Without being too confident of success, Grant ordered this work to be completed on a larger scale and in a more effective manner. He always felt that it was essential to keep his men actively employed; and even if this canal did not enable the fleet to pass down below Vicksburg, it occupied the attention and encouraged the hopes of the troops. The work was pushed forward with vigor; but it took months to bring it near completion, and then a rapid rise in the river broke through the embankment of the canal and overflowed the country, and the work did not answer its purpose.

But Grant had not been idly awaiting the result of this experiment. He was busy in seeking other practicable routes by which he could reach the position he desired. As soon as he took command, he gave orders for cutting a way from the Mississippi to Lake Providence on the west, from which it was hoped steamers might pass into the Tensas, and thence into the Red River, and a passage thus be opened for communication with Banks, who was to cooperate from New Orleans in the opening of the river. At about the same time he sent an expedition to explore on the eastern side of the Mississippi, and to open, if possible, a practicable passage through Yazoo Pass and Steele's Bayou. At one time the latter route promised to be practicable, and to enable Grant to flank the rebel works on the

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