Yet this nowise impeaches the generalship of Sherman
, who could not tell what they were, nor who were behind them, until he had given them a trial.
Let us condense the painful details:
was quite aware of the natural strength of the Rebel
line of defense, and that the labor of thousands of slaves had for months been devoted to its increase, by the digging of trenches and rifle-pits, the planting of batteries, felling of trees for abatis, &c., &c. But, he reasoned, that line is at least 15 miles long, from Vicksburg
to Haines's Bluff; there are but about 15,000 men behind it, which is but 1,000 to the mile; and it must be that a series of vigorous attacks will develop some point whereon an instant and overwhelming superiority of numbers can be made to tell.
And so it would, had not the bayous, lagoons, and swamps — but more especially Chickasaw bayou
— so protected the entire Rebel front that there were but four points at which it could be reached from the Yazoo
; and these were so covered and enfiladed by hostile batteries, rifle-pits, &c., that approach was all but certain destruction.
The knowledge of this impregnability was one of the costly lessons of the war.
During the 26th and 27th, our men were debarked without resistance, on the south bank of the Yazoo
; and, being formed in four columns, gradually pushed forward, driving back the enemy's pickets, toward the frowning bluffs southward.
During the ensuing night, the ground and obstacles in out front were carefully reconnoitered, and found even more difficult than rumor had made them.
was conclusively ascertained to be passable but at two points--one a narrow levee; the other a sand-bar — each completely commanded by the enemy's sharpshooters, who were thoroughly covered by their rifle-pits and other defenses; while batteries, trenches, and rifle-pits rose, tier above tier, up the steep bluffs beyond, which were crowned by still heavier batteries And Gen. Steele
, whose division, except Blair
's brigade, had been debarked above the junction of the bayou with the Yazoo
and the cypress swamp and slough beyond, on advancing next day,1
found his progress barred by an impassable swamp, traversed only by a long corduroy causeway, so thoroughly swept and enfiladed by Rebel batteries and rifle-pits that he could hardly hope to take across it half the men who made the attempt which he properly declined, and was justified by Sherman
in so doing.
Meantime, Gen. Geo. W. Morgan
's division had advanced, under cover of a dense fog and the fire of its artillery, against the center of the Rebel
defenses: reaching the bank of the bayou where it runs nearest to the bluffs, whereby its progress was completely arrested: but it held its ground through the ensuing night.
Gen. Morgan L. Smith
's division simultaneously advanced over less favorable ground, considerably to the right; its leader being disabled before noon by a sharp-shooter's bullet through his hip, while reconnoitering; when his command devolved on Gen. David Stuart