out of the range of the Vicksburg
batteries, and perhaps change the main channel of the mighty river so as to leave Vicksburg
on a bayou two or three miles back from that channel.
Here our men were debarked,1
and work on the canal recommenced; while Grant
's corps was brought down on transports to their aid, and Porter
's fleet strengthened by several additional iron-clads and gunboats.
arrived and assumed chief command Feb. 2d.
's engineers had located their embryo canal unwisely.
At its head, a strong eddy set the current away from the bank, rendering difficult the coaxing of a large body of water into it if it were completed; while its lower terminus was commanded by the batteries of Vicksburg
— a serious drawback upon its prospective usefulness.
Still, it was judged expedient to complete this, rather than commence a new one; and the river was rising so fast, under the stimulus of incessant rains (which by no means increased the attractiveness to our soldiers of digging up the mire and though clay), that it was confidently expected soon to obliterate all traces of our engineering blunders.
As there was daily increasing peril that it would drown out our camps, compelling our men to reembark, the excavated earth was all thrown up on the west side, forming an embankment in front of our camps, between them and Vicksburg
Thus the work was proceeding vigorously and hopefully, when2
the swelling flood of the Mississippi
— now eight feet above the bottom of the canal — broke over the precautionary dam erected across its head, and at once poured in a flood which filled the embryo internal improvement in a few minutes, burying myriads of implements, and constraining the diggers to run for their lives.
Several regiments, quartered in exposed positions, were obliged to move their tents and furniture with remarkable celerity; while some companies were isolated from our main body, and had to be ferried across the new lagoon to rejoin it. The embankment of the Vicksburg and Shreveport Railroad arrested the progress of the inundation northward; and our soldiers stationed below were required to more their tents to the ground above that embankment.
And now, after some days' consideration and hesitating effort, it was decided that the canal was an abortion — the Father
of Waters having paralyzed it by his veto; while the batteries of Vicksburg
frowned grimly, defiantly as ever.
Ere this, Gen. Grant
--having more hands than work — had had a channel cut from the Mississippi
, some 40 to 50 miles above, into Lake Providence
; whence there was a continuous water-way, through bayous Baxter
, into the Tensas
, and thus into the Mississippi
far below Vicksburg
, as also into the Washita
and Red rivers
; while another side-cut, leaving the great river near Milliken's Bend
, communicated, through a net-work of bayous and connecting streams, with the eastern (shorter) branch of the Tensas
, and thence, through a similar net-work, regained the lower Mississippi
near New Carthage.
This one had actually been made so far available, by the help of dredge-boats, that a small