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[549] Smith's right, but had no chance to fight. Our loss here at the front was 200: Kilby Smith's, at the rear, was only 50. The enemy's must have been greater.1

Here — as the return of Gen. Smith's force to its proper department had long since been demanded, and was now imperatively insisted on — a farther retreat was deemed inevitable; and the river was now so low that the fleet could not be got over the falls. For a time, its destruction seemed imminent; but Lt.-Col. Joseph Bailey, engineer of the 19th corps, had foreseen this difficulty, and, on the battle-field of Pleasant Hill, while our troops awaited the Rebel onset, had suggested to Gen. Franklin a means of overcoming it. Franklin approved the project; so did Banks, when it was imparted to him; but Admiral Porter evinced no faith or interest in it till some time afterward. But Banks's official sanction was sufficient; so Bailey set to work,2 and soon had a main dam of timber and stone constructed across the channel of the river — here 758 feet wide, 4 to 6 deep, and running at the rate of 10 miles per hour — a little below the fall, whereby the depth of water in the main channel on the rapid was increased over five feet. Eight or nine days work of many willing hands had nearly completed this dam, and had rendered the falls passable by our largest boats above them, when the impetuous current swept3 away a part of it; whereupon, the Admiral--(who had several of his gunboats at the head, preparing to make the passage, and might have had them taken down)--on rising next day, rode up and ordered the Lexington to be sent down before the water — by this time considerably lower — should have fallen too far; and this was obeyed with entire success. The gunboat took the chute without a balk, and then rushed like an arrow through the narrow aperture in the lower dam; pitched down the roaring torrent; hung for a moment on the rocks below; and was then swept on into deep water, when she rounded gracefully to the bank, amid the thunderous cheer of thirty thousand loyal voices. She had received no damage whatever.

Porter, apprehensive that he had seen the last of dam building, ordered the Neosho to follow directly; her hatches being battened down, and every precaution taken to insure her safe descent. But her pilot lost heart as he neared the leap, and stopped her engine; so that for a moment her hull was submerged by the current. She rose directly, however, and was swept along to safety with only one hole knocked through her bottom, which was stopped the next hour; the Hindman and Osage following her without accident or damage. In fact, two sunken coal-boats, forming part of the dam, whose loss had been deplored, had only been forced around nearly parallel to the current, so as to form a buffer or cushion, whereby our vessels were prevented from running on ugly rocks which might have proved their destruction.

The deeper gunboats were still above. But Bailey now renewed his efforts, with our whole army as his free-handed assistants; and, in three

1 Kilby Smith testifies:

We took many prisoners, all of whom reported a heavy loss on their part of killed and wounded.

2 April 30.

3 May 9.

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