Doc. 142.-operations at Vicksburgh, Miss.
General Williams's official reports.
headquarters Second brigade, Vicksburgh, July 4, 1862.Captain: Leaving the Twenty-first Indiana, Sixth Michigan, a section of Everett's battery and McGee's cavalry, and taking with me the Thirtieth Massachusetts, Ninth Connecticut, Seventh Vermont and Fourth Wisconsin, regular Nims's battery and two sections of Everett's, I left Baton Rouge on the morning of the twentieth of June; arrived off Elles Cliff in the afternoon of the twenty-second, where I found three gunboats awaiting my approach. To cover the transports in passing the cliffs I landed, so as to occupy all the woods leading from the cliffs to the interior, and cut off two field-guns reported to be in position on the cliffs. The Thirtieth Massachusetts and two guns of Nims's made a touring march of eight miles, while the Fourth Wisconsin, with skirmishers in advance, followed by the Ninth Connecticut and four guns of Nims's and two of Everett's, marched directly forward by the cliff-road leading to the battery and to Natchez, distant eighteen miles, giving time, however, for Dudley's column first to reach this road and cut off the retreat to Natchez. Soon the skirmishers of the Fourth Wisconsin came upon the abandoned battery, abandoned save by a gun-limber left behind in the abandonment. Limber benches, tables, a broken whiffle-tree, some few ears of newly-gathered green corn, from a neighboring field, and the well-trodden earth marked the place of the camp, near the battery, which was spacious, shaded and afforded a clear view of the river, up and down, and was perfectly protected by its height above the river from the fire of the gunboats. The rebel method of using their guns from the cliffs is to run the gun forward till it projects beyond the cliff, depress it, fire and run the gun back out of sight, load and repeat. Negroes afterwards told us that the battery, consisting of two guns and ninety mounted men, left some five hours before our landing; but the fellows had greatly loitered on the way, for Col. Dudley reported he was within an hour of intercepting them. The twenty-third of June Rodney was passed without molestation, but having learned from various sources that resistance to the further advance of the transports would certainly be made by guns in position on the heights of Grand Gulf, we entered Bayou Pierre about three o'clock on the morning of the twenty-fourth, and attempted to reach its point of intersection with the Port Gibson and Grand Gulf Railroad, in order to move from thence on the rear of the town and heights of Grand Gulf. After passing up the bayou some nine miles, and still eight miles from Port Gibson, a raft across the bayou stopped us. We then backed down, for the bayou was too narrow to turn in, to one Colonel Berry's plantation, four miles only by a good wagon-road. Here, at about eleven o'clock in the morning, the troops were landed. The Fourth Wisconsin, Ninth Connecticut and four guns, after marching two miles, taking a branch road by Hamilton's plantation, which led to the rear of the reported rebel camp — some said five hundred, some nine hundred strong, pitched between the Port Gibson Railroad and the road from Grand Gulf to Willow Springs, and which branch road produced the only two roads — namely, the railroad and Willow Springs road leading from Grand Gulf to the interior — took the direct road which cuts the railroad about one mile in rear of Grand Gulf. One of the regiments, the Seventh Vermont, was to cooperate with the Fourth Wisconsin and Ninth Connecticut in the contemplated attack on the camp, and the other, Col. Dudley's, to be held in reserve at the fork of the two roads. The rebels, apprised of our coming, had decamped, leaving some of their sick, a few old tents, numerous booths, some articles of household furniture and a secession flag. (See herewith Col. Paine's report.) The town of Grand Gulf, which our troops, before leaving, burned to the ground, was abandoned by all save a single sentinel on picket, who, left behind, was captured by Col. Dudley's flankers. On the twenty-fifth we arrived here off Vicksburgh, and commenced running and levelling the line of the cut-off canal, and on the morning of the twenty-seventh broke ground. Between eleven and twelve hundred negroes, gathered from the neighboring plantations by armed parties, are now engaged in the work of excavating, cutting down trees, and grubbing up the roots. The labor of making this cut is far greater than estimated by anybody. The soil is hard clay, as far as yet excavated--sixteen and a half to seventeen feet--and must be gone through with, say some four feet more, before the water can be let in; for all concur in this: that we must come to sand before the clay. Yesterday the river fall was only two inches. Drift-wood was seen coming down, and the Missouri Republican of the twenty-eighth of June announces the flooding up of the Missouri River and the rise of the Upper Mississippi. Under the heading of the June rise, with the hard-working twelve hundred negro force engaged, and this prospect of a rise, we are in good heart. The project is a great one, and worthy of success. In the next three days we expect to be ready for the water of the Mississippi. The fleet of Flag-Officers Farragut and Davis are awaiting the result with great interest, seven of Flag-Officer Farragut's vessels having passed Vicksburgh at eleven o'clock on the morning of the twenty-eighth without alarming the batteries of the town, and are anchored with Flag-Officer Davis's fleet of six mortar-boats and four gunboats on the west side of Burney's Point. The mortar vessels of Commodore Porter and the remainder of. Flag-Officer Farragut's fleet remain below Vicksburgh. Captain Davis arrived from Memphis on the first of July. To protect Commodore Porter's mortar fleet, lying close along the east bank of the river, within range of the batteries of Vicksburgh, but concealed