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[370] other, the channel of the latter, back several miles from its mouth, breaks through into the White, thus affording easy communication. We were now in a broader stream and progressed more easily. The weather was delightful, and had there been foliage instead of gray pendent moss upon the trees, it would have appeared midsummer. Overcoats were discarded by many, and shirt-sleeve costume adopted instead. Every thing looked favorable, and feeling saddened at Vicksburgh became cheerful again. Habitations were few, and generally wretched pests, with scanty clearing surrounding. At rare intervals some building more respectable than those of the “poor white trash” greeted us, always built in rambling and roomy style, great porches, and surrounded by negro huts. The latter on these estates were much better than the majority of those belonging to white people. Old, sallow, wrinkled dames, drawn out by curiosity from their nests, and invariably knitting, would occasionally stand gazing at us, silent as if wooden blocks! Surrounded, framed as it were, by the house-moss, they seemed as much witches as those that brewed in Macbeth's time. Arkansas has never had an enviable name, and were the balance of it poor as that bordering its river, it would not be worth opening to trade. Truly, here's the land of the “Arkansas traveller,” where a good share of the native talent is devoted to fiddling.

Impoverished and wretched, the people could apparently have no worse fate than being left to themselves. At places, corn-bins were built upon the river's bank, generally empty, their contents having been slid into boats beneath and transferred up-stream. One or two, however, were blazing, and thousands of bushels thus destroyed. Sunken barges and scows, for a couple of years left to themselves, lay broken on bars. Every thing looked as if the people were trying to exhibit as little civilization as they could, while endeavoring, with the least possible labor, to bring forth the least possible crops. Occasionally horsemen — the Texan Rangers, which infest this section — were seen riding at full speed over some field, out of rifle-shot. The skill they exhibited was surprising, making them appear like Centaurs — horse and man joined in one.

Thus passing along without incident, our gunboats in front finally slackened speed and went to reconnoitring. We were near the rebel position, Arkansas Post beyond, around a bend, and as it was a favorable spot for disembarking, the fleet drew near shore. Night had come on, and orders were given to wait until morning, meanwhile throwing out strong pickets. The fields of “Haunted farm,” a great plantation with a large half-ruined house and numerous negro huts, were chosen to debark upon. Among the slaves it was considered a spirit rendezvous. “Goblins damned” danced at midnight on the deserted cotton-fields, Luna gazing, occasionally flushed blood-red in anger, spirits of defunct negroes cried in the branches, and hens, those staunch friends of good wives, left off their agreeable lays and went to crowing whenever persons near were threatened by death. John, a negro servant, on board our vessel, the Ella, had a nightmare in consequence, and woke us at twelve o'clock by his loud cries. A better feeling already pervaded the army, and night settled down clear and beautiful.

Constant chopping resounded from the woods beyond, where the rebels were busy endeavoring to obstruct our expected advance by felling trees. With unfailing industry they devoted the hours of slumber to perfecting their means of defence.

One doubt was most pleasantly removed; that an evacuation would be attempted. They were there to defend the Post, fortified by so much labor, and would not desert it. Confident in the immense strength of their works, the abattis, rifle-pits, and batteries, they awaited us. Constant skirmishing ensued between the pickets.

At morning's dawn all was bustle in the fleet. Every vessel poured forth upon the shore its crowds of soldiers. Regiments collected, brigades formed, and at nine all moved forward, the intention being to surround the rebel Fort. Only half a mile away were their first line of works, where the levee, making a curve inland, had been raised in front and pitted behind. Among some sheds, grouped just before, preparations for masked batteries were visible, half finished. They had deserted these, and fled back to a second line, still more formidable, six hundred yards in the rear. The Eighth Missouri, Lieut.-Colonel Coleman, was pushed forward as skirmishers. This regiment, well known by its last exploits, decimated in half a dozen battles, and numbering only two hundred and ninety men, entered the woods. Almost instantly rapid musketry told them engaged. The balance of General G. A. Smith's brigade followed. On those earthworks the rebels had placed logs, between the spaces of which they fired. Steadily up the hill, sometimes crawling, again gliding behind trees and trees, went the Zouaves, and back from these pits also, first slowly, then running, retired the confederate sharp-shooters. Meanwhile, stretching out in a line to the right, our army had passed from the fields into the woods, the left wing remaining at the river rifle-pits won. After toiling forward for several hours, only to arrive at impassable swamps and bayous, the centre and right had to return. On the river's bank, in full view of the enemy, and commanded by their guns, was an excellent road, leading to a position nearer them, from which the army could then invest, by stretching at a right angle across the point. When friendly darkness came, our forces, thus doubled back upon themselves, passed through the left wing, still waiting there, and out upon this route. Gen. Thayer, with his brigade, led, followed by Gen. Hovey.

It was a toilsome, dangerous, but successful march through a country unknown; having no guide, the troops struggled forward, and at five o'clock next morning reached the opposite side of the bend and commanded the river above.


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