previous next

[312] burgh, and we arrived there about dark on the evening of the twenty-fourth December. The next day would be Christmas, and many of the soldiers had the idea that the fleet would sail right in without difficulty, and that they would take their Christmas dinner in Vicksburgh. Many invitations were given among friends for a dinner at the Preston House. They little dreamed of the disappointment in store for them, or that New Year's day would find them on the wrong side of the hill.

On the night of the twenty-fourth, Gen. Sherman sent out a detachment of troops, under command of Gen. M. L. Smith, to tear up a section of the line of the Vicksburgh and Texas Railroad, about ten miles west of Vicksburgh. The work was well and quickly done, and the stations at Delhi and Dallas burned. After tearing up about a mile of the road, General Smith discovered that the road was already broken at a point eight miles from Vicksburgh, so that the damage to the enemy was not as great as had been anticipated. If the fleet had landed a little higher up the river, the expedition might have been as easily sent to Richmond — a little town thirty miles from Vicksburgh, and no further from the river than Dallas or Delhi — and by cutting the road there, could give the rebels some thirty odd miles more of hauling to do, and so embarrassed them very much. As it was, the expedition accomplished nothing of any importance, and the delay was a very serious detriment to the main expedition, as, of course, the enemy had ample time and opportunity to learn of our approach, and spies could count every boat as it passed, and take a very approximate estimate of our strength straight to Vicksburgh.

From two refugees and several contrabands, who came to the fleet while we lay at this point, it was learned very satisfactorily that there were no more than fifteen thousand troops at the outside in Vicksburgh; and that, although there were rifle-pits and breastworks in the rear of the city, there were no soldiers posted there or batteries erected. To take the city was thought to be an easy job.

All of Christmas day the fleet lay at Milliken's Bend, with the troops on the transports, in a state of total inactivity. Nobody knew what it meant, and every body was suffering from listlessness and ennui. A few ineffectual attempts were made to get up Christmas festivities; but the usual staples were non est, and the day dragged its slow length along as dismally as can be imagined.

At length, as evening approached, an order was received from Gen. Sherman to prepare to move up the Yazoo early the next morning. Immediately all was life and activity. Long faces disappeared, and the joyful anticipation of at length commencing operations on the enemy was manifested in every countenance.

At daylight next morning all was ready, and the fleet started for its destined port, which it reached on the banks of the Yazoo about noon the same day. Many years ago, about eight miles below the mouth of the Yazoo the Mississippi cut a new channel for itself across a bend, coming into the main channel again just above Vicksburgh. The Yazoo followed the old channel, and the mouth of the river is, therefore, really from twelve to fifteen miles below where it was originally; but from the old mouth to the new the river is known to pilots as “Old River.” Where the fleet landed was about three miles above Old River, where the right rested, and the left extended to within three miles of Haynes's Bluff, the intervening space being about six miles.

On entering the Yazoo, the first object that attracted the attention was the ruins of a large brick house and several other buildings, which were still smoking. On inquiry, I learned that this was the celebrated plantation of the rebel Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, who was killed at Shiloh. It was an extensive establishment, working over three hundred negroes. It contained a large steam sugar refinery, an extensive steam saw-mill, cotton-gins, machine-shop, and a long line of negro quarters.

The dwelling was palatial in its proportions and architecture, and the grounds around it were magnificently laid out in alcoves, with arbors, trellises, groves of evergreens and extensive flower-beds. All was now a mass of smouldering ruins. Our gunboats had gone up there the day before, and a small battery planted near the mansion announced itself by plugging away at one of the iron-clads, and the marines went ashore after the gunboats had silenced the battery, and burned and destroyed every thing on the place. If any thing were wanting to complete the desolate aspect of the place, it was to be found in the sombre-hued pendent moss, peculiar to Southern forests, and which gives the trees a funereal aspect, as if they were all draped in mourning. As on almost every Southern plantation, there were many deadened trees standing about in the fields, from the limbs of all of which long festoons of moss hung, swaying with a melancholy motion in every breeze.

The weather, since the starting out of the fleet, had, up to this time, been very fine; but as evening now approached, a heavy rain commenced, which, from the appearance of things, bid fair to continue for an indefinite period. The Yazoo River was low and the banks steep and about thirty feet high. Along the edge of the water, and reaching to the foot of the bank, is a dense undergrowth of willows, briers, thorns, vines and live oaks, twined together in a most disagreeably promiscuous manner. To effect a landing of the troops and trains, a way had to be cut through this entanglement, from every boat, and this caused such a delay that it was quite dark before all the troops were got on shore. Tents were pitched for the night, pickets sent out, and the army encamped, anxiously awaiting the dawn of the next day.

On the following morning, a scene of confusion ensued which fully equalled that of the embarkation, and, in fact, resulted from it. Companies seeking their regiments, officers seeking their companies; men hunting for missing horses;


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
W. T. Sherman (2)
Dallas (2)
Morgan L. Smith (1)
M. L. Smith (1)
Albert Sidney Johnston (1)
Christmas (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
December 25th (2)
December 24th (1)
January 1st (1)
24th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: