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The “rattler” --leader of the “land cruise” in 1863 This little “tin-clad” Number 1, the “Rattler,” was the flagship of Lieutenant-Commander Watson Smith. Admiral Porter sent him to enter the Yazoo River through Moon Lake, Cold Water, and the Tallahatchie River to attack Vicksburg from that side. This was the most daring and hazardous undertaking attempted by the river navy. The army engineers had cut the levee higher up the Mississippi, but after the water was let in it took some days for it to attain a sufficient level in the vast area flooded. Late in February, Smith and his squadron started out with transports carrying 6,000 troops. Struggling against overhanging trees and masses of driftwood, pausing to remove great trees which the Confederates had felled in their way, the gunboats managed to pick a channel, and approached Fort Pemberton on March 11, 1863. Many of the gunboats had suffered severely from this amphibious warfare. The “Romeo” had her stacks carried away, the “Petrel” had lost her wheel, and the “Chillicothe” had started a plank by running upon a submerged stump. The soldiers were grumbling at the constant labor of “digging the gunboats out of the woods.” The channel was so obstructed and narrow that only one gunboat at a time could effectually engage Fort Pemberton. After a few days of ineffectual bombardment the expedition was abandoned and the gunboats returned to the Mississippi over the same long, difficult course.

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Watson Smith (2)
David D. Porter (1)
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March 11th, 1863 AD (1)
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