Squadron, as the Western Flotilla
was now called, and had control of the river between Vicksburg
and Port Hudson
once more entered the river and ran two vessels of his squadron past the works at Port Hudson
on the 14th of March, 1863.
In doing so, however, the old side-wheeler Mississippi
grounded under the guns of the fort, where she was set on fire and abandoned.
For weeks now the fleet was employed in assisting Grant
's army that was slowly closing in upon Vicksburg
, which stronghold was to fall on the 4th of July.
The expedition to Shreveport
up the Red River
, where the fleet under Porter
cooperated with the troops under Banks
, was a dire failure and came near resulting in a great loss to the squadron.
The water in March, 1864, was exceedingly low, and many of the deep-draft vessels could not get above the rapids at Alexandria
However, with some thirty transports, fourteen of the gunboats were dragged up the stream, only to find themselves, when they wished to return at the end of April, helpless above the falls by the receding water.
Their rescue, through the aid of the genius, resource, and indefatigable efforts of Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Bailey
, of the Fourth Wisconsin Volunteers, makes a thrilling story.
He succeeded in damming the river, thus banking up the water, and by the 13th of May, amid the mighty cheers of the spectators and the lumbermen from Maine
who had built the helpful barrier, the twelve vessels which had been caught had passed down to safety.
After Port Hudson
fell, except for the Red River
expedition, minor skirmishers, and the shelling of guerillas and batteries along the wooded shores, the operations of the navy on the Mississippi
and its tributaries were practically over.
When the Federals
after the battle of Chickamauga
, late in 1863, they needed gunboats on the upper Tennessee
River, but none of Admiral Porter
's fleet could cross the Mussel Shoals
So several light-draft vessels were built near Bridgeport
They were useful to the army, but saw little active service.