Thereafter nothing important occurred until the latter part of January, when the troops under General Grant embarked at Memphis and moved down the Mississippi River to Young's Point, on the Louisiana shore a few miles above Vicksburg. The expected cooperation by his forces with those of Sherman had been prevented by the brilliant cavalry expedition under Van Dorn, which captured and destroyed the vast supplies collected at Holly Springs for the use of Grant's forces in the land movement referred to. This compelled Grant to retreat to Memphis, and frustrated the combined movement which had been projected, in connection with the river campaign, by Sherman, and a new plan of operations resulted therefrom, in which, however, still prominently appears the purpose of turning Vicksburg on the north. After General Grant, descending the Mississippi from Memphis, arrived February 2, 1863, in the neighborhood of Vicksburg and assumed command of the enemy's forces, an attempt was made, by removing obstructions to the navigation of the Yazoo Pass and Cold Water, small streams which flow from the Mississippi into the Tallahatchie River, to pass to the rear of Fort Pemberton at the mouth of the latter. The never-to-be-realized hope was to reduce that work, and thus open the way down the Yazoo River to the right flank of the defenses of Vicksburg. At the same time another attempt was made, by means of the network of creeks and bayous on the north side of the Yazoo, to pass around and enter the Yazoo above Haines's Bluff; our sharpshooters, availing themselves of every advantageous position, picked off the men upon the boats, and Colonel (afterwards General) Ferguson, with a few men and a section of field pieces, so harassed and beset them that they were driven back utterly discomfited. Admiral Porter had, with his fleet, gone some distance up Deer Creek, and, but for the land forces sent to sustain him, would probably never have returned, an adventurous party having passed in below him with axes to fell trees so as to prevent his egress. He is described as follows:1
I soon found Admiral Porter, who was on the deck of one of his ironclads, with a shield made of the section of a smoke-stack, and I doubt if he was ever more glad to meet a friend than he was to see me. He explained that he had almost reached the Rolling Fork, when the woods became full of sharpshooters, who, taking advantage of trees, stumps, and the levee, would shoot down every man that poked his nose outside the protection of their armor. . . . He informed me at one time things looked so critical that he had made up his mind to blow up the gunboats, and to escape with his men through the swamp to the Mississippi River.