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[333]

This attempt to get through to Yazoo, above Haines's Bluff, had so signally failed that the expedition was ordered back to the Louisiana shore above Vicksburg, where they arrived on March 27, 1863. General Grant was now in command of a large army, holding various positions on the Mississippi River opposite Vicksburg, extending from Milliken's Bend above to New Carthage below, with a fleet of gunboats in the river above Vicksburg, and another some eight miles below. Lieutenant General Pemberton's military district included Vicksburg, and Major General Gardner was in command at Port Hudson. These posts, as long as they could be maintained, gave us some control over the intermediate space of the river, about two hundred sixty miles in length, and to that extent secured our communication with the trans-Mississippi. The enemy, after his repeated and disastrous attempts to turn the right flank of Vicksburg, applied his attention to the opposite direction. General Grant first endeavored to divert the Mississippi from its channel by cutting a canal across the peninsula opposite to Vicksburg, so as to make a practicable passage for transport vessels from a point above to one below the city. His attempt was quite unsuccessful, and, whatever credit may be awarded to his enterprise, none can be given to his engineering skill, as the direction given to his ditch was such that, instead of being washed out by the current of the river, it was filled up by its sediment.

Another attempt to get into the Mississippi without passing the batteries at Vicksburg was by digging a canal to connect the river with the bayou in rear of Milliken's Bend, so as to have water communication by way of Richmond to New Carthage. These indications of a purpose to get below Vicksburg caused General Pemberton, early in February, 1863, to detach Brigadier General John S. Bowen, with his Missouri Brigade, to Grand Gulf, near the mouth of the Big Black, and establish batteries there to command the mouth of that small river, which might be used to pass to the rear of Vicksburg, and also by their fire to obstruct the navigation of the Mississippi.

On March 19th the flagship of Admiral Farragut, with one gunboat from the fleet at New Orleans, passed up the river in defiance of our batteries; on the 25th, four gunboats from the upper fleet attempted to pass down and were repulsed, two of them completely disabled.

On April 16th a fleet of ironclads with barges in tow, Admiral Porter commanding, under cover of the night ran the Vicksburg batteries. One of the vessels was destroyed, and another one crippled, but towed out of range. Subsequently, on the night of the 26th, a fleet of transports with loaded barges was floated past Vicksburg. One or more of them

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