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[457] the 20th. On the 22d this fleet touched at Helena, where lay the army which Curtis had brought to the borders of the Mississippi in the month of July. The greater portion of those troops were placed on board of the transports, which had come down from Memphis without either passengers or cargo; they formed, in Sherman's army, a new division of four brigades, numbering twelve thousand three hundred and ten men, commanded by General Steele. The expeditionary corps thus consisted, then, of thirty-two thousand men, and a short distance from there, at Friar's Point, it joined Commodore Porter, who had come from the entrance of the Yazoo to convoy it. Although the progress of the vessels was delayed in consequence of the difficulty in procuring fuel to keep the engines working, the whole fleet arrived on the evening of the 24th at Milliken's Bend, a place situated on the right bank of the river, fronting the mouth of the Yazoo, which the fine prairies, the dryness of the land and easy approaches rendered very appropriate for a depot of the army.

In this place Sherman found the gun-boats which blockaded Vicksburg and protected the upper course of the Mississippi against incursions from the enemy's vessels. A few days before, they had made a fruitless attempt to ascend the course of the Yazoo and open the route by which he was to try to communicate with Grant. In fact, on the 12th of December, they had appeared before an eminence called Haines' Bluff, which commands the left bank of the Yazoo, and which was surmounted by a few batteries. The Confederates had planted torpedoes all along the river-course for a certain distance below this point. The foremost of the four Federal vessels, drawing but little water, passed over these machines without touching them. But the Cairo, which followed, struck one of the torpedoes, the explosion of which tore up her hull and sunk her in five minutes. Her crew was fortunately saved; but the other three small vessels, deeming the chances too much against them, beat a retreat. This trial proved that it would be impossible to obtain control of the Yazoo without a fight, and that in order to open a passage through this river the land-forces would probably have to attack the batteries which defended its course. On the day of his arrival at Milliken's

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