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[458] Bend, Sherman ordered some vessels to make a new reconnaissance of the Yazoo. They were stopped by the batteries of Haines' Bluff, and one of them, the Benton, was greatly injured by the fire. On the same day the Federal commander landed a strong detachment of troops at Milliken's, and sent them to cut the railway track leading to Shreveport from the right bank of the Mississippi, opposite Vicksburg. His object was to prevent the enemy from receiving reinforcements from the west. It was, however, from the north and east that these reinforcements, so impatiently waited for at Vicksburg, were to arrive, and the two days that Sherman, detained by this expedition, passed at Milliken's Bend, afforded a precious respite to the Confederates. They took advantage of it to make preparations for repelling the attack on the banks of the Yazoo, which the nature of the country and the reconnaissances of the gun-boats clearly indicated as the point selected by the Federal commander.

The latter, in fact, had no choice left. Indeed, the batteries of Vicksburg, greatly strengthened since summer, forbade the hope that Davis' small flotilla would be able to force the passage of the Mississippi; Sherman's army could not, therefore, operate below Vicksburg, where it would not have found a single vessel to transport it from the right to the left bank of the river. Halleck had indeed announced that Banks, who had recently been sent to New Orleans with considerable reinforcements, would go up the river under the protection of Farragut's guns, and join Sherman in front of Vicksburg; but Butler's successor had but just arrived in the capital of Louisiana, and could not think of beginning his march so soon. Besides, if he had undertaken this expedition at that time, it would have been impeded, as it was at a later period, by the fortifications which the Confederates had secretly erected at Port Hudson. It was, therefore, necessary to land above Vicksburg. But, on the other hand, the gun-boats ascending the Yazoo were liable to be stopped by the batteries of Haines' Bluff, and above this point the river presented an obstacle to Sherman which was the more formidable because it was defended, besides the Confederate army, by the vessels lying at the arsenal of Yazoo City. The Unionists were, therefore, obliged to land on the right bank of the Yazoo between Haines' Bluff and Vicksburg.

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