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[583]

Chapter 22: the siege of Vicksburg.


Vicksburg must be taken,” was the fiat of General Grant, in obedience to the will of the loyal people, and he made instant preparations for the great work on his return to Memphis from the conference at Napoleon. The Government was fully alive to the importance and difficulties of the undertaking, and had sent him re-enforcements for the purpose. He had already adopted an important measure for the promotion of the efficiency of his army, by organizing it
Dec. 22, 1862.
into four corps, known as the Thirteenth, Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Army Corps.1 By this arrangement the Commander-in-chief was relieved of much official drudgery, and the generals under him commanding corps had a wider field in which to display their own powers.

General Giant was fully sensible of the importance of the acts of Congress, and the proclamation of the President authorizing the enlistment and use of colored troops; and being a soldier and not a politician, and a manly citizen, who loved justice more than popularity, heartily approved of those measures, and, in orders, said :--“It is expected that all commanders will especially exert themselves in carrying out the policy of the administration, not only in organizing colored troops, and rendering them efficient, but also in removing prejudices against them.” “As the servant of a great Republic,” says an accomplished writer on military affairs, “he left to the Departments of the Government their specific duties, while he performed his own.” 2

It was evident that a direct assault upon the defenses of Vicksburg by the army and navy would result in failure, and Grant determined to move upon them in reverse or rear. How to get a base for such operations was a [584] vital question, and his attention was turned alternately to the Canal that General Williams attempted to cut,3 Milliken's Bend, Lake Providence, the Yazoo Pass, and Steele's Bayou. All of these routes were tried, as we shall observe, before in another way he achieved the desired end.

It was determined first to complete Williams's canal across the peninsula opposite Vicksburg, which was traversed by the Shreveport and Vicksburg railroad--the great highway over which large quantities of supplies for the Confederates were transported from Western Louisiana. That cut-off was five or six miles from Vicksburg. By it, when completed, that city would be isolated, and through it troops and supplies might be safely transported out of reach of the Vicksburg batteries to a new base of supplies below that town. It also seemed probable that it would make a new channel for the Mississippi, and leave Vicksburg on the borders of a bayou only.

For the prosecution of this work McClernand, by order of Grant, moved with his army down the Mississippi on the day after the conference at Napoleon.

Jan. 9, 1863.
In consequence of detention by a storm, it did

Peninsula opposite Vicksburg.

not reach its destination at Young's Point, on the right bank of the river, nearly opposite the mouth of the Yazoo, until late on the 21st. On the following day the troops landed, and took post a little farther down the river, so as to protect the

View showing the site of the Canal.4

line of the canal. There also Porter's fleet, strengthened by the addition of several armored vessels, such as the Chillicothe, Indianola, Lafayette, East-port, [585] and other gun-boats rendezvoused, and immense power was immediately brought to bear on the cutting of the canal, and other operations of a vigorous siege.

General Grant, as we have observed, hastened back to Memphis after the conference at Napoleon, and immediately commenced moving his troops, which had been gathered there after the disaster at Holly Springs, down the Mississippi, to assist in the siege of Vicksburg. These troops had been pushed to Memphis from Grand Junction as rapidly as possible, and were now reorganized and in readiness for other work. All these veterans of the Army of the Tennessee, excepting detachments left to hold posts in that State, and the divisions of Logan, were there, and with ample provisions and other supplies, they were now borne swiftly, on more than a hundred transports, upon the rapid current of the rising Mississippi, and were before Vicksburg at the beginning of February. Grant himself arrived at Young's Point on the 2d,

Feb., 1863.
and assumed command in person. Already the work on the canal (which was only a mile in length) had been vigorously prosecuted by the soldiers with their picks and shovels, and by the powerful

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