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Chapter 7:

The gunboats being now all below Grand Gulf, it was possible that the rebels might send armed steamers down the Big Black river, and up the Mississippi as far as Perkins's plantation, where Grant had established a depot of supplies. In order to prevent any damage to this depot by the enemy, Grant, on the night of April 29th, ordered McPherson, who had arrived at Hard Times, to improvise a gunboat by putting a section of light artillery aboard one of the transports, and to send it up to guard the plantation. He also directed four thirty-pound Parrott guns, which he was taking with him on this campaign, to be hauled by oxen to the bank of the river at Perkins's, and put in battery there. These arrangements effectually protected the position.

On the 30th, orders were issued to the chief commissary and quartermaster of the command, to prepare two more tugs to run the blockade, each with two barges in tow, and to load them to nearly their full capacity with rations. ‘Do this,’ said Grant, ‘with all expedition, in forty-eight hours from receipt of orders, if possible. Time is of immense importance. Should their crews decline running through, call on the commanding officer for volunteers, and discharge the crews.’ The same day, the chief commissary of the Thirteenth corps received the following directions: ‘You will issue to the troops of this command, without provision returns,1 for their [205] subsistence during the next

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