previous next


Naval operations in the Vicksburg campaign.

by Professor James Russell Soley, U. S. N.
By the 1st of July, 1862, the Mississippi had been traversed by the fleet of Davis from Cairo down, and by that of Farragut from the Passes up, and the only point where the Confederates retained a strong foothold was at Vicksburg. The objects of the river operations were to establish communication from the Ohio to the Gulf, and to cut off the important supplies drawn by the Confederacy from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The commanders of the Mississippi squadron during this period were, first, Charles Henry Davis, and later, David D. Porter, the transfer of the command taking place October 15th, 1862. The operations of the navy at this time were unique in maritime warfare in the energy and originality with which complex conditions were met.

After the defeat of Montgomery's flotilla at Memphis, on the 6th of June, by the combined forces of Flag-Officer Davis and Colonel Ellet [see Vol. I., pp. 449-459], the Mississippi squadron remained at Memphis for three weeks. Immediately after the battle Davis had formed the project of sending a force up the Arkansas and White rivers to cut off the Confederate gun-boats which were supposed to have taken refuge there, among them the Van Dorn, the only vessel remaining of Montgomery's flotilla. Davis did not know that the Van Dorn had made her way into the Yazoo. There were, however, two Confederate gun-boats in White River, the Maurepas and Pontchartrain, which had previously been in the flotilla of Hollins at Island Number10--the former under Lieutenant Joseph Fry and the latter under Lieutenant John W. Dunnington.

On the 10th Davis received a telegram from General Halleck urging him to open communication by way of Jacksonport with General Curtis, then moving through Arkansas toward the Mississippi. Davis accordingly altered his plan, and directed that the expedition should confine its operations to the White River. The force detached for the purpose was composed of the iron-clads Mound City and St. Louis, and the wooden gun-boats Conestoga and Tyler, under Commander A. H. Kilty, of the Mound City, and the 46th Indiana, Colonel Graham N. Fitch. Ascending the White River, the expedition arrived on the evening of the 16th in the neighborhood of St. Charles, ninety miles from the mouth. [See map, p. 442.]

Anticipating this movement, Hindman had taken steps to obstruct the channel at this point, where the first bluffs touch the river. One hundred men, under Captain A. M. Williams, C. S. Engineers, were the only force which could be spared for the defense of the place, and their only arms were thirty-five Enfield rifles which Hindman had impounded at Memphis. Lieutenant Dunnington had placed two rifled 32-pounders in battery on the bluffs, and had manned them with part of the crew of the Pontchartrain. Finally, Fry had stationed the Maurepas in the river below. [552]

The approach of Kilty's gun-boats was first discovered on the afternoon of June 16th. Expecting an immediate attack, Fry placed the Maurepas across the stream and prepared to defend her. Finding that the gun-boats remained below, Fry now landed his guns and scuttled his ship, sinking her across the channel. Two transports also were sunk, and the imperfect obstruction thus created was completed about daylight. During the night a small rifled Parrott gun was placed in position four hundred yards below Dunnington's battery, under Midshipman F. M. Roby. Two rifled Parrott 8-pounders were also moved up soon after daylight, and placed near Roby's gun, and the three guns were manned by the crew of the Maurepas, and fought personally by Fry, the senior officer present. Below this second battery Captain Williams was stationed with his thirty-five men, those without arms having been sent to the rear. He was presently reinforced by the 12-pounder howitzer from the Maurepas, manned by some of her crew. The total force under Fry's command comprised the men with Williams, and 79 seamen from the two gun-boats,--in all, 114 persons, to resist the attack of Fitch's Indiana regiment, and four gun-boats, two of them iron-clads. Rarely has it happened to such a feeble force to accomplish so much by a determined resistance.

Early on the morning of June 17th the troops landed about two miles below the bluffs. At half-past 8 the gun-boats advanced to the attack, the Mound City ahead, followed closely by the St. Louis, the Lexington and the Conestoga bringing up the rear. They moved slowly, endeavoring to discover the enemy's position, but in total ignorance of the whereabouts of his guns, which were covered by the trees and bushes on the bluffs. About 9 o'clock Williams's men were engaged by Fitch's skirmishers. The firing disclosed the enemy's advanced position, and the gun-boats opened a heavy fire of grape and shell upon it, compelling Williams to fall back. Fry's battery of four light guns, manned by the crew of the Maurepas, now became engaged with the gun-boats. At 10 Dunnington opened with his rifled 32-pounders. Kilty had now to some extent made out the location of the Confederate guns, and, moving up, replied with a rapid fire, aimed carefully in what was supposed to be the direction of the batteries, the vessel taking a position at point-blank range from both of them. At the same time Fitch sent word to him that the troops were ready to storm the batteries, unless he desired to silence them with the gun-boats. Kilty, unfortunately for himself and his crew, gallantly decided on the latter course.

The Mound City had been in position less than half an hour, about 600 yards from the batteries, when one of the 32-pounder rifle shot, directed by the skillful and experienced eye of Lieutenant Dunnington, penetrated the port casemate of the Mound City just forward of the armor, or, as Colonel Fitch rather comically described it in his report, “the larboard forequarter of the gun-boat,” and, after killing 8 men at the gun, struck the steam-drum, and went through it directly fore and aft. At the time, the Mound City was turning her wheel over slowly, and, being in slack water, the wheel kept on turning until the steam was exhausted, and the boat slowly forged ahead, running her nose directly under the battery. Lieutenant Blodgett immediately [553] ran up in the Conestoga, with great gallantry, and making fast to the Mound City, towed her away from the bank and out of action. Fitch, seeing the catastrophe, and apprehensive lest another fortunate shot from the enemy should deprive him of his support afloat, gave the signal to cease firing, and assaulted the works simultaneously in front and in flank. They were quickly carried; Dunnington and Williams made good their retreat, but Fry, who was badly wounded, was taken prisoner with about thirty of his men. General Hindman reported the Confederate loss as 6 killed, 1 wounded, and 8 missing.

The scene on board the Mound City, upon the explosion of the steam-drum, was beyond description. The gun-deck was at once filled with scalding steam, and many of the crew were instantly killed,--literally cooked alive. Others, in an agony of pain, jumped into the water, where they were shot at by sharp-shooters from the bluff, under orders from Dunnington and Williams. The boats from the other vessels put off at once to the rescue, and were riddled with shot while picking up their comrades. Out of 175 officers and men on board the Mound City, only 23 answered to their names at the roll-call that evening, and these were men and boys that were in the shell-room and magazine when the explosion took place. The only officers unhurt were Dominy, the first master, and McElroy, the gunner. Eighty-two men perished in the casemate, 43 were killed in the water or drowned, and 25 were severely wounded. The latter, among whom was the gallant Kilty, were sent at once to Memphis in the Conestoga. The Mound City remained at St. Charles, under First Master John H. Duble, of the Conestoga, with a crew of one hundred of Fitch's men, her injuries being temporarily repaired.

The expedition continued up White River as far as Crooked Point Cut-off, 63 miles above St. Charles, where the gun-boats were compelled to turn back by the falling of the water. Halleck and Grant meantime had decided to increase Fitch's command by the addition of two regiments, which sailed for White River on the 26th of June, under convoy of the Conestoga. Commander John A. Winslow, of Kearsarge-Alabama fame, who was at this time in command of the forces afloat in White River, was ordered to give additional convoy as far up as the state of the water would permit. The bulk of the naval force was then withdrawn, the Lexington remaining to support Fitch in his subsequent operations up the river. Curtis reached Helena on the 13th of July without communicating with the gun-boats. [See p. 445.]

During the months of May and June, 1862, Farragut's fleet had been slowly working up from New Orleans, receiving the surrender of the principal cities on the way, and having an occasional encounter with the Confederate batteries along the river. None of the latter were at this time of any great importance, although those at Grand Gulf inflicted some damage on two of the gun-boats which attacked them on June 9th. No serious obstruction, however, to the passage of the river from Cairo to the sea now existed, except at Vicksburg.

The advance division of Farragut's squadron under Commander Lee in the Oneida had summoned Vicksburg to surrender on the 18th of May, but had met with a refusal. Farragut, arriving soon after, held a consultation with [554] General Williams, who commanded a small detachment of Butler's army, and the two came to the conclusion that they had not enough men to make an attempt on Vicksburg with any hope of success, and Farragut went back to New Orleans.

Soon after, Farragut received pressing instructions from the Navy Department to attack Vicksburg, and in consequence returned up the river with his squadron, the mortar-boats under Porter, and 3000 troops under Williams. On the night of the 26th of June Porter placed his mortar-boats in position, nine on the eastern and eight on the western bank, the latter, as at New Orleans, being dressed with bushes to prevent an accurate determination of their position. The next day they opened upon Vicksburg. On the 28th Farragut passed the batteries

Colonel Charles rivers Ellet. From an Ambrotype.

with all the vessels of his fleet, except the Brooklyn, Katahdin, and Kennebec, which dropped back, owing to a too rigid adherence to their original orders. No impression of any consequence was made on the forts, nor were the ships materially injured, notwithstanding the great advantage which the forts possessed in their plunging fire. The Hartford was principally damaged by the battery above the town, which was able to rake a passing ship in a position from which the latter could not reply. Farragut, in his report of July 2d, sums up the situation with the phrase:
The forts can be passed, and we have done it, and can do it again as often as may be required of us. It will not, however, be an easy matter for us to do more than silence the batteries for a time, as long as the enemy has a large force behind the hills to prevent our landing and holding the place.

While Farragut with the Western Gulf Squadron, so called, was passing the batteries at Vicksburg, the Mississippi flotilla was still at Memphis, except the rams now commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred W. Ellet, which had left Memphis about the 20th, and arrived above Vicksburg on the afternoon of the 24th. Here Ellet opened communication with Farragut across the neck of land opposite Vicksburg. Farragut replied, suggesting the cooperation of Davis's iron-clads. Davis received this message at Memphis on the 28th, and the next day started down the river. During the interval, Ellet's audacity was rewarded by another extraordinary success. Taking the Monarch and the Lancaster, the latter under Charles Rivers Ellet, a mere boy nineteen years of age, he steamed fifty miles up the Yazoo River. Ellet was in perfect ignorance of what he might find there, whether batteries, gun-boats, [555] or torpedoes. His rams carried no armament. As a matter of fact there were at the time in the river two of Hollins's former fleet, the Polk and the Livingston, and the last of Montgomery's vessels, the Van Dorn. These were tied up abreast of a battery at Liverpool Landing, and above them was a barrier made from a raft. The Arkansas was at Yazoo City above the barrier, completing her preparations. The officer in charge at Liverpool Landing, Commander Robert F. Pinkney, on the approach of the rams set fire to his three gun-boats, and the purpose of Ellet's visit being thus easily accomplished, he withdrew again to the Mississippi.1

Davis arrived above Vicksburg on the 1st of July, and joined Farragut with four gun-boats and six mortar-boats. The fleets remained here at anchor for several days, while the army was attempting to make a cut-off across the neck of the land opposite Vicksburg, and thus create a new channel out of range of the batteries on the bluffs. During this time Porter continued his daily bombardment. Beyond this nothing was attempted, there being no force of troops to make it worth while.

While matters were in this condition, it was resolved between the two flag-officers that a detachment of gun-boats should make a reconnoissance in force up the Yazoo River. The shoalness and narrowness of the stream led them to take vessels of the upper squadron in preference to those of the lower, and the following were selected: the Carondelet, Commander Henry Walke; Tyler, Lieutenant William Gwin, and Queen of the West. The Arkansas, an armored ram with a heavy battery, was known to be up the river, and Farragut in his report mentions her as one of the objects of investigation.

The engagement that followed has been the subject of much discussion [see p. 572]. The Queen of the West, which had no weapons except her ram and the muskets of the sharp-shooters, and possibly a borrowed howitzer, immediately proceeded down the river. The Tyler, a very vulnerable wooden gun-boat, also retreated, placing herself under the protection of the Carondelet. The latter therefore became the principal antagonist of the Confederate ram. It now became a question for Walke of the Carondelet to decide whether he would advance to meet the Arkansas bows on, trusting to the skillful management of the helm to avoid a ram-thrust, or would retreat, engaging her with his stern guns. He chose the latter course.2 [556]

The Confederate ram “Arkansas” running through the Union fleet at Vicksburg, July 15, 1862.

The Arkansas was decidedly the superior vessel. Apart from the fact that she was larger, and had at the beginning of the contest somewhat greater speed, she had a more efficient battery, and a far more complete and impenetrable armor protection. Indeed the Eads gun-boats, of which the Carondelet was one, were by no means fully armored, their two and one-half inch plating on the casemate covering only the forward end and that part of the sides abreast of the machinery. The stern was not armored at all. The side armor had no heavy backing, and such as it was could only ward off a shot directly abeam. It was by no means a complete protection to the boilers, as was shown in the catastrophe at St. Charles. The Arkansas on the other hand had three inches of railroad iron surrounding her casemate, with a heavy backing of timber and cotton bales. She had, besides, her ram, which experience had shown was a weapon much to be dreaded. However, the position adopted by Walke was the one which, by exposing his weakest point, gave the enemy the benefit of his superiority. The Carondelet, instead of presenting her armored bow, armed with three rifled guns, 30, 50, and 70 pounders, presented her unarmored stern, armed with two smooth-bore 32-pounders. That she escaped total destruction in the running fight of an hour or so that ensued with the two 8-inch guns in the Arkansas's bow is little short of a miracle. Walke made a very good fight of it, and both he and Gwin of the Tyler, who pluckily supported the Carondelet, inflicted much injury on their antagonist, riddling her smoke-stack so as nearly to destroy her speed, wounding her captain twice, damaging her wheel, and killing her Yazoo pilot. When near the mouth of the river, the Carondelet's [557] steering gear was disabled and she ran in close to the bank, where the water was too shoal for the Arkansas to follow her. The latter, therefore, passed her, the two vessels exchanging broadsides, and the Arkansas continued on her course to Vicksburg.

Her approach caught the two flag-officers fairly napping. Notwithstanding their knowledge of her presence in the Yazoo, and the heavy firing that had been heard for more than an hour, there was, out of the combined fleet of twenty vessels or thereabouts, but one that had steam up, the captured ram General Bragg, and she did nothing. The Arkansas dashed boldly through the mass of clustered vessels, receiving the broadside of each ship as she passed, and delivering her fire rapidly in return. Her audacity was rewarded by success, for though she was badly battered, she was neither stopped nor disabled. On the other hand, her shot, penetrating the boiler of the ram Lancaster, used up that vessel and caused considerable loss of life among her crew. The Benton, Davis's flagship, got under way after Brown had passed, and followed him “at her usual snail's pace,” to borrow Davis's phrase, without overtaking him. In a few minutes the Arkansas was under the guns of Vicksburg.

A week before, on the 7th of July, Farragut had written to the department that he hoped “soon to have the pleasure of recording the combined attack by army and navy, for which we all so ardently long.” In the course of the week that had elapsed these hopes had been pretty well extinguished. The canal had turned out a failure, and the prospect that a considerable force of troops would arrive had been growing every day more remote. Before the Arkansas made her appearance, therefore, Farragut had already been meditating a return down the river, and the falling of the water and the prevalence of sickness in his crews admonished him to hasten. He also wished to damage the Arkansas in the rush by, so as to recover in some measure the prestige lost through her successful passage of the fleet. Preparations were therefore made for the descent on that very afternoon.

Already on the 10th Porter had left his station below Vicksburg with twelve of his mortar-boats, which were to be sent round to the James River. Most of the gun-boats of the mortar-flotilla went with him to tow the schooners down. The force that remained was composed of six mortar-schooners, under Commander W. B. Renshaw, with the ferry-boat Westfield. On the afternoon of the 15th these were moved up into position on the west bank of the river (with the exception of one, the Sidney C. Jones, which had run on shore and was blown up), and by half-past 3 they were engaged with the batteries. Davis, in the river above, also stationed three of his vessels, the Benton, Louisville, and Cincinnati, in position to attack the upper batteries, and to aid in covering Farragut's passage. Toward 7 in the evening the fleet got under way, consisting of the four sloops, the Hartford, Richmond, Oneida, and Iroquois, four gun-boats, and the ram Sumter, which Davis had lent for the special purpose of attacking the Arkansas. The fleet made a gallant dash past the batteries, meeting with little loss, but the attack on the Arkansas was a failure, for she had shifted her position and could not be readily distinguished [558] by the flashes of the guns. A single 11-inch shot, however, reached tie ram and inflicted very serious injury, especially to the engine.

Early on the morning of the 22d, Farragut's reunited squadron being now at anchor below Vicksburg, another attempt was made on the Arkansas. While the upper and the lower fleets were drawing the fire of the batteries in their neighborhood, the Essex, under Commodore William D. Porter, started down the river, followed by the Queen of the West, Lieutenant-Colonel A. W. Ellet. The crew of the Arkansas was small, but they were skillfully handled. The assailants tried to ram her in succession, but as each came on the beak of the Confederate was turned toward them, and they only succeeded in giving a glancing blow, and, sheering off, ran on the bank. Extricating themselves with difficulty, they withdrew as rapidly as they could from their perilous position, the Essex going below and the Queen, temporarily disabled, resuming her station with the upper squadron. One shot from the Essex did serious damage on board the Arkansas.

The Essex and Sumter were now permanently detained below Vicksburg. Shortly after the last engagement Farragut sailed down the river with Williams and his troops. Davis had expected Farragut's departure, but he had relied on the occupation by the land forces of the point opposite Vicksburg, by which he communicated with his vessels below. As these had now departed, nothing could be gained by staying longer in the neighborhood. Davis accordingly withdrew to Helena, and for the next four months Vicksburg was left unmolested.

Williams remained at Baton Rouge, with the Essex, Kineo, Katahdin, and Sumter, while Farragut continued to New Orleans with the rest of his fleet. At daylight on the 5th of August, Baton Rouge was unsuccessfully attacked by the Confederates under General John C. Breckinridge, and on the 6th the Arkansas was destroyed. [See pp. 579 and 583.] The remaining events of the summer of 1862 were of little importance. Early in August a reconnoissance showed that the White River had fallen three feet and was impracticable for gun-boats. Later in the month a more important expedition was sent down the river. It was composed of the Benton, Mound City, and Bragg, together with four of Ellet's rams, the Switzerland, Monarch, Samson, and Lioness, all under Lieutenant-Commander Phelps, with a detachment of troops under Colonel Charles R. Woods. At Milliken's Bend, thirty miles above Vicksburg, the Confederate transport steamer Fairplay was captured, loaded with a heavy cargo of arms and ammunition. The gun-boats then penetrated far up the Yazoo River, and two of the rams even ascended the Sunflower for twenty miles. When the expedition returned to Helena, it had destroyed or captured a vast quantity of military supplies. It taught the Confederates a lesson, however, and it was a long time before the Federal fleet could again enter the Yazoo with impunity.

The experience of the gun-boats in the White River showed the necessity of obtaining light-draught vessels for service in the uncertain channels of the tributaries of the Mississippi, and each additional operation in these rivers [559] confirmed the impression. As early as the 27th of June Davis had urgently recommended this step, and his recommendations, sustained by the earnest appeals of other officers, resulted in the creation of the “tin-clads,” or “light-draughts,” which during the next year performed invaluable service.

On the 15th of October Davis was relieved of this command, having been appointed Chief of the Bureau of Navigation at the Navy Department. He was succeeded by Porter. Two important and much-needed changes in organization took place about this time, the first being the formal transfer of the squadron on the 1st of October from the War Department, under which it had first come into existence, to the Navy Department, which henceforth exercised exclusive direction of it. The second was the order of the Secretary of War of November 8th, directing Ellet to report “for orders and duty” to Porter. These two changes made the vessels in the Mississippi for the first time a homogeneous naval force, and swept away all the complications of command which had hitherto vexed and harassed its commander-in-chief.

Porter, as acting rear-admiral, assumed command of the Mississippi squadron at the naval depot at Cairo, which was now the headquarters. He received from Davis intact the squadron as it had come from Foote — the Benton, the seven Eads iron-clads, and the three Rodgers gun-boats. He had also Ellet's nine rams and several very valuable captured vessels, including the Eastport, and Montgomery's rams captured at Memphis — the Bragg, Pillow, Price, and Little Rebel. The only vessels that had been withdrawn were the Essex and Sumter, now in the river below Vicksburg. Porter was also getting at this very time an accession to his force in the new tin-elads,--the Brilliant, Rattler, Romeo, Juliet, Marmora, Signal, and others,--and an equally important accession of iron-clads, the Lafayette and Choctaw, altered steam-boats of great power, and the newly (and rather badly) constructed boats, Chillicothe, Indianola, and Tuscumbia.

On the 21st of November Porter issued orders from Cairo to Captain Henry Walke, then in command of the gun-boats patrolling the river below Helena, to enter the Yazoo and destroy the batteries as far up as possible. Accordingly, on the 11th of December the Marmora and Signal entered the river for twenty miles. They found that in the interval since Phelps's raid in August, the Confederates had been by no means idle. The channel was full of scows and floats, indicating torpedoes, one of which exploded near the Signal, while another was discharged by musket-balls from the Marmora. Next day, as the river was rising, the light-draughts went in again, supported by two iron-clads, the Cairo, Lieutenant-Commander T. O. Selfridge, and the Pittsburgh, Lieutenant Hoel. The Queen of the West also went in. About a dozen miles up, the Cairo was struck by two torpedoes, one exploding under her bow, the other under her quarter. She sank in twelve minutes, disappearing completely save the tops of her smoke-stacks. The discipline of the crew was perfect, the men remaining at quarters until they were ordered away, and no lives were lost. Several torpedoes were removed before the expedition returned to the mouth of the river.

The object of both these expeditions was to prepare for the attack on [560] Chickasaw Bluffs. On December 23d, Porter, who had now come down from Cairo, went up the Yazoo with the Benton, Tyler, and Lexington, three tin-clads, and two rams. By three days incessant labor, under musketry fire from the banks, the fleet worked up to a point within range of the enemy's heavy batteries at Haynes's Bluff, whose fire the Benton sustained for two hours. The ship was not much damaged, but her commander, Gwin, one of the best officers in the squadron, was mortally wounded.

After the failure of the army at that point (December 29th) came the expedition against Arkansas Post. The vessels detailed by Porter for this movement were the iron-clads De Kalb, Lieutenant-Commander John G. Walker, Louisville, Lieutenant-Commander Elias K. Owen, and Cincinnati, Lieutenant George M. Bache; the ram Monarch, Colonel C. R. Ellet; the gun-boats Black Hawk, Lieutenant-Commander K. R. Breese, and Tyler, Lieutenant-Commander James W. Shirk; and the tin-clads, Rattler, Lieutenant-Commander Watson Smith, and Glide, Lieutenant S. E. Woodworth. McClernand's force, comprising Sherman's and Morgan's corps, accompanied the fleet in transports. As a feint the vessels ascended the White River, crossing over to the Arkansas by the cut-off. On the 9th of January the army landed three miles below the fort.

Fort Hindman was a square bastioned work, standing at a bend of the river, sufficiently high to command the surrounding country. It was commanded by Lieutenant Dunnington, who had done such good service at St. Charles, and defended by troops under General Churchill. On the side facing the river were three casemates, two of them at the angles containing each a 9-inch gun, and the intermediate one an 8-inch. On the opposite side the approaches were defended by a line of trenches a mile in length, beginning at the fort and terminating in an impassable swamp. [See map and cuts, pp. 452, 453.] In the main work and in the trenches were mounted fourteen lighter pieces, several of them rifled. Two or three outlying works were built on the levee below the fort, but these were exposed to an enfilading fire from the gun-boats, and at the first attack by the latter were promptly abandoned.

On the afternoon and night of the 10th, the army marched up past the abandoned outworks, and took position about one thousand yards from the fort. On the afternoon of the same day the three iron-clads advanced to within 300 or 400 yards of the fort and opened with their heavy guns. When they had become hotly engaged, Porter moved up the Black Hawk and the Lexington, together with the light-draughts, which threw in a destructive fire of shrapnel and rifle-shells. When the guns on the river-side had been partly silenced, Lieutenant-Commander Smith in the Rattler was ordered to pass the fort and enfilade it, which he did in a very gallant and handsome manner. The Rattler suffered somewhat, being raked by a heavy shell, and having her cabin knocked to pieces. After passing the fort she was entangled in the snags above and obliged to return. As night came on and the troops were not yet in position, the vessels were withdrawn, and tied up to the bank below. [561]

The next day at 1 o'clock the army was reported ready, and the fleet moved up to a second attack. The same disposition was made of the vessels. All of the casemate-guns were silenced, No. 3, which was in the casemate assigned to the Cincinnati, being reduced to a complete wreck. At the same time the troops gradually advanced, and were just preparing for a final assault, when white flags were run up all along the works. Lieutenant Dunnington surrendered to Porter, and General Churchill to McClernand.

On the 30th of January Grant assumed command of the army before Vicks-burg. The enemy's right flank rested on the Yazoo Valley, a vast tract of partly overflowed country, oval in shape, two hundred miles long, and intersected by innumerable streams and bayous. This oval valley was bounded by the Mississippi on the west, and on the north, east, and south by what was in reality one long stream, known in its successive parts as the Coldwater, Tallahatchie, and Yazoo rivers. The bounding streams made the valley almost an island, the only break in their continuity being at the northern end of the valley, at Yazoo Pass, a bayou which had formerly connected the Coldwater with the Mississippi, but which had been closed by the erection of a levee several years before. The greater part of the valley was impassable for troops, and the streams were deemed impassable for vessels. The district was a rich storehouse of Confederate supplies, which were carried in small vessels through obscure passages and channels to Yazoo City, and thence to Vicksburg. At Yazoo City also, protected from assault by torpedoes and by the forts at Haynes's Bluff, was a large navy-yard, where several gun-boats were in course of erection.

Porter's plan was to cut the levee at Yazoo Pass, thus restoring the entrance and raising the water in the rivers, and by this means to get in the rear of Yazoo City before the enemy could prepare his defenses. Involving, as it did, a circuit of some two hundred miles through the tributary streams in the enemy's country, it was an audacious and original conception, but still a sagacious piece of naval strategy.

General Grant adopted the plan, and on the 2d of February the work of cutting the levee was begun by Colonel James Harrison Wilson of the Engineers. On the evening of the 3d a mine was exploded in the remaining portion of the embankment, and the waters of the Mississippi rushed through in a torrent, cutting a passage forty yards wide, and sweeping everything before them. The difference in the levels was eight or nine feet, and some days elapsed before the new entrance was practicable for vessels. The first reconnoissance developed the fact that the Confederates had already been vigilant enough to block the way to the Coldwater by felling trees on the banks of the Pass. The removal of these occasioned a further delay of two weeks, when time was of great importance.

The naval expedition, which was commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Watson Smith, was composed of two iron-clads, the Chillicothe, Lieutenant-Commander James P. Foster, and the DeKalb, Lieutenant-Commander John G. Walker, and the tin-clads Rattler, Forest Rose, Romeo, Marmora, Signal, and Petrel. To these were added two vessels of the ram fleet, the Fulton and [562] Lioness. The only troops at first ordered to accompany the vessels were four thousand men comprising the division under Brigadier-General L. F. Ross, which, being delayed by the want of boats, only left Helena on the 23d, arriving a week later at the Coldwater. Meantime, as the feasibility of the project became more apparent, Grant enlarged his plan, and McPherson's corps,

The “Blackhawk,” Admiral Porter's flag-ship, Vicksburg, 1863.

about 30,000 men, was ordered up, but, owing to delays, only a small part of this force under Brigadier-General I. F. Quinby took part in the movement.

On the 28th of February Smith's flotilla reached the Coldwater. Notwithstanding the work which had been done by the army pioneers in removing obstructions, the progress of the flotilla had been excessively slow,--hardly more than three miles a day. The tortuous windings of the stream, which imposed the utmost caution on the vessels navigating them in a swift [563] current, and the overhanging branches of the dense growth of trees lining the banks, which damaged the smoke-stacks and light upper works, made the passage slow and difficult, and caused a number of mishaps. There appears to be little doubt, however, that if the gun-boats had been pushed they might have got on considerably faster, perhaps with a saving of three or four days. In the Coldwater they made better time, though still moving slowly, and they only reached the Tallahatchie on the 6th of March. After four days more of rather dilatory navigation, they arrived at the junction of the Tallahatchie and the Yazoo. The transports were close behind them.

The Confederates had put to the fullest use the time given them by Smith's dilatory advance. A hastily constructed work of earth and cotton bales, called Fort Pemberton, was thrown up at the junction of the Tallahatchie and Yazoo, and though barely completed when the gun-boats arrived, it was armed and garrisoned, and in condition to receive them. The old Star of the West, of Fort Sumter fame, was sunk in the river as an obstruction. [See p. 550.] The Chillicothe and DeKalb attacked the fort on three different days, but their guns alone were not enough to reduce it, and the troops under Ross could find no firm ground for a landing. The Chillicothe was badly racked by the enemy's fire, showing plainly her defective construction. Smith, who had started on the expedition in failing health, was now sent back in the Rattler (he died shortly after), and the command of the vessels fell to Foster of the Chillicothe. Finding that nothing more could be accomplished, Foster decided to return. On the way back he met General Quinby's troops descending the Tallahatchie, and at that officer's request steamed down again to Fort Pemberton. On the 5th of April the expedition withdrew, and on the 10th arrived in the Mississippi, about two months after it had started.

About the middle of March, before the Yazoo Pass expedition returned, Porter decided to try another route, through a series of narrow streams and bayous which made a circuitous connection between the Mississippi and the Sunflower, a tributary of the Yazoo River. Steele's Bayou was a sluggish stream which entered the Mississippi a few miles above the mouth of the Yazoo. Black Bayou, which was little better than a narrow ditch, connected Steele's Bayou with Deer Creek, a tortuous river with a difficult and shallow channel. A second lateral bayou, called Rolling Fork, connected Deer Creek with the Sunflower. From Rolling Fork the way was easy, but the difficulties of reaching that point were such that no commander with less than Porter's indefatigable energy and audacious readiness to take risks that promised a bare chance of success, would have ventured on the expedition.

The flotilla, consisting of the remaining five Eads gun-boats, the Carondelet, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mound City, and Pittsburgh, started on the 14th of March, Porter commanding in person, while a cooperating detachment of troops under Sherman marched through the swamps. After overcoming obstacles that would have been insurmountable to almost any other commander, it arrived early at Rolling Fork. Here Porter was attacked by a small force, which was evidently only the advance-guard of a large army on [564] its way up from Vicksburg. Sherman could not come to his assistance, being himself entangled in the swamp. At the same time Porter learned that detached parties of the enemy were felling trees in his rear, which would shortly render the bayous impassable, and place his five iron-clads in a position from which they could not be extricated. Under these circumstances, he wisely abandoned all thought of farther advance, and after dropping down Deer Creek until he fell in with the army, he succeeded, notwithstanding the additional obstructions which had been placed in the rivers, in retracing his course; and on the 24th of March, after almost incredible difficulties, his iron-clads arrived safe in the Mississippi.

While the two expeditions were at work in the Yazoo Valley, a series of detached operations had been going on below Vicksburg. The portion of the river that was virtually held by the enemy, from Vicksburg to Port Hudson, included the outlet of the Red River, by which provisions and stores from Louisiana and Texas, arms and ammunition from the Rio Grande, and detachments of men, were forwarded through the trans-Mississippi country. On the 2d of February Porter sent the Queen of the West, under Colonel Charles R. Ellet, to the Red River. Her passage of the Vicksburg batteries alone and by daylight — for her start had been delayed for necessary repairs — was made in the true Ellet fashion. She was struck thrice before she got abreast of the town. At this point she turned and delivered a ram-thrust at the enemy's steamer Vicksburg, which lay at one of the wharves, and damaged her badly; a second attempt to ram was prevented by a conflagration in the cotton bales which Ellet had placed around his deck. These were quickly pitched overboard, the ram dashed past the lower batteries, and though struck a dozen times by the enemy's shot, in an hour or two she was ready for active operations and started down the river.

For once the Confederates were fairly taken by surprise, and before they knew of his approach, Ellet had run down one hundred miles to the Red River and pounced upon three heavily laden store-ships. These were burned, and the Queen, ascending again until near Vicksburg, coaled from a barge which Porter had set adrift the night before, and which had passed the batteries without mishap. A tender was also found in the De Soto, a little ferry-boat captured by the army. With her the Queen started on February 10th on a second raid, burning and destroying as occasion offered. Without meeting any serious opposition, this novel expedition proceeded down the Mississippi, up the Red River, down the Atchafalaya, and back again, then farther up the Red River. The Confederate ram Webb, which was regarded as its most dangerous antagonist, was nowhere to be seen. But the catastrophe was coming. On the 14th, some fifty miles from the river-mouth, Ellet captured a transport, the Era No. 5. Leaving her at this point, the Queen hastened up again, followed by the De Soto, but in rounding a bend of the river she ran aground under a 4-gun battery, whose fire made havoc with her, finally cutting her steam-pipe. Part of the crew made for the De Soto in a boat, and the remainder, Ellet among them, jumped overboard on cotton bales, and drifted down the stream. Upon reaching the Era, the De Soto, [565] which had lost her rudder, was burned, the floating contingent was picked up, and the prize, now manned by the crews of the abandoned vessels, made her way to the Mississippi.

Shortly before this Porter had sent down the iron-clad Indianola, under Lieutenant-Commander George Brown, to support Ellet in his isolated position. She had passed Vicksburg and Warrenton at night without a scratch, and descending the river met the Era coming up. Both vessels continued on their way, the Era to Vicksburg, and the Indianola to the mouth of Red River, where she lay for three days. She then moved up toward Vicksburg, the two coal barges which she had brought with her being lashed alongside. While she was working slowly up, the Confederates, who had meantime repaired the Queen, fitted out an expedition composed of their prize, together with the Webb and two cotton-clad steamers. These followed the Indianola and overtook her a short distance below Warrenton. Engaging

The Union vessels “Mississippi” and “Winona” at Baton Rouge.

her at night, which gave them peculiar advantages, they succeeded in ramming her seven times, disabling her steering gear, and opening at last one great hole in her side. The Union vessel, reduced to a sinking condition, was then run ashore and surrendered.

A day or two later, Porter, whose buoyancy of spirit never deserted him, set adrift from his anchorage a dummy-monitor, constructed out of a coal-barge surmounted by barrels. The incident was in the nature of a stupendous joke, but it had very practical results. The dummy passed the Vicksburg batteries under a terrific fire. When the Queen of the West, acting as a picket to the grounded Indianola, saw this new antagonist coming she only stopped to give the alarm, and fled down the river. The supposed monitor stuck fast a mile or two above the Indianola, but the Confederate officer in charge of the work on board the latter did not wait for an attack, but set fire to the recent prize, which was in great part destroyed. [566]

Less than three weeks after, on the 14th of March, Farragut ran the batteries at Port Hudson.3 Most of his fleet, including the Richmond, Monongahela, Genesee, and Kineo, failed to get through, and the Mississippi was burnt;4 but the Hartford and Albatross made the passage, and, coming up to Vicksburg, communicated with the vessels above. At Farragut's request, General Ellet sent two of his rams, the Lancaster and Switzerland, to join the Hartford. The Lancaster was sunk in passing the batteries, but the Switzerland managed to get through. From this time the Union forces retained control of the mouth of the Red River and the adjacent waters of the Mississippi.

The navy was now called upon to cooperate with General Grant's plan of attacking Vicksburg by the left and rear. Porter rapidly made his preparations to descend the river, and on the night of April 16th started with seven of his iron-clads, the Benton, Lafayette, and Tuscumbia, and the Eads gun-boats Carondelet, Louisville, Mound City, and Pittsburgh. The ram General Price and three transports laden with stores accompanied the fleet. The passage was one of the most brilliant and successful of the many dashes of this kind that were made on the river. Some of the vessels lost the coal-barges which they carried alongside, and all met with various mischances and damages, but the only casualty of importance was the sinking of one of the transports. About a week later six more transports ran the batteries. Of these also one was sunk.

From now on to the fall of Vicksburg, for over two months, Porter was in command of three detached fleets, acting from three distinct bases of operation--one the squadron which had remained above Vicksburg, and which was [567] now to operate along the Yazoo River, the second that which had passed the batteries and was occupied with the river from Vicksburg 25 miles or more to Grand Gulf, and the third the vessels in Red River. Porter moved from one to the other as occasion required. His first duty lay at Grand Gulf, which was really the southern extremity of the Vicksburg forts. The batteries were well armed, and one hundred or more feet above the river. On the 29th of April the seven iron-clads of the lower fleet engaged them for four hours, silencing them, but not destroying the guns. As the elevation of the batteries made it impossible for the fleet to capture them, the army was landed lower down the river, which resulted in the evacuation of Grand Gulf on the 3d of May.5

As Grant advanced into the interior, Porter turned his attention to the Red River. For the last fortnight Farragut had been blockading the river with [568]

Battle of Grand Gulf (Second position).

the Hartford and Albatross, a service of great importance in view of the active operations on foot along the river, and at the end of that time he was joined by a detached force of gun-boats which had been operating in the Teche, and which had reached Red River through the Atchafalaya. Banks was then moving against Alexandria, and a light squadron was formed to go up and cooperate with him. At this juncture Porter arrived with three ironclads, and with these and a part of Farragut's detached squadron he steamed up to Alexandria, where Banks arrived on May 7th. After clearing out the Red River and its tributary the Black, and destroying much property, the expedition returned, Banks going to Port Hudson and Porter returning to his old station above Vicksburg.

The Yazoo River now became for a short time the central point of Porter's operations. Nothing had been done there since December except a demonstration during the attack of April 29-30 on Grand Gulf, which, though conducted with spirit and gallantry, was really only a feint to prevent the enemy from reenforcing his works below Vicksburg. In the fortnight that had elapsed, however, Grant's environment of the town on the east had cut off Haynes's Bluff and the whole Yazoo Valley above it. Porter immediately sent up the De Kalb, Choctaw, and four light-draughts under Lieutenant-Commander [569] K. R. Breese to open communication. Pushing on to Haynes's Bluff the De Kalb, Lieutenant-Commander John G. Walker, in advance, it was found that evacuation had already begun, and the small force left in the works hastily abandoned them. The fortifications were of great strength and covered a large area. On the 20th Walker with the De Kalb and Choctaw and three of the light-draughts, steamed up to Yazoo City. The work of destruction, begun by the retreating enemy, was completed by the gun-boats. The navy-yard, a large and well-equipped establishment, and the only one now remaining to the Confederates, with its mills and machine-shops and its stores of lumber, was burned, as were also three formidable vessels then in course of construction. A second expedition under Walker, a few days later, struck out into the tributary streams, the Sunflower, Rolling Fork, and the smaller bayous, burning the transports that had taken refuge there. Several steamers were sunk by the enemy on Walker's approach, and three were captured and burnt by his vessels. Navigation in the Yazoo Valley was broken up, and the destruction of military supplies and provisions was enormous.

During Grant's assault on the 22d of May, the fleet below Vicksburg kept up a heavy fire on the hill and water batteries, and during the siege the mortar-boats were incessantly at work, shelling the city and the batteries. From time to time the gun-boats joined in the bombardment, notably on May 27th and June 20th. On the first of these occasions, the Cincinnati, Lieutenant George M. Bache, engaged alone the battery on Fort Hill, the principal work above Vicksburg, while the other iron-clads, under Commander Woodworth, were similarly occupied below. The fire from the upper battery was too much for the Cincinnati, which sank not far from the shore, losing a considerable number of her crew. On the second occasion three heavy guns mounted on scows were placed in position on the point opposite Vicksburg, where they did good execution under Lieutenant-Commander F. M. Ramsay, enfilading the rifle-pits in front of Sherman's position and rendering them untenable. The lower squadron also took part in this bombardment. In addition to the work of the squadron afloat, when the army called for siege-guns thirteen heavy cannon were landed from the gun-boats and placed in position in the rear of Vicksburg, where they were constantly and efficiently worked by naval crews, first under Selfridge, and later under Walker. At the same time the squadron was engaged in the duty of patrolling the rivers, keeping open lines of communication, convoying transports, and cooperating with troops in beating off the enemy at detached points.

On the 25th of May Banks, who had returned with his army from Alexandria, had invested Port Hudson, which had been subjected for several nights previous to a bombardment from the Essex and the mortar flotilla, under Commander Caldwell. During the month of June a naval battery of 9-inch guns, under Lieutenant-Commander Edward Terry of the Richmond, rendered efficient service in the siege operations. On the 9th of July Port Hudson surrendered and the Mississippi was now clear of obstructions to its mouth.

Besides the main operations at Vicksburg and Port Hudson, the navy had been occupied from time to time in detached bodies at other points. A cut-off, [570] at the mouth of the Arkansas, ingeniously made by Selfridge in April, had contributed materially to the facility of operations at that place. In May Lieutenant-Commander Wilson in the Mound City effectually destroyed a water-battery at Warrenton. In June an attack was made on Milliken's Bend by Confederate troops from Arkansas under Taylor, and the garrison was driven from their works to the levee. At this critical moment Ramsay, in the Choctaw, turned his guns on the successful assailants, and though

Lieutenant-commander James M. Prichett. From a photograph.

unable to see the enemy on account of the intervening bank, he hailed the troops on shore to ascertain their position; and so well placed were the hundred or more shell and shrapnel that he fired that the Confederates were soon in full retreat.

Finally, on the 4th of July, the day of the fall of Vicksburg, General Holmes made his attack on Helena [see pp. 455-6] with a force of about 8000 men, then garrisoned by 4000 under B. M. Prentiss. The enemy had placed batteries in opposition above and below the town, and, making a spirited attack in front, succeeded in carrying a portion of the outlying works. The garrison fought stubbornly, but were heavily out-numbered. The wooden gun-boat Tyler, under Lieutenant-Commander James M. Prichett, had been covering the approach by the old town road, but seeing the strategic points of the enemy's position, Prichett with masterly skill placed his vessel where her bow and stern guns could reach the batteries above and below, while her broadside enfiladed the ravines down which the enemy was pouring in masses. The gun-boat's rapid discharge of shrapnel and shell told heavily upon the Confederates, who, after sustaining it for a time, fled in disorder, Prentiss's men pursuing them with the bayonet. The destructive fire of the Tyler caused an unusually severe loss.

The fall of Vicksburg was followed by successful gun-boat raids, one in July under Selfridge in the Red, Black, and Tensas rivers, the other in August under Bache in White River. General Herron and Lieutenant-Commander Walker also proceeded up the Yazoo and retook Yazoo City, but with the loss of the De Kalb, destroyed by torpedoes near Yazoo City. [See p. 580.] The vessel sank in fifteen minutes, but all hands were saved. Porter accepted the misfortune with that true understanding of the business of war which had been the secret of so much of his success — that without taking risks you cannot achieve results.

1 Lieutenant-Colonel Alfred W. Ellet soon after received a brigadier-general's commission, with instructions to organize and equip the Mississippi Marine Brigade for future work in patrolling the river. He also received commissions for such of his men as he chose to recommend. Charles Rivers Ellet, though but nineteen years of age, received a colonel's commission, and succeeded to the command of the ram fleet w hich his father, Charles Ellet, Jr., had created.--Edttors.

2 In a note to the editors Admiral Walke states:

When the Tyler was passing the Carondelet, I hailed the commander of the Tyler, and ordered him to go down to our fleet and report the arrival of the Arkansas; but the Tyler ran under the protection of the Carondelet. The latter, while advancing, fired several rounds of her bow-guns and all her starboard broadside guns at the Arkansas, which, returning the fire, raked the Carondelet from stem to stern, striking her forward three times. One shot glanced on the forward plating, one went through it and broke up, one from forward passed through the officers' rooms on the starboard side, and through the captain's cabin. Being a stern-wheel boat, the Carondelet required room and time to turn around. To avoid being sunk immediately, she turned and retreated. I was not such a simpleton as to ‘take the bull by the horns,’ to be fatally ramnlmed, and sacrifice my command through fear of the criticisms of any man, or the vaunting opinion of much less-experienced officers. If I had continued fighting, bows on, in that narrow river, a collision, which the enemy desired, would have been inevitable, and would have sunk the Carondelet in a few minutes.

3 In a letter to the editors Rear-Admiral T. A. Jenkins says, in reference to Farragut's plan of an attack on Port Hudson:

The great importance, not to say necessity, of co-operation by a part of the military forces, in so far, at the least, as to cause a diversion upon the enemy's rear, was decided upon, whereupon the commanding general (Banks) was conferred with with great frequency, until at last in the early part of March, 1863, it was arranged that a considerable force (8000 or 10,000) of all arms should rendezvous at Baton Rouge, preparatory to moving to the rear of the Port Hudson works, a little time before the vessels should move from Poplar Island, which lay just out of range of the Port Hudson heavy guns. After a review of the military forces at Baton Rouge, and after Admiral Farragut had attended to the minutest details of inspection of the vessels,--the removal of the sick, the necessary changes of officers and men, and last, but most difficult at that time, the employment of a sufficient number of competent river pilots,--the vessels got under way in their usual order of steaming, led by the Hartford, and stood up to Poplar Island, where the Essex and the bomb-vessels were lying. During a brief stay here, the commanders of the vessels were called on board and their instructions were repeated to them. Every contingency, even the most minute, every casualty that could or might happen, was discussed, and proposed remedies pointed out. On the night of the 14th of March, at dark, everything was prepared for a quiet, and it was hoped unperceived, movement of the vessels up the river. Near the last moment before the actual firing commenced, Admiral Farragut's attention was called to an approaching river steamer with flaring lights and steam-whistles blowing. He was calm, but the lights and noise of the little steamer ruffled him a good deal. He saw at once that the enemy's attention had been specially called to him and his little squadron. The comnander of the steamer came within speaking distance, reporting that General Banks's army was within ‘five miles of the rear of the Port Hudson works.’ That was all. The Hartford moved up against a current of three to five knots, while her greatest speed was not exceeding seven knots. The noise and flaring lights of the messenger steamer had evidently put the enemy on both sides of the river on the alert, for a shot from one of the enemy's lower batteries soon whistled harmlessly overhead, and, as if by magic, at the next moment the piles of pine-knots placed on the right bank of the river blazed up, illuminating for a time the entire breadth of the river, making the dark hulls of the vessels as they passed between the immense piles of burning pine a target for the Port Hudson gunners. The smoke of the guns in battery and on shipboard soon obscured these lights, and the darkness of Erebus and the noises of Pandemonium followed and continued, until the Hartford, with her little cockle-shell consort (the Albatross) anchored out of range of the enemy's guns, abreast of a huge pine-knot fire, to which the rebels before leaving added a small wooden building.

4 The Mississippi passed the lower batteries, but, running at high speed, struck on the spit opposite Port Hudson. Failing after half an hour to get her off, and being under fire of three batteries, Captain Melancton Smith had the sick and wounded taken off with the crew, and then set fire to the ship. At 3 A. M. she floated off, drifting through the fleet, and half an hour later blew up.--editors.

5 Rear-Admiral Henry Walke writes as follows to the editors regarding this engagement, in which he commanded the Lafayette:

To one approaching Grand Gulf on the river from the northward, six miles above, Bald Head presents a very formidable appearance. Rising abruptly 180 feet, surrounded by hills higher still, and with the wide gulf beneath, it is not unlike a little Gibraltar, as it is called. Here the river turns due west, and the principal fortification was on the Point of Rocks, a precipitous bluff about fifty feet high, at the foot of Bald Head. Three-quarters of a mile east of it is the mouth of Big Black River, which was defended with two 8-inch Columbiads. Here the gulf is about a mile and a half wide, and two hundred yards north or in front of the Point of Rocks there is a shoal which becomes an island at low water. The lower fort of heavy guns was three-quarters of a mile west of Bald Head and four hundred yards from the river, and sixty feet above the river at its ordinary level. The battery on the Point of Rocks mounted two 100-pounder rifles, one 64-pounder shell gun, and one 30-pounder rifle. A sunken road connected this fort with the batteries below. Seven or eight guns of smaller and various caliber were mounted on high points between them. The lower fort mounted one 100-pounder rifle, two 8-inch shell guns, and two 32-pounders.

The fleet, under Rear-Admiral Porter, got into line at 7:30 A. M. of the 29th, steaming down to the Grand Gulf batteries, the Pittsburgh, Lieutenant W. R. Hoel, leading; then the Louisville, Lieutenant-Commander E. K. Owen; Carondelet, Lieutenant J. M. Murphy; Mound City, Lieutenant-Commander Byron Wilson (attacking the lower batteries); Lafayette, Captain Henry Walke; Benton (flag-ship), Lieutenant J. A. Greer, and Tuscumbia, Lieutenant-Commander J. W. Shirk; steaming slowly with a current of five or six knots, 150 yards apart and 100 yards from the shore, except the Lafayette, which rounded to above the fort on the Point of Rocks, ran into the shoal water, and took a flanking position 600 yards north-east from it. The battle was commenced by the leading gun-boat, Pittsburgh, at 7:55 A. M.; the other gun-boats followed in succession four minutes after. All the gun-boats fired into the upper fort with their bow and broadside guns as they passed up or down. The Pittsburgh rounded to opposite the battery of light guns half-way between the upper and lower batteries; the Louisville next below, the Carondelet next, opposite the lower battery, and the Mound City just below the lower battery. The flag-steamer Benton and the Tuscumbia gallantly opened fire close under the Point of Rocks at 8:15 with their bow and broadside guns, rounded to, heading up the river, the enemy firing on them with musketry. At 9 a shell entered the Benton's starboard quarter, setting her on fire; it was soon extinguished. At 9:05 a shell from No. 5 gun carried away the enemy's flag-staff; at 10 the admiral made signal for the Lafayette to assist the boats below; at 10:10 the Benton was caught in the eddy; in turning around she dropped fifteen hundred yards and then ran into shore to turn around with her head up stream; continuing the engagement, she steamed up to the batteries on the bluffs again. At 12:25 the Benton went up the river to communicate with General Grant, who was on a tug above with three of McClernand's divisions on transports.

In the engagement the Benton fired 347 shot and shell, and was struck 47 times, nearly every shot penetrating her iron plating. The Tuscumbia, following the Benton, engaged the upper batteries until noon. She was obliged to drop out of action about noon, and landed about four miles below Grand Gulf, having been struck by shot, shell, grape, and shrapnel eighty-one times, two shells having exploded inside her turret. As the Lafayette approached the upper battery at 8:15 A. M., ahead of the Benton and Tuscumbia, she fired 11-inch and 9-inch shell into it, but in turning to take her position on the other side of the port, she was whirled around so quickly between the swift current and the counter-current, that her gunners could not get good aim with broadside guns, but as soon as she turned her 100-pounder rifles on the battery in a flanking position in the eddy, every shell seemed to strike the mark; but even there it was difficult to hold her steady for good aim. After firing 35 rounds, about 9 A. M. her 11-inch bow guns were turned upon the fort and fired with such precision that we expected to silence it, as their fire was dying away. This was the position our whole squadron should have taken, but it was not known that that part of the gulf was navigable. The heaviest guns of the enemy could point to the northward and westward, but not to the eastward, where the Lafayette was exempt from that terrible battering which the Benton and Tuscumbia received, while they were revolving at the mercy of the currents, in constant danger of running ashore.

At 9:20 A. M. the admiral made a preconcerted signal for the Lafayette to go to the assistance of the gun-boats at the lower batteries, thinking no doubt that his two heaviest vessels could silence the upper fort. This move was not after the lower batteries were silenced (as has been stated), but about two hours before. The Lafayette proceeded immediately with all speed and rounded to about 10 A. M. opposite the lower battery. She joined battle with the gun-boats there, firing her 11-inch shell from her bow guns into it and to bring her head up stream and her starboard side guns to bear on it quickly. The pilot ran her low into the bank of the river under the fort. She continued firing with the starboard broad-side guns within five hundred yards of the lower fort, and with the other gun-boats continued firing on the lower batteries, enfilading the upper fort until 11:30, when the lower batteries were silenced, and all the gun-boats, except the Pittsburgh, steamed close to and passed the Point of Rocks (which had not been silenced), raking it with their bow guns. The Benton had just then gone up the river.

The remainder of the squadron continued firing on the upper fort. The Lafayette took her former position, flanking the fort. The Louisville, Mound City, and Carondelet steamed around in a circle, firing as they bore in front of the fort. The Pittsburgh remained in her original position, raking it with her bow guns from the west. The enemy, thus involved, fought desperately to the last; their guns, ceasing one by one at long intervals, were at last silent; whereupon the admiral made signal for his squadron to follow his motions. But the fort, as if to give us notice that it was not silenced, fired the last gun after we had started to go up the river.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Vicksburg (Mississippi, United States) (43)
Red River (Texas, United States) (11)
White River (Arkansas, United States) (10)
Yazoo City (Mississippi, United States) (9)
Grand Gulf (Mississippi, United States) (9)
Yazoo River (United States) (8)
Port Hudson (Louisiana, United States) (8)
Helena, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (6)
St. Charles, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (5)
Cairo, Ill. (Illinois, United States) (5)
Baton Rouge (Louisiana, United States) (5)
Arkansas (Arkansas, United States) (5)
Rolling Fork (Mississippi, United States) (4)
Montgomery (Alabama, United States) (4)
Warrenton (Virginia, United States) (3)
Deer Creek (Mississippi, United States) (3)
Bald Head (Maine, United States) (3)
Yazoo Pass (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Texas (Texas, United States) (2)
Steele's Bayou (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Poplar Island (West Virginia, United States) (2)
Mississippi (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Milliken's Bend (Louisiana, United States) (2)
Louisiana (Louisiana, United States) (2)
Greenwood (Mississippi, United States) (2)
Arkansas (United States) (2)
Twisty Bayou (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Tensas River (Alabama, United States) (1)
Tallahatchie River (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (1)
Natchitoches (Louisiana, United States) (1)
Jacksonport (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Island Number Ten (Missouri, United States) (1)
Gibralter (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Fort Hill (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Enfield (Massachusetts, United States) (1)
Coldwater (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Clarendon, Ark. (Arkansas, United States) (1)
Charleston (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Black Bayou (Mississippi, United States) (1)
Big Black (Mississippi, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William D. Porter (31)
D. G. Farragut (27)
Charles Henry Davis (17)
A. M. Williams (11)
Ulysses S. Grant (9)
Graham N. Fitch (9)
Charles R. Ellet (9)
Alfred W. Ellet (9)
John W. Dunnington (9)
John G. Walker (8)
Henry Walke (8)
Joseph Fry (8)
Watson Smith (6)
Nathaniel P. Banks (6)
David D. Porter (5)
William T. Sherman (4)
T. O. Selfridge (4)
A. H. Kilty (4)
James M. Prichett (3)
John A. McClernand (3)
Thomas C. Hindman (3)
William Gwin (3)
James P. Foster (3)
A. W. Ellet (3)
George M. Bache (3)
S. E. Woodworth (2)
Byron Wilson (2)
James W. Shirk (2)
L. F. Ross (2)
F. M. Roby (2)
F. M. Ramsay (2)
B. M. Prentiss (2)
S. L. Phelps (2)
Elias K. Owen (2)
Hollins (2)
W. R. Hoel (2)
H. W. Halleck (2)
Eads (2)
Greely S. Curtis (2)
Thomas J. Churchill (2)
K. R. Breese (2)
Charles R. Woods (1)
John A. Winslow (1)
Winona (1)
James Harrison Wilson (1)
Edward Terry (1)
Constantine Taylor (1)
James Russell Soley (1)
Melancton Smith (1)
Benjamin F. Rodgers (1)
W. B. Renshaw (1)
Isaac F. Quinby (1)
I. F. Quinby (1)
Robert F. Pinkney (1)
Parrott (1)
J. M. Murphy (1)
S. B. Morgan (1)
James B. McPherson (1)
Kennon McElroy (1)
Stephen D. Lee (1)
Thornton A. Jenkins (1)
Theophilus H. Holmes (1)
Francis J. Herron (1)
J. A. Greer (1)
Foote (1)
Charles Ellet (1)
John H. Duble (1)
C. Dominy (1)
Caleb Davis (1)
Charles (1)
John C. Caldwell (1)
W. R. Butler (1)
George Brown (1)
Aaron Brown (1)
John C. Breckinridge (1)
Chickasaw Bluffs (1)
G. W. Blodgett (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: