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Chapter 9:

Maj.-Gen. U. S. Grant assumed command of the military forces on the Mississippi in January, 1863, after McClernand, the successor of Sherman, had returned from an expedition to Arkansas Post, and he brought to the aid of the army which had met defeat at Chickasaw Bayou the forces he had withdrawn from northern Mississippi.

The Federal commander reported that the defenders of Vicksburg had thoroughly fortified the bluffs from Haynes' Bluff on the Yazoo down past Vicksburg to where the bluffs recede from the river. He landed his force mainly at Young's Point, and then set about experimenting in the hope of finding, amid the flood of water which filled the river bayous and swamps, some dry and practicable landing-place which might serve as a desirable base of operations. He was compelled to abandon a plan to land at Milliken's Bend and turn the Confederate fortifications at Haynes' Bluff, by the flooded condition of the intervening country.

Two ways of approach from the north to the Yazoo remained, one through Yazoo Pass, the Coldwater and the Tallahatchie, and one through Steele's bayou and Deer creek. An expedition of four gunboats under Commander [123] Smith, and 6,000 men on transports under General Ross, was sent to try the first, and Admiral Porter and Grant in person made a reconnoissance on Deer creek.

Work was also resumed on the old canal begun by Butler's order, and a brigade was set to work clearing out a channel by way of Lake Providence and the Tensas, and digging a second canal to open up a passage by way of Willow and Roundaway bayous. These last three passages were desired to carry the army to a safe landing-place below Vicksburg without the danger of passing the guns of the forts.

Meanwhile, to experiment on running the batteries, the ironclad Queen of the West, under Commander Ellet, who won notoriety by the first bombardment of Vicksburg, was sent down with orders to destroy a Confederate vessel before Vicksburg. He ran past successfully, but failed to injure the steamer, and then made a cruise down the river, capturing two Confederate steamers; but on going up Red river his boat was taken in very neatly by Gen. Richard Taylor. The captured ironclad, manned by Confederates, and assisted by the Webb, then attacked and sunk the Indianola near Palmyra Island. Col. Wirt Adams, Mississippi cavalry, made an ineffectual attempt to raise the latter vessel to add it to the Confederate navy. Grant's work on the canal was soon checkmated by Pemberton, who strengthened the fortifications at Warrenton.

The expedition down the Coldwater and Tallahatchie, led by the powerful ironclad Chillicothe, was met by General Loring, who constructed Fort Pemberton with cotton bales, covered with earth, on the narrow neck of land just west of Greenwood, and obstructed the Tallahatchie with a raft and the sunken steamer Star of the West. The Federal gunboats began an attack March 11th, but Loring, with some Louisiana troops and the Twentieth and Twenty-sixth Mississippi, easily held his [124] ground. The Federals were to have made a grand attack on the 16th, but a few well-placed cannon shots put the Chillicothe out of action. A day or two later, Colonel Wilson, the Federal engineer in charge, reported that ‘His Excellency Acting Rear-Admiral Commodore Smith left to-day for a more salubrious climate, very sick, giving it as his opinion that the present force of gunboats could not take the two rebel guns in front.’ But before the expedition had returned to the Mississippi it was reinforced by General Quinby with part of his division, and the entire force came back to renew the attack on Fort Pemberton, which was meanwhile reinforced by Gen. D. H. Maury with Featherston's brigade and six guns. This second attempt resulted in nothing but a bombardment of the fort during three days, and on the night of April 4th the Federals again retreated. In meeting the first attack Col. D. R. Russell, Lieut.-Col. W. N. Brown, and Capt. H. Cantey of the Twentieth, were mentioned for skillful service. Col. A. E. Reynolds and Major Liddell did enterprising duty during the second attack.

About the middle of March Admiral Porter, supported by Sherman's army corps, attempted to open up a passage by way of Steele's bayou, Black's bayou, Deer creek, Rolling Fork and Sunflower river, into the Yazoo. Col. S. W. Ferguson, with 250 sharpshooters, and a battery under Lieut. R. L. Wood, first met the expedition at the mouth of Rolling Fork, on Deer creek, and engaged the gunboats on the 20th. He was soon reinforced by General Featherston's brigade, and Major Bridges took command of the sharpshooters. The fighting continued on the 21st with small loss to the Confederates, and then Porter withdrew and abandoned the expedition. At the same time Gen. S. D. Lee was active in the work of fortifying lower Deer creek, and prepared to strike the enemy in the rear if opportunity offered.

Thus the attempts to reach Vicksburg from the north [125] were cleverly foiled, and Grant was restricted to such approaches as he might find west of the river to obtain a foothold on Mississippi soil. Unfortunately the forces of the Confederacy in Texas and Arkansas were not employed to check the movements in that direction as a few determined men had done along the line of the Yazoo.

During these early months of 1863, there had been frequent raids in

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