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aliases of Black Bayou, Deer Creek, Rolling Fork, and Big Sunflower. Grant accompanied Admiral Porter on a reconnoissance on the 15th of March. On the 16th, he sent forward Sherman and a division of troops.
He ardently hoped, not only to relieve Ross, but to find some base from which to prosecute his campaign on dry land.
Sherman's troops were sent up the Mississippi, on transports, to Eagle Bend; marched about a mile over to the transports in the bayou, building bridges across
The gunboats became entangled in the drift-timber, and could with difficulty force their way along, sometimes moving only four miles in twenty-four hours. Trees had to be pulled up by the roots, stumps sawed off under water. The bayous were crooked, covered with a thicket of trees overhead, and filled with saplings in the channels. With incredible difficulty, they advanced slowly ; but it was found, at last, that the troops must be disembarked from the transports, and put on coal-barges and tugs, the way for steamers becoming impassable. The progress of the infantry was now much slower than that of the naval vessels; and Admiral Porter arrived at Rolling Fork, March 30, much in advance of the troops. The rebels here were felling trees across the stream in great numbers, and compelling slaves to aid them at the point of the bayonet: they were doing the same farther down in the rear of the boats. The labor of removing these obstructions was pursued day and night, under fire of a cloud of sharpshooters, and was toilsome beyond description. The heavy guns of the little fleet were not available in such a warfare to any great extent. It became appar
ent that the fleet was in danger; and Admiral Porter sent word by a slave, who succeeded in making his way thirty miles back to Sherman, to come to his support. The promptitude of Blucher's movements gave him among
the Prussian soldiers the name of 6. Marshal Forwards." A like spirit was in Sherman. It was night when this message came; but at once the army was started, and moved up along the narrow, slimy, treacherous path, on the river's bank, through almost impenetrable canebrakes, guided by lighted torches; the indomitable general leading the way. It was the first “ torchlight procession " ever seen in that desolate region. He found Porter's boats about three feet below the river bank, unable to reach the rebel force, and their sharpshooters, of whom there were about four thousand, and a battery of artillery, in the swamps. But Sherman's men soon changed the appear
. ance of all this, drove off the enemy, and saved the fleet.
But it was found necessáry to abandon the route. The character of the country, the blockading of the creek by the rebels, now thoroughly aroused to the importance of the movement, compelled a return of the expedition. The gunboats unshipped their rudders, and backed down the narrow streams, where there was not room to swing around; and, thumping over the trees, finally returned in safety to their starting-point. Grant had ordered a concentration of forces at Milliken's Bend; and by the last of March the army were back there, baffled in their main object, it is true, but hardened by exposure, better acquainted with the difficulties to be encountered, and commander and men inflexible in their determination to take Vicksburg.
All the elaborate and laborious schemes to take the city, some five in number, had failed; the rebels were jubilant, but still continued to strengthen the place by every means known and unknown to military science; the administration was discouraged; the Western State authorities were impatient. Grant had been compelled at times to stop all letters between the army and friends at home, lest the mails should be captured, and reveal to the enemy
the location and movements of his forces. At these times, the anxiety of friends at home colored their fears. It was said the soldiers were dying by thousands in those pestilential swamps: fevers, dysenteries, and exposure were destroying what rebel rifles left in those impenetrable morasses, fit only for snakes and reptiles, and inaccessible to any ministrations to the sick and wounded. Grant was, after all, a failure. He had been “ lucky,” it was said, at Donelson and Corinth ; but he had “ taken to drinking,” and should be removed. He still said quietly, “ I shall take Vicksburg;” but this was regarded as mulish and unreasoning obstinacy, and only showed more clearly the necessity for removing him. The newspapers were filled with the spirit of these criticisms; and they produced, of course, a powerful influence at Washington; and various officers were urged for appointment as his successor.
And now was seen the sense of justice, and the marvellous power to judge of men, surpassing intuition, possessed by Abraham Lincoln. A strong friend of Gen. Grant, a member of Congress, who had been moved by these representations, but who now despaired of his success, called on the President to acknowledge, from a sense of duty, that the condition of affairs
required another commander at Vicksburg. He received this answer: "I rather like the man. I think we will try him a little longer.” This was not the least of the services which the beloved President rendered to the country. Meanwhile, Grant, though appreciating all the circumstances, preserved his usual silence: he transmitted regularly his official reports to the War Department; but he did not write, nor cause to be written, long arguments to show that Vicksburg ought to have fallen, and would have fallen, "if" the government had sustained him, had sent him more re-enforcements, or “if” this or that had been otherwise. He accepted the facts without any “ ifs.” In his own mind, he had never had great confidence in the success of any of these plans, though they might succeed. But the army
could not remain idle; and the summer droughts were needed to carry out the other plans he had long contemplated.
The natural situation of Vicksburg, and the topography of the country around it, were its defences, as well as the skill, science, and courage of its defenders. It seemed to be, as Davis had pronounced it, “ the Gibraltar of America.” The European press re-echoed the censures of American journals. The administration telegraphed that “the President was getting impatient.”
But, April 4, Grant telegraphed to Halleck, “ The discipline and health of this army is now good, and I am satisfied the greatest confidence of success prevails." And success came.
RUNNING THE BATTERIES.
HE failure of the many attempts on Vicksburg had
one good effect: it showed to the mind of the commander how it could not be taken, and so reduced the remaining alternatives from which a selection could be made.
Grant's army was at Milliken's Bend, on the west side of the Mississippi, above Vicksburg. His plan was to march the army down to New Carthage, cut a canal through the bayous, put the troops on barges and empty coal-boats, which should be drawn by tugs to some point south of the citadel. But this would leave the army on the west bank of the river, with no means of crossing. But this was to be remedied by the boats above running past the batteries in the night, and then ferrying the
Good roads would give him control of the country in the rear; and he would besiege Vicksburg by land, while the gunboats should prevent relief by the river.
It is undoubtedly an immense satisfaction to a commanding officer to know that his plans will be carried out, not merely according to the letter of the law, but without a constant looking for predicted failure ; that they commend themselves to the judgment, if not to the