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teers rather than order men to the duty. But volunteers enough pressed forward to man twenty fleets. None would give way; and the places were at last assigned by lot. One boy, residing near Grant's home in Illinois, who had drawn a chance to go, was offered a hundred dollars for his place; but the post of danger was the post of honor. The boy indignantly refused the money ; took his position, like young Casabianca at the battle of the Nile, and passed bravely through.
As soon as the wants of the service were known, the army seemed to swarm with boatmen, pilots, and engineers, as the Massachusetts regiments under Butler, in their first march to Washington, furnished at moment's call men who could make steam-engines and build railroads.*
One officer wrote, that if orders were given, “ Painters, present arms !” or “Poets, to the front !” or
, “Sculptors, charge bayonets !” dozens in every company would respond. Hundreds of young men in our colleges, nurtured in wealth and luxury, flung aside their books, cheerfully endured the privations and hardships of camp-life, and in battle bore themselves with inspiring gallantry, like young Lowell, who was shot on his fourteenth charger.t.
It was the rare accomplishment in a private soldier,
* “Does any one here know any thing about this machine?” said Gen. Butler at Annapolis, when surveying a rusty and dilapidated locomotive. A soldier of the Massachusetts Eighth answered,“ Our shop made that engine, general. I guess I can put her in order and run her;" and it was done.
† “ As to the way in which some of our ensigns and lieutenants braved danger, – the boys just come from school, - it exceeds all belief. They ran as at cricket.” — Wellington on Waterloo.
of being able to write, which first made Marshal Junot known to Napoleon. But the Union army was composed of men who could fight when fighting was to be done; and it furnished sailors, scholars, engineers, mechanics, for every exigency which war could require.
It was ten o'clock at night, on the 16th, when the fleet started down the river. There was no moon. The intrepid Porter led the way in “ The Benton,” followed by “ The Lafayette,” “Carondelet,” “Pitts
“ • burg,” “ Tuscumbia," “ Price," “ Louisville," and
“ “Mound City.”
Between eleven and twelve, there was a flash on the high bluff above them; and in an instant the batteries along the whole water-front were thundering at the fleet, and kept up a terrific cannonade. The boats immediately replied with grape and shrapnel, which took effect on the city rather than on the batteries. Houses were soon blazing. The shells from the batteries lighted the hay on one or two of the large transports, the flames mounting up the sky. The transports were cut loose from the gunboats, and, floating down the river like great palaces of fire, were reflected on the dark waters beneath them. The flames, tossing and swaying in the midnight wind, looked like meteor-flags streaming out from battlement and tower. The whole heavens were lighted up
. so clearly, that the men at the guns and in the streets of Vicksburg were seen as plainly as at noonday. The population were out, watching a display of fireworks grand beyond description. For about three hours,
, nearly two hundred heavy guns were hurling their deadly missiles at the brave fleet, which passed triumphantly on.
Grant watched the operations with intense interest from a transport moored in the middle of the river, where the shot and shell fell thick about him.
Within two hours after the batteries had been passed, the whole scene was changed: the guns were silent; the dark river was flowing as peacefully, the stars were shining as brightly, as when the Indian first paddled his canoe along its waters. As
may be imagined, the fate of the expedition had been anxiously watched by McPherson's men below. The first herald was a transport burning to the water's edge, followed by the wreck of one of the barges. An old man, a wealthy rebel, on whose plantation McPherson had established his headquarters, could not conceal his delight from the Union officers, and confidently predicted the destruction of the whole Union fleet. The officers watched anxiously ; and, soon after daybreak, one gunboat after another came steaming around a bend in the river, the old flag dancing in the early sunlight; and the cheers went up loud and long. It was in a double
. sense the dawning of a new day for that brave army. But it was too much for the old rebel ; and that day, in his impotent wrath, he set fire to his splendid residence.
He had enriched himself on the unrequited toil of his slaves. The estate was one of the most princely in Louisiana. It seemed to realize Wirt's description of Blannerhassett's home: “He had reared upon it a palace, and decorated it with every embellishment of fancy. Shrubbery that Shenstone might have envied bloomed around him. Music that might have charmed Calypso and her nymphs was his.” The elegant mansion, embowered in overarching trees, was situated on
an eminence, and commanded a view of varied and surpassing loveliness. The majestic river in its windings
. seemed lingering to reflect and beautify the scene. Though spring, all around bespoke the luxury
of early The warm, genial air, vocal with song of birds, was laden with perfumes of the oleander and the blossoms of the magnolia. The broad savannas were waving with corn and cotton. Figs grew in the open air. Nature seemed here to have spread a banquet of festal glory. But, in a few hours, all was changed. The house was a mass of blackened ruins. The grounds, which had smiled with a beauty which would "re-create the lost Eden anew,” were transformed into a crowded and noisy camp.
Foolish old man ! and yet in this act, which would have been denounced as vandalism in the Union army, he but imitated the leaders of the Rebellion, who sought to make themselves the architects of a far grander ruin, the ruins of the temple of American liberty.
CROSSING THE MISSISSIPPI.
BATTLE OF PORT GIBSON.
THE troops were now to be crossed over the river
decided to land them at the most southern point of the rebel batteries, — at Grand Gulf, seventy
, five miles below Milliken's Bend. Reconnoissances had shown this to be the only practicable spot for landing. Transportation-boats were insufficient; and the army marched through mud and mire to a place appropriately called “Hard Times," opposite Grand Gulf.
The gunboats were to silence the batteries ; and then the troops, ten thousand in number, were to be crossed in such boats as there were, and carry the works at the point of the bayonet.
At eight o'clock on the morning of the 29th, the ironclads, seven in number, opened fire, and continued the bombardment for nearly six hours. The intrenchments were high up on the bluffs above them : the stream was too deep to anchor, and too rapid to lie still; thus compelling the boats to sail about as they fired.
The fleet did every thing that a fleet could do; but all in vain. The batteries were too high up to be damaged. Grant said, “ Many times, it seemed to me the gunboats were within pistol-shot of the enemy's bat