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PARA SA IF THE BATTERIEB.
into an impassable sea.
thus worked its toilsome way, till at last it came in sight of New Carthage, the goal of its labors, but, alas! it was like an island in the sea, for the enemy had succeeded in cutting the levee near it, and flooding all the intervening country. Cut off from this point, McClernand resumed his march, striking the river twelve miles further down stream, making the whole distance from Milliken's Bend thirty-five miles. All the supplies and ordnance stores for the projected campaign on the other side of the river, had to be hauled over this miserable road.
This being accomplished, the next thing was to get the gunboats and transports past the Vicksburg batteries. The night of the 16th of April was fixed upon to make the attempt. Whether the frail transports could safely run the terrible gauntlet, was problematical, and it was resolved to try the experiment with only three—the Silver Wave, Forest Queen and Henry Clay. The plan was, for Porter to move down in single file, with his eight gunboats, and, planting them square abreast of the rebel batteries, engage them; while the transports, hugging the western shore, in their rear, covered by the smoke and darkness, were, with all steam on, to push swiftly below. A little before midnight, the gunboats, one after another, drifted out of the bend in which they lay concealed, and, showing no light from their chimneys, moved like great shadows down the noiseless current. Nearly an hour passed by, and not a sound broke the ominous stillness; and the listeners on the shore above began to think the boats had passed the batteries unseen, when suddenly there came a flash, followed by a crash that shook the shores. Lights danced along the heights of Vicksburgsoon, thunder answered thunder, and the flash of batteries, from land and water, rent the gloom, till the black midnight seemed turned into an element of fire. Still, the transports hoped to escape in the confusion, when, suddenly, a huge
A THRILLING SPECTACLE.
bonfire blazed forth on one of the hills near Vicksburg. The rebels were prepared for just such an attempt as this, and had collected a vast amount of combustibles, which, when lighted, would make the bosom of the Mississippi, in front of the batteries, bright as day. The poor transports were instantly flooded in light, and, as they swept along the ruddy stream, presented a fair target to the gunners.
The enemy penetrated at a glance the design of Grant, and shot and shell fell and burst, in a horrible tempest, around the frail things. The commanders saw that the chances were against them, but they crowded on all steam, till the gleaming waters rolled away from their prows in a torrent of foam. Soon, a heavy shot tore through the timbers of the Forest Queen, and then another, and she drifted unmanageably on the current. A gunboat, seeing her distress, wheeled and took her in tow, and passed down the river, greeted, at every turn of its wheels, with shots from the batteries. The Henry Clay was struck by a shell which set her barricade of cotton bales on fire, and she soon flamed back to the beacon light on the shore. Blazing like a mighty torch, she sent her jets of flame, capped with angry wreaths of black, curling smoke, far up into the midnight heavens. The crew leaped from the glowing furnace into their boats, and took refuge on the western bank. The Silver Wave alone was untouched, and, bearing seemingly a charned life, glided serenely through the horrible tempest, till the last battery was passed, and, with her fragile form unmarred, she floated gracefully on the water. The gunboats came through safely, with only one man killed and two wounded. For over an hour, they gallantly faced the heavy batteries, and though often struck, sustained no damage that was not speedily repaired. Still, but one transport was through, and this alone could be of no service to the army. More must be brought down, and Grant resolved, though but one out of three had escaped,
À GALLANT BOY,
to run the same fearful gauntlet with six more, slowly, towing twelve barges. This was so hazardous an enterprise that the officers felt reluctant to order men to accompany the boats, and volunteers were called for. Immediately, enough stepped forward to man a fleet, and it had to be decided by lot, who the lucky ones should be. So eager were they to join in the desperate undertaking, that a boy, having drawn a successful number, was offered by a soldier a hundred dollars for his chance, which the spirited little fellow refused. He lived to tell of his share in the daring feat. With strange good fortune, the whole fleet, with the exception of the Tigress, and half the barges, passed in safety. She was struck below the water line, and being run ashore, sunk.
The army was now below Vicksburg, with transports to carry it across the river, and gunboats to protect it. And here, on the 29th of April, the Thirteenth Corps. was embarked, and moved to the front of Grand Gulf, a fortified place, which Grant designed to capture and make his base. The gunboats at once engaged the batteries, and for five hours maintained a fierce fire, sometimes moving almost to within pistol shot of the enemy's guns. Grant witnessed the action from a tug, and saw with regret that the post could not be reduced from the s'er side, and that, from the position of things, ne landing could be mađe near by, to take it from the shore. He therefore ordered the transports back to Hard Times, and, disembarking his troops, resumed his march down the river. At night, the gunboats again engaged the batteries, and, under cover of the fire, the transports ran past them, suffering but little damage. Grant's march through the forest had been unseen by the enemy, and, the next day, the army was ferried across the river to the eastern shore. With a patience and tenacity unparalleled, Grant had finally got his army south of Vicksburg, and over the river, and yet the mighty work he had
BATTLE OF PORT GIBSON.
assigned himself had only just begun-he had reached only the threshold of the perils it embraced.
He landed at Bruinsburgh, and immediately pushed forward. McClernand's Corps to Port Gibson. About eight miles out, the latter met the enemy, and forced him back till dark. The next morning, he found himn posted on two roads, about four miles from Port Gibson. The rebel position was admirably chosen, for the road ran mostly along high ridges, with impenetrable ravines on each side, to prevent any flank movements. McClernand, however, succeeded in pushing forward the divisions of Hovey, Carr and Smith, on the right, while Osterhaus advanced against the left. The latter was hard pressed by the enemy, but at length, being reinforced by Logan's division, he ordered a charge, and, leading it in person, fell in such fury on the rebel line, that it was shattered into fragments, and fell disorderly back. Three cannon were captured in this brilliant charge. : The three divisions on the other flank, steadily forced the enemy back all day towards Port Gibson, until darkness closed the conflict. The fighting had been close and sharp, resulting in a loss on our side of some eight hundred and fifty, while we took a thousand prisoners, and five cannon.
That night, the wearied troops slept on their arms. In the morning, it was found that the enemy had retreated across Bayou Pierre. A floating bridge was at once thrown across it, while McPherson pushed on eight miles to the northern fork of the bayou, which was also bridged, and the next morning, just as the sun was climbing the eastern hills, he marched with streaming banners across it.
On the 3rd, (May,) the enemy was closely pressed all day, and many prisoners taken. Grant was now in the rear. of Grand Gulf, and, hearing that it was evacuated, he took an escort of cavalry, and galloped thither, fifteen miles distant, across the country, in order to make the necessary
A DESPERATE RESOLUTION.
arrangements for changing his base of supplies from Bruinsburgh to that place.
When he started down the river, he left Sherman, with the Fifteenth Corps, to make a feint on Haines' Bluff
, 'in' order to keep the enemy from sending a heavy force to the assistance of Grand Gulf, before he arrived there. On the day that the Thirteenth Corps landed at Bruinsburgh, Admiral Porter opened a heavy fire against the rebel works at Haines' Bluff, and Sherman landed his troops as if about to carry them by storm. Pemberton, commanding at Vicksburg, was thus prevented from sending off troops south, and Sherman, having accomplished his object, re-embarked his
corps, and pressed on after Grant from Milliken's Bend. The latter did not design, when he crossed the Mississippi, to push on as he did, but expected to stop and concentrate his army at Grand Gulf, and effect a junction with Banks, which would give him an army strong enough to resist any
force the enemy might bring against him. But he received a letter from the latter, informing him that he had projects of his own on foot, and could not join him. At the same time, he heard that Beauregard was about moving from the Southern cities, west to co-operate with Pemberton. To wait till the enemy, by the various railroads, could concentrate an immense force against him, would render his defeat almost certain. To advance with only a part of his army in hand,
, and his base of supplies not yet established, seemed equally perilous. With characteristic boldness, he determined, however, on the latter course, trusting to the country to furnish forage for his troops. The rebel hosts, he knew, were gathering on all sides, and his only chance of success lay in attacking and beating the several armies before they could effect a junction. His blows must fall, rapid and terrible as bolts from heaven, or he was ruined. With the daring of Napoleon, he determined to enact over again that great