Their general theme was to use or construct alternative waterways so that troops could be positioned within striking distance of Vicksburg, without requiring a direct approach on the Mississippi under the Confederate guns. Farragut and Brig. Williams in July , but it had the potential to offer a route downriver that bypassed Vicksburg's guns.
In late January , Sherman's men, at the urging of Grant—who was advised by the navy that President Lincoln liked the idea—resumed digging.
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Sherman derisively called the work "Butler's Ditch" since it was Maj. Benjamin Butler who had sent Williams upriver to do the work , which was barely 6 feet wide by 6 feet deep. Grant, undoubtedly influenced by Lincoln's continuous inquiries as to the status of the canal, ordered Sherman to expand the canal to 60 feet wide and 7 feet deep and the effort became known as Grant's Canal. It was not properly engineered based upon the hydrology of the Mississippi River, however, and a sudden rise in the river broke through the dam at the head of the canal and flooded the area.
The canal began to fill up with back water and sediment. In a desperate effort to rescue the project, two huge steam-driven dipper dredges, Hercules and Sampson , attempted to clear the channel, but the dredges were exposed to Confederate artillery fire from the bluffs at Vicksburg and driven away.
By late March, work on the canal was abandoned. Grant ordered Brig. James B. McPherson to construct a canal of several hundred yards from the Mississippi to Lake Providence , northwest of the city. McPherson reported that the connection was navigable on March 18, but the few "ordinary Ohio River boats" that had been sent to Grant for navigation of the bayous could only transport 8, men, far too few to tip the balance at Port Hudson.
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Although this was the only one of the bayou expeditions to successfully bypass the Vicksburg defenses, historian Ed Bearss calls this episode the "Lake Providence Boondoggle". The dikes were blown up on February 3, beginning what was called the Yazoo Pass Expedition. Ten Union boats, under the command of Lt.
Watson Smith, with army troops under the command of Brig. Benjamin Prentiss , began moving through the pass on February 7. But low-hanging trees destroyed anything on the gunboats above deck and Confederates felled more trees to block the way. These delays allowed the Confederates time to quickly construct a "Fort Pemberton" near the confluence of the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha Rivers near Greenwood, Mississippi , which repulsed the naval force on March 11, March 14, and March The Union effort collapsed in early April. Confederates once again felled trees in their path, and willow reeds fouled the boats' paddlewheels.
This time the Union boats became immobilized, and Confederate cavalry and infantry threatened to capture them. Sherman sent infantry assistance to repel the Confederates bedeviling Porter, but Porter's approach was abandoned as too difficult. Grant's final attempt was to dig another canal from Duckport Landing to Walnut Bayou, aimed at getting lighter boats past Vicksburg. By the time the canal was almost finished, on April 6, water levels were declining, and none but the lightest of flatboats could get through.
Grant abandoned this canal and started planning anew. From December through March, including Chickasaw Bayou and the Mississippi Central advance, seven initiatives, or "experiments", by Grant had failed. Grant claimed in his memoirs that he had undertaken these experiments primarily to keep his troops busy during the flooded and disease-laden winter months and that he had had no expectation of success. This claim is contradicted by correspondence from Grant at the time. All of the bayou operations were failures, but Grant was known for his stubborn determination and would not quit.
His final option was bold but risky: March the army down the west side of the Mississippi, cross the river south of Vicksburg, and either attack Vicksburg from the south and the east or join forces with Banks, capture Port Hudson, and then together reduce Vicksburg. Porter would have to sneak past the guns to get sufficient gunboats and transport ships south of the city. Once they had completed the downstream passage, they would not be able to return past Vicksburg's guns because the river current would slow them too much.
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On March 29, McClernand set his troops to work building bridges and corduroy roads. On April 16, a clear night with no moon, Porter sent seven gunboats and three empty troop transports loaded with stores to run the bluff, taking care to minimize noise and lights. But the preparations were ineffective. Confederate sentries sighted the boats, and the bluff exploded with massive artillery fire. Fires were set along the banks to improve visibility.
The Union gunboats answered back.
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Porter observed that the Confederates mainly hit the high parts of his boats, reasoned that they could not depress their guns, and had them hug the east shore, right under Confederate cannon, so close he could hear their commanders giving orders, shells flying overhead. The fleet survived with little damage; thirteen men were wounded and none killed.
The Henry Clay was disabled and burned at the water's edge. On April 22, six more boats loaded with supplies made the run; one boat did not make it, though no one was killed. The crew floated downstream on the boat's remnants. The final piece of Grant's strategy was to divert Pemberton's attention from the river crossing site that the Union troops would use.
Grant chose two operations: a feint by Sherman against Snyder's Bluff, Mississippi , north of Vicksburg see the Battle of Snyder's Bluff below , and a daring cavalry raid through central Mississippi by Col. Benjamin Grierson , known as Grierson's Raid. The former was inconclusive, but the latter was a success.
Grierson was able to draw out significant Confederate forces to chase him, and Pemberton's defenses were dispersed too far around the state. Grant 's Union Army of the Tennessee started the campaign with about 44, men,   which grew by July to 75, William T. Cadwallader C. Washburn ; and a detachment from the District of Northeast Louisiana, under Brig. Elias S. The IX Corps , commanded by Maj. John G. Parke , joined the army in mid-June.
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Pemberton 's Confederate Army of Mississippi , approximately 30, men, consisted of five divisions, under Maj. William W. Loring , Carter L. Stevenson , John H. Forney , Martin L. Smith , and John S. General Joseph E. Johnston 's forces in Raymond and Jackson, Mississippi , about 6, men, were elements of his Department of the West, including the brigades of Brig. John Gregg , Col.
Peyton H. Colquitt , and Brig. William H.
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The "Grant's operations against Vicksburg" phase of the Vicksburg campaign comprises the following battles:. Admiral Porter led seven ironclads in an attack on the fortifications and batteries at Grand Gulf, Mississippi , with the intention of silencing the Confederate guns and then securing the area with troops of McClernand's XIII Corps who were on the accompanying transports and barges. The attack by the seven ironclads began at 8 a. During the fight, the ironclads moved within yards of the Confederate guns and silenced the lower batteries of Fort Wade.
The Confederate upper batteries at Fort Cobun remained out of reach and continued to fire. The Union ironclads one of which, the Tuscumbia , had been put out of action and the transports drew off.
After dark, however, the ironclads engaged the Confederate guns again while the steamboats and barges ran the gauntlet. Grant marched his men overland across Coffee Point to below the Gulf. After the transports had passed Grand Gulf, they embarked the troops at Disharoon's plantation and disembarked them on the Mississippi shore at Bruinsburg, below Grand Gulf.
Grant landed 17, soldiers there, the largest amphibious operation in American military history until the Invasion of Normandy. The men immediately began marching overland towards Port Gibson, Mississippi. The Confederates had won a hollow victory, since the loss at Grand Gulf caused just a slight change in Grant's offensive. To ensure that troops would not be withdrawn to Grand Gulf to assist Confederates there, a combined Union army-navy force feigned an attack on Snyder's Bluff. After noon on April 29, Lt. Randolph Breese , with his eight gunboats and ten transports carrying Maj.
Blair 's division, inched up the Yazoo River to the mouth of Chickasaw Bayou where they spent the night. During the fighting, Choctaw suffered more than fifty hits, but no casualties occurred. Around 6 p. As they neared Drumgould's Bluff, a battery opened on them, creating havoc and casualties. The Union advance halted and, after dark, the men reembarked on the transports. The next morning, transports disembarked other troops. The swampy terrain and enemy heavy artillery fire forced them to retire.
The gunboats opened fire again, about 3 p. Later, the boats' fire slackened and stopped altogether after dark. Sherman had received orders to land his troops at Milliken's Bend, so the gunboats returned to their anchorages at the mouth of the Yazoo.
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