This Whole World Is Underwater: Federals Before Vicksburg, January-April, 1863

wausaubob

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It seems to me Grant needed the snow melt rise in the river to move down stream to keep his improvised road afloat for a few days. He may have wanted the grass to be well grown and after his Fort Donelson experience he may have wanted his soldiers marching in slightly warmer weather.
 
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alan polk

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It seems to me Grant needed the snow melt rise in the river to move down stream to keep his improvised road afloat for a few days.

Not sure exactly what you mean. Could you expound a bit more?

He may have wanted the grass to be well grown and after his Fort Donelson experience he may have wanted his soldiers marching in slightly warmer weather.

Probably so. As concerns the coming warm weather, since the levee camps were denser than most cities, it was imperative that he get his army off the levees and out of the swamps.

Yellow Fever season was on the horizon, and the introduction of Yellow Jack alone onto those overly cramped levees— not to mention the other silent killers — would have done more damage to his army than what 100,000 Confederates could have ever done.
 

bdtex

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V.

Turning the Enemy’s Right

Another option was to give the navy a shot at taking Vicksburg. Above Hayne’s Bluffs, the Valley Wall turns to the northeast and the floodplain follows it, creating a huge gap eastward into the State’s interior. This region is known as the Mississippi Delta, a world of swamps, bayous and rivers, a terrain suitable for Porter’s brown water navy — at least theoretically. If so, it could provide Porter with access into the rear of Vicksburg via the Yazoo River, thus flanking the Rebels out of the city.

But the plan would change the character of Grant’s army drastically, essentially making it an armed security force protecting army transports and navy gunboats plying the complex waterways of the Delta. Accordingly, throughout February and much of March Grant would rely upon the cooperation of the navy to turn Pemberton’s right or to find ways to bypass the city by means other than Lincoln’s canal.

It was a disaster. He attempted to get boats into the Delta region through Yazoo Pass, but met stiff resistance at Fort Pemberton. To get into the rear of Fort Pemberton, he attempted to move gunboats up Steele’s Bayou, where Admiral Porter nearly lost his squadron in the process. In addition to the canal across De Soto Point, he attempted to bypass Vicksburg with projects at Lake Providence, Louisiana, 60 miles above the city, where he hoped to connect boat traffic to the Red River via Tensas Bayou, Ouachita and Black Rivers, thereby cutting off “the enemy’s commerce with the west bank of the river.” It, too, proved a failure.
I wonder what kind of intelligence, and from whom, Grant had that made him think that had a chance of success?
 

wausaubob

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Not sure exactly what you mean. Could you expound a bit more?



Probably so. As concerns the coming warm weather, since the levee camps were denser than most cities, it was imperative that he get his army off the levees and out of the swamps.

Yellow Fever season was on the horizon, and the introduction of Yellow Jack alone onto those overly cramped levees— not to mention the other silent killers — would have done more damage to his army than what 100,000 Confederates could have ever done.

Not sure exactly what you mean. Could you expound a bit more?



Probably so. As concerns the coming warm weather, since the levee camps were denser than most cities, it was imperative that he get his army off the levees and out of the swamps.

Yellow Fever season was on the horizon, and the introduction of Yellow Jack alone onto those overly cramped levees— not to mention the other silent killers — would have done more damage to his army than what 100,000 Confederates could have ever done.
The river rises in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The winter snow melt has to pass down river before the risk of flooding declines. Then the back river bayous drain slowly. If soldiers are going to build roads and causeways on the west bank, warmer weather will them do it with enthusiasm.
Grant had river men in the army, so he had experienced help in predicting when the current would be manageable. Probably by April 1 he was getting anxious.
 

alan polk

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I wonder what kind of intelligence, and from whom, Grant had that made him think that had a chance of success?

I’m not sure.

There were not many options for Grant’s infantry and artillery during the high water at that time. So, using the navy was about all he could do.

That area supplied a lot of food for Confederates, so movement into that region was disruptive to the Rebels.

I think initially, especially before Van Dorn left Mississippi, he thought the presence of Porter’s gunboats on the Yazoo, with options to steam up the Yalabusha to Grenada to destroy bridges, would discourage a Confederate attack on Memphis.

The presence of Fort Pemberton threw a wrench into that plan

I think the repeated intelligence from spies who were convinced there was a Rebel preference for Middle Tennessee rather than Vicksburg could have also played a role. If so, Fort Pemberton answered that question too.
 

wausaubob

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I’m not sure.

There were not many options for Grant’s infantry and artillery during the high water at that time. So, using the navy was about all he could do.

That area supplied a lot of food for Confederates, so movement into that region was disruptive to the Rebels.

I think initially, especially before Van Dorn left Mississippi, he thought the presence of Porter’s gunboats on the Yazoo, with options to steam up the Yalabusha to Grenada to destroy bridges, would discourage a Confederate attack on Memphis.

The presence of Fort Pemberton threw a wrench into that plan

I think the repeated intelligence from spies who were convinced there was a Rebel preference for Middle Tennessee rather than Vicksburg could have also played a role. If so, Fort Pemberton answered that question too.
My guess is that Farragut had more influence on this operation than he is given credit for in history. Much of Farragut's sentiment about conquer or get whipped shows up in Grant's writing. Celerity and moral courage occur in Grant's terminology. Farragut knew that Porter was a procrastinator. And the administration knew that if Porter would not make the run down river, Farragut could come up river and temporarily take command and make the run.
In addition Porter copied the New Orleans tactics, which in turn were copied from the success at Island No. 10.
I think Wells and the administration were applying significant pressure, and Porter agreed to what was inevitable.
They seem to realized that coal for the steamships was going to be a big problem, which would also have been a response to Farragut's experience.
 

alan polk

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My guess is that Farragut had more influence on this operation than he is given credit for in history. Much of Farragut's sentiment about conquer or get whipped shows up in Grant's writing. Celerity and moral courage occur in Grant's terminology. Farragut knew that Porter was a procrastinator. And the administration knew that if Porter would not make the run down river, Farragut could come up river and temporarily take command and make the run.
In addition Porter copied the New Orleans tactics, which in turn were copied from the success at Island No. 10.
I think Wells and the administration were applying significant pressure, and Porter agreed to what was inevitable.
They seem to realized that coal for the steamships was going to be a big problem, which would also have been a response to Farragut's experience.

Very interesting observations. Thanks! Somewhere in the correspondences, Porter informs Grant that he has to move sooner than he thought (in reference to running the batteries) because of a conversation he had with Wells. I wonder if that conversation had something to do with what you reference above?

The river rises in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The winter snow melt has to pass down river before the risk of flooding declines.

By April 20 or 21, the river was falling about 6 inches per day, making Duckport canal all but useless by that point. But the crest of the Spring flood finally pushed through the Vicksburg area around May 1. It was a tight window in which Grant was working.
 

alan polk

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Jun 11, 2012
The Louisiana part of Grant’s campaign to take Vicksburg is largely overlooked. Thanks for the detailed accounts of one of the most daring of campaigns in American military history.

Thank you, Tom!

When writing about it, I was reminded of the many artifacts you have recovered and preserved from this period of the Vicksburg Campaign in Louisiana. And you are right, it is often overlooked. So, thanks for your kind words and for reading it!
 

Tom Hughes

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Thank you, Tom!

When writing about it, I was reminded of the many artifacts you have recovered and preserved from this period of the Vicksburg Campaign in Louisiana. And you are right, it is often overlooked. So, thanks for your kind words and for reading it!
You are a fantastic researcher @alan polk ! The artifacts give me a glimpse into the lives of these soldiers, for sure. I was reading one account where a Union soldier just knew that they were going to cross the Mississippi River and launch a frontal assault on Vicksburg. He was lamenting the attempt that he just knew was coming.
 
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