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Battles & Leaders of the Civil War

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BY the 1st of July, 1862, the Mississippi had been traversed by the fleet of Davis from Cairo down, and by that of Farragut from the Passes up, and the only point where the Confederates retained a strong foothold was at Vicksburg The objects of the river operations were to establish communication from the Ohio to the Gulf, and to cut off the important supplies drawn by the Confederacy from Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. The commanders of the Mississippi squadron during this period were, first, Charles Henry Davis, and later, David D. Porter, the transfer of the command taking place October 15th, 1862. The operations of the navy at this time were unique in maritime warfare in the energy and originality with which complex conditions were met.

After the defeat of Montgomery's flotilla at Memphis, on the 6th of June by the combined forces of Flag-Officer Davis and Colonel Ellet [see Vol. I , ., . 449-459 the Mississippi squadron remained at Memphis for three weeks. Immediately after the battle Davis had formed the protect of sending a force up the Arkansas and White rivers to cut off the Confederate gun-boats which were supposed to have taken refuge there, among them the Van Dorn the only vessel remaining of Montgomery's flotilla. Davis did not know that the Van Dorn had made her way into the Yazoo. There were, however, two Confederate gun-boats in White River, the Maurepas and Pontchartrain, which had previously been in the flotilla of Hollins at Island Number Ten the former under Lieutenant Joseph Fry and the latter under Lieutenant John W. Dunnington.

On the 10th Davis received a telegram from General Halleck urging him to open communication by way of Jacksonport with General Curtis, then moving through Arkansas toward the Mississippi. Davis accordingly altered his plan, and directed that the expedition should confine its operations to the White River. The force detached for the purpose was composed of the iron-clads Mound City and , St. Louis, and the wooden gun-boats Conestoga and Tyler, under Commander A. H. Kilty, of the Mound City, and the 46th Indiana, Colonel Graham N. Fitch. Ascending the White River, the expedition arrived on the evening of the 16th in the neighborhood of St. Charles ninety miles from the mouth. [See map, p. 442.]

Anticipating this movement, Hindman had taken steps to obstruct the channel at this point, where the first bluffs touch the river. One hundred men, under Captain A. M. Williams, C. S. Engineers, were the only force which could be spared Tor the defense of the place, and their only arms were thirty-five Enfield rifles which Hindman had impounded at Memphis.

Lieutenant Dunnington had placed two rifled 32-pounders in battery on the bluffs, and had manned them with part of the crew of the Pontchartrain. Finally, Fry had stationed the Maurepas in the river below.

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