Colonel Bischoff embarked on the White Cloud with the remainder. A gunboat fleet, consisting of the Benton, flag-ship, Captain Phelps; the Louisville, Captain Dove, and the Mound City, Captain Gwin, together with the rams Bragg, Switzerland, and Monarch, formed the escort.
At 10 p. m. the signal was given, and the fleet was soon under way, except the White Cloud, which was detained until daylight in taking in coal. We reached Old Town at 3 a. m., where we anchored for two hours, awhile a large portion of the gunboats proceeded down the river in co-operation with Colonel Hovey, of the Thirty-third Illinois, in some subordinate enterprise. at 5 a.m. the Mound City steamed up the river and left us, while the boats at anchor moved down 6 miles, joining the entire fleet, and all waited for the White Cloud to come forward, as she had not yet appeared. About 10 o'clock she hove in sight, and the entire fleet proceeded without interruption to the mouth of the White river, reaching it about 6 o'clock p.m.
There were no suspicious indications on either bank for the entire distance, except perhaps 3 horsemen observed at different points, who may have been scouts of the enemy. These were upon the Arkansas shore; besides them but few persons were seen, and these all negroes. At the mouth of the river the fleet anchored, and Captains Phelps and Dove came on board the Iatan for consultation. It was determined that the Louisville and the transports should proceed cautiously up the White River, while the remainder of the force dropped down the Napoleon. Accordingly, the boats indicated entered the mouth of the latter river and proceeded carefully for 3 miles to Montgomery's Cut-off, when the Louisville grounded, and was only got off he bar after an hour or more.
Captain Dove again boarded the Iatan, and was decided in his opinion that the river was so low that any farther advance would be at the extreme hazard of his vessel, and we therefore returned to our anchorage outside the mouth of the river, and awaited the return of the flag-ship and her attendants.
The only observation in White River on any note was that it had fallen 3 feet within the last two weeks. A fleet of eight flat-boats left at that time near the Cut-off by Captain Weaver had all been removed. At the northerly apex of the shore at the mouth of the river a road-way appeared recently to have been cut through the dense woods, as the fresh appearance of the stumps indicated. At 2 a.m. of they 7th the returning fleet signaled us. At 3 all were under way up the river. Daylight showed the same quite appearance along the shore as in the downward passage, except that a much larger concourse of negroes was witnessed and here and there a flat-boat could be seen on the shores of the bayous.
Twenty-eight miles above the mouth of the White River, at Belief Station, I ordered at noon-time a delay of the transports till the gunboats came up, and I sent the yawl ashore for an intelligent-looking negro to come on board for examination. From him I learned that no body of soldiers had crossed at this pint for several week; that families from Arkansas occasionally passed the Mississippi bound south, and such occurrences happened quite frequently; that within a day or two three soldiers had come from the Mississippi side, as the expressed it, "sick ob de war," and one was then sick at a house in sight; but that most of the white people hands gone to the secesh army a time ago. I could not discover that he had heard of any movement on the river either above or below, nor of any rumors of any, either past or medi-
14 R R-VOL XIII