serviceable in performing this duty, being perfectly bullet-proof all over, expect in their upper cabins, which were pretty badly cut up.
I did not deem the landings already secured sufficiently good, and, on the 23rd instant, Lieutenant-Commander Gwin, according to order, proceeded up the river in the Benton, accompanied by the Tyler, Lieutenant-Commander [James M.] Pritchett; Lexington, Lieutenant-Commander [James W.] Shirk; ram Queen of the West, Captain E. W. Sutherland; ram Lioness, Master T. O'Reilly; Signal, Acting Master Scott; Romeo, Acting Ensign [Robert P.] Smith, and the Juliet, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant [Edward] Shaw.
The 24th, 25th, and 26th were occupied in getting up the torpedoes, of which there were a great many; but, as the water had risen in the river, our vessels were enabled to keep off the sharpshooters, and the boats, being well covered, drove them back when they came in small numbers. Thus the work continued until the boats turned the bend in the river, where a series of forts, dotted all around the hills, and a heavy raft, covered with railroad iron, seemed to forbid all further progress. I directed the work to go on in the boats as near to the forts as possible, and they proceeded until the forts opened on them at a distance of 1,200 yards.
Though much annoyed by the fire, on the 27th the boats continued their work, and the Benton closed up to cover them. It was blowing very hard at the time, and the current being checked by the wind, the Benton, at all times an unmanageable ship, had a tendency to turn head or broadside to wind, in consequence of which she had to be tied to the bank. Then the enemy opened fire on her, almost every shot hitting her somewhere. Seven or eight heavy guns were fair in from the different forts-50 pounder rifles and 64-pounder solid. After she made fast to the bank she was hit thirty times. Whenever the shots hit the pilot-house or the defense on here sides they did but little harm, in some places scarcely leaving a mark; but whenever they struck here deck, they went through everything, killing and wounding 10 persons; among the latter Lieutenant-Commander Gwin. The wind blow so hard that the other iron-clads were unmanageable, and, though they brought their batteries to bear (as did the Lexington and Tyler) as well as the very narrow stream would permit, they could not fire very effectually. Two of the guns in the forts were silenced, and the boats being unable to work any longer, the vessels dropped back around the point out of fire. The object of the firing was only to cover the boats, as the forts can only be taken by a landing party, and a very strong one at that.
The Benton was not rendered inefficient in the least, though two of her guns were damaged so that they are no longer serviceable, having been hit with shot.
On the 28th, General Sherman had advanced his forces within skirmishing distance of the enemy, and I sent up a strong force to make a feint on the forts, and to fire across on the Milldale road, to prevent re-enforcements from being sent that way from the Yazoo forts to Vicksburg. Owing to late heavy rains, General Sherman found the ground almost impassable, and was headed off at every step by innumerable bayous. On the 29th, the assault was to commence on the hills behind Vicksburg, provided the army could find an opening through the abatis, which was piled up before them in all directions, and thousands of sharpshooters, in rifle-pits, picking off the officers at every step. I brought up the only two mortars I had been able to get down here, and placed them in position (backed by the gunboats) to shell the woods on the right and left of our army, to prevent the enemy from doubling on