War of the Rebellion: Serial 036 Page 0128 Mississippi, WEST TENNESSEE, ETC. Chapter XXXVI.

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coming down to the Big Black on the south side, a good landing was to be had at all times about 300 yards above the ferry at Cox's place. At this point the river did not exceed 250 feet in width, but the landing opposite being in an overflowed bottom, a bridge must have been at least 600 feet long and thrown almost lengthwise with the stream. The hills are quite steep at this place, densely timbered and overgrown by canebrakeet high. The rebels had just seized upon them for defense, and begun the erection of several works, to sweep the river, the roads, and the fields beyond; but after careful personal observation and examination of negroes who had been working on the fortifications only that morning, I ascertained that only a slight parapet had been constructed and two 6-pounder field guns put in position.

The road and ferry just described afforded at that time the only means between Grand Gulf and Warrenton of reaching the high land. Upon receiving the report of my reconnaissance, General Grant requested Admiral Porter, commanding Mississippi Squadron, to send one of his iron-clads into the Big Black, with instructions to remove any obstructions that might be encountered, ascend to the ferry, and hold the crossing. In order to prevent the gunboat from being annoyed by sharpshooters, the general proposed to land a strong regiment at Congo and let it march through. The admiral declined to risk his vessel in so narrow a stream.

Subsequent events have clearly demonstrated the weakness of the rebel defenses at the ferry and along the Big Black, as well as the practicability of the route just described. It is possible that gunboats could not have entered this team, and that it would have been too dangerous for a transport to attempt it; but the subsequent passage of Grand Gulf by the entire fleet is rather in favor of the feasibility of entering Big Black, at least by armed vessels, even under the fire of the heavy batteries at the Point of Rocks, Grand Gulf. One such vessel, under cover of another, could have crossed our troops rapidly enough for all ordinary purposes.

On April 30, the advanced corps of McClernand was landed at Bruinsburg, about 10 miles below Grand Gulf, having been ferried from the landing on the opposite shore, just below that place, by the transports and gunboats. McPherson's corps had all been ferried across by 10 a. m. of the 1st.

After the battle near Port Gibson, the rebels retreated beyond Bayou Pierre, burning the railroad bridge over the main stream, and the suspension bridges across the South and North Forks.

At 8 a. m. our advance took possession of Port Gibson, and under orders from General Grant I proceeded at once to provide means of crossing the South Fork. Smith's brigade, of Logan's DIVISION, followed by Dennis' brigade, was sent, under the guidance of a negro, to examine and cross at the ford 3 miles above the town, while the troops of McClernand's corps were to assist in constructing a brigade. The roadway of the suspension bridge having been entirely destroyed, and not needing a permanent structure, it was determined aft bridge. A point about 20 yards above the site of the old bridge was chosen. Buoyant materials in abundance were obtained by tearing down the buildings, cotton-gins, &c., in the vicinity.

At about 8. 30 a. m. I applied for a brigade of infantry to do the work, and was informed by General McClernand that it should be furnished immediately. My request, under General Grant's order, was renewed several times, and each time I was informed that the detail had been made. It did not report till 12 m. The houses were torn