War of the Rebellion: Serial 036 Page 0387 Chapter XXXVI. THE YAZOO PASS EXPEDITION, ETC.

Search Civil War Official Records

shovels, axes, and picks, I began work. the levee was cut in two places, the cuts being respectively 15 and 20 feet wide on top, with an interval of 50 feet between them, the wider one being directly in the axis of the old channel.

On the evening of the 3rd, at 6 o'clock, the excavation was completed, and the water let in by the explosion of a small mine planted in the mouth of the cut. A mine was exploded under the mass of earth between the two cuts, simultaneously shattering and loosening it so that the rapid rush of water which ensued soon carried it entirely away, uniting the two cuts into one. By 11 p. m. a crevasse 40 yards wide was opened, and by morning the old entrance of the Pass was entirely clear of the embankment. The level of the water on the exterior side of the levee was 10 feet below the top of the embankment; on the inside, 18 1/2 feet below; difference of level, 8 1/2 feet. The water was 15 feet deep in the bed of the stream at the foot of the exterior slope. The width of the levee on the top was 10 feet; exterior slope, 4 upon 1; interior slope, 3 1/2 upon 1. From the violence with which the water rushed through the crevasse, the steamboat pilots did not consider it safe to run a boat into it till the lake and the country in the vicinity were filled up.

On the 7th of March, with the steamer Henderson, I entered the Pass., through Moon Lake, to the exit from the latter. Before going farther, I was informed by some citizens from Coldwater that the rebels had been busily engaged, since about the 2nd, in felling trees into and across the stream. I subsequently learned that General Pemberton had given orders two months before, and had reiterated them about two weeks before I reached Helena, directing the obstruction of Yazoo Pass. A party had been organized for this purpose before I began operations, and began work immediatelyevee was cut.

On the 8th, I descended the stream nearly 6 miles in an open boat, but, not thinking it prudent o go farther without a larger escort, I did not learn the entire extent of the obstacles. I was, however, confirmed in the opinion expressed in my report of the 2nd, informing General Grant of the suitability of the route as a line of operations against the country on the left bank of the Yazoo River.

On the 9th, General Washburn, with three small steamers and two regiments of infantry, provided with axes, cables, and implements, arrived from Helena, and entered the Pass 2 or 3 miles without meeting any serious blockades.

On the 10th, after a careful examination of the obstructions and their probable extent, with the steamboats and two regiments of infantry, under the command of Brigadier-General Washburn, the work of removing the obstructions was begun.

The first barricade was a mile in length, and the SECOND about 2 miles, but not so compactly constructed, though slighter obstructions were found all along the Pass from Pennington's to within a mile of Coldwater. They were formed by felling trees into and across the stream. The forest being very dense, and the growth luxuriant, the trees were of the largest and heaviest kinds, cottonwood, sycamore, oak, elm, and pecan prevailing, and all, except cottonwood, having a greater specific gravity than water. These, mixed with drift-wood, rendered the barricade of no trifling nature, and, under ordinary circumstances, would have required great labor to remove. To add to the difficulties of the work, the rapid rise of the water from the crevasse at the entrance overflowed the entire country, except a very narrow strip of land next the bank, not to exceed in any place 50 yards wide, and frequently not half that. The working parties were kept necessarily on board the boats.