There being no way of reaching the lower end of the Pass with troops and the necessary provision and implements, the work had to be done from the upper end and the "blockades" removed successively. After resorting to the use of windlasses and other machinery for removing the fallen trees and drift timber, all attended with the breakage of cables, tackle, and boat machinery, besides being entirely too slow, the plan of cutting off the limbs, sawing in two the logs, and drawing out such parts as would not sink entirely out of the way was adopted.
In many cases where a footing could be obtained, entire trees, measuring 90 feet in length and 4 feet through the butt, were drawn out by attaching two or three 6-inch cables and hauling upon them with from 250 to 400 men. In this way, by the 21st instant, the entire Pass was cleared, and with the cutting of an occasional overhanging tree, prepared for navigation.
The width of the waterway is from 60 to 80 feet clear, and from 18 to 30 feet deep at the stage of water indicated. The distance from Moon Lake to the Coldwater is about 15 miles.
The Coldwater from its junction with Yazoo Pass is a considerable river, from 100 to 130 feet wide, running through a dense wilderness nearly all the way.
The Tallahatchee is a stream of very similar nature, from 130 to 180 feet wide, and from 30 miles below the moth of Coldwater affords fine navigation for boats 250 feet long.
There are not more than FIFTY plantations between the entrance to Yazoo Pass and the mouth of the Tallahatchee, a distance of nearly 200 miles.
By the time Yazoo Pass was ready for navigation, General Grant had organized an expedition of about 5,000 men, to co-operate with a naval force of two iron-clads, two rams, and six light-draught gunboats. On the 24th of February, the iron-clad Chillicothe, 160 feet long and 50 feet beam, followed by the Baron De Kalb, 175 feet long and 51 feet beam, entered the Pass from Moon Lake. The light-clads, rams, and transports, to the number of twenty-two, some of them as much as 220 feet long and 55 feet beam, followed, and without any serious accident reached Dr. Curtiss' plantation, a few miles from the junction of the Yalabusha and the Tallahatchee Rivers, on the evening of March 10, 1863. It may not be improper to state that the rams and iron-clads could have reached the same point easily by the 3rd March and with extra activity by the 1st.
On the morning of the 11th, the Chillicothe moved down in range of the battery erected by the rebels in a loop between the Tallahatchee and the Yazoo, covering the mouth of the Yalabusha and Greenwood, and when within about 1,100 yards of the fort was opened upon by a rifle 32-pounder and several smaller pieces. One shot took effect near the right-hand corner of the square turret, bending and denting the plate upon which it took effect, about 4 inches from the plane of its original position, and knocking the 9-inch pine backing into fragments.
On the afternoon of this day, both the Chillicothe and De Kalb moved down to the attack, but, having approached no nearer than 900 or 1,000 yards, their shots had produced no visible effect, when the Chillicothe received a shot in her left bow port and withdrew.
On the night of the 12th, by direction of General Ross, commanding the land forces, I erected a cotton-bale battery at a point indicated on the inclosed sketch, putting in it one 30-pounder rifled Parrott obtained from the Navy. The materials were moved from Clarke's plantation house at night, and the battery completed between 11 p. m. and 6 a. m. 13th.