GENERAL: Having added to our land battery one 68-pounder columbiad, we opened on the enemy again at 12. 30 o'clock yesterday. The gunboat Chillicothe engaged them ten minutes later. Our fire was responded to by the enemy with spirit. Thy had added some heavy guns, and erected two new batteries during the night. In view of the shortness of our ammunition, I had arranged for a short and brisk fight at close quarters, and, if successful in silencing their batteries, to make a descent upon the fort with infantry, loaded on the light-draught gunboats, and storm it. The arrangements being all made, and the infantry placed on the boats, we opened the fight. The Chillicothe had not been engaged FIFTEEN minutes until she was struck six times, and both of her port-holes closed, by being so battered that the doors to her ports could not be opened. She had to withdraw, and the De Kalb, being unwilling to engage alone, also retired.
Our land battery continued until sundown; but as soon as the gunboats withdrew, the enemy covered his heavy guns with cotton, and replied to us with light field pieces. Only 1 man had his arm shot off at our land battery, and 1 wounded on the Chillicothe. In order to take this fort, we must have ordnance of heavy caliber and plenty of ammunition. Better gunboats must be sent us, if it is expected to accomplish anything with them. I don't believe our two iron-clads can stand the terrific fire of the guns now on the fort for one hour without total destruction.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
L. F. ROSS,
Brigadier-General, Commanding DIVISION.
General B. M. PRENTISS.
Commanding District of Eastern Arkansas.
P. S. - I herewith inclose a communication from Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson, in regard to the enlargement of the opening in the levee. I approve of the suggestions. Let all the water in you can. That, with a good strong stream of fire, will rout them, I think.
HEADQUARTERS YAZOO EXPEDITION,
U. S. Transport Volunteer, March 16, 1863.
SIR: As the position occupied by the rebel fortifications below here is very little above the present level of the water, it has occurred to me that a further rise of 4 feet would possibly compel the abandonment of the place. This increased rise might be induced by cutting the levee, so as to make a crevasse a mile or so long at the entrance of Yazoo Pass. In addition to opening the present crevasse, another a mile or two lower down, at the point where the levee strikes the old lake, could be easily made, and would furnish a very large volume of water.
Small mines of powder, say 50 to 100 pounds, established at intervals along the levee, and exploded by slow match, would afford and expeditious method of doing the work. Post augers, with a 12 or 15 inch bit, and handles long enough to bore 10 feet, would be the most expeditious instrument for sinking the shafts. These augers could be made by any good mechanic in a short time. The experiment, I think, is worth trying
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. H. WILSON,
Lieutenant Colonel, A. I. G., and Chief Topl. Engrs., Army of Tenn.