Steele's DIVISION marched at 10 a. m., and Tuttle's followed at noon. As the march would necessarily be rapid, I ordered General Mower to parole the prisoners of war, and to evacuate Jackson as the rear of Tuttle's DIVISION passed out. I paroled these prisoners because the wounded men of McPherson's corps had been left in a hospital, in charge of Surgeon Hewitt, to the mercy of the enemy, who I knew would re-enter Jackson as we left. The whole corps marched from Jackson to Bolton, nearly 20 miles, that day, and next morning resumed the march by a road lying to the north of Baker's Creek, reaching Bridgeport, on the Big Black, at noon. There I found Blair's DIVISION and the pontoon train. The enemy had a small picket on the WEST bank in a rifle-pit commanding the crossing, but, on exploding a few shells over the pit, they came out and surrendered-a lieutenant and 10 men. The pontoon bridge was laid across, under the direction of Captain [H. C.] Freeman, and Blair's and Steele's DIVISIONS passed over that night, Tuttle's following next morning.
Starting with the break of day, we pushed rapidly, and by 9. 30 a. m. of May 18 the head of the column reached the Benton road, and we commanded the Yazoo, interposing a superior force between the enemy at Vicksburg and his forts on the Yazoo. Resting a sufficient time to enable the column to close up, we pushed forward to the point where the road forks, and sending forward on each road the Thirteenth Regulars to the right, and the Eighth Missouri to the left, with a battery at the forks, I awaited General Grant's arrival. He came up very soon, and directed me to operate on the right, McPherson on the center, and McClernand on the left. Leaving a sufficient force on the main road to hold it till McPherson came up, I pushed the head of my column on this road till the skirmishers were within musket-range of the defenses of Vicksburg. Here I disposed Blair's DIVISION to the front, Tuttle's in support, and ordered Steele's to follow a blind road to the right till he reached the Mississippi. By dark his advance was on the bluffs, and early next morning he reached the Haynes' Bluff roads, getting possession of the enemy's outer works, his camps, and many prisoners left behind during their hasty evacuation, and had his pickets up within easy range of the enemy's new line of defense, so that by 8 a. m. of May 19 we had compassed the enemy to the north of Vicksburg, our right resting on the Mississippi River, with a plain view of our fleets at the mouth of the Yazoo and
Young's Point, Vicksburg in plain sight, and nothing separated us from the enemy but a space of about 400 yards of very difficult ground, cut up by almost impracticable ravines, and his line of intrenchments. I ordered the Fourth Iowa Cavalry to proceed rapidly up to Haynes' Bluff and secure possession of that place, it being perfectly open to the rear. By 4 p. m. the cavalry was on the high bluff behind, and Colonel Swan, being assured that the place had been evacuated, dispatched Captain Peters to go in and secure the place.
I inclose Colonel Swan's report,* with one from Lieutenant Clark,* from which you will see that the Fourth Iowa Cavalry first got possession of the enemy's battery (evacuated, of course, when we were in full possession of the Benton road) and delivered it over, with its guns, magazine (filled), and material, to the gunboat De Kalb, at the time (4 p. m. May 19) lying 2 miles below in Yazoo River. Also on that day communication was opened with our fleet at Young's Point and the mouth of the Yazoo, and bridges and roads make to bring up ammunition and provisions from the mouth of Chickasaw, to which point supply boats had been ordered by General Grant. Up to that time our men had