Saturday, April 18, 1863

Camp Near Vicksburg:

Here we have begun a move that is one of the most dangerous in War. Our Gunboats, 7 of the largest, ran their Blockade and are below Vicksburg. They suffered comparatively little. Three transports followed, one of which was fired and burned to the waters edge. The Silver Wave passed unhurt, and my old Post the Forest Queen, had one shot in her hull, & one through a steam pipe which disabled her. She is below Vicksburg and above Warrenton, and is being repaired.

McClernand’s Corps has marched along the margin of an intricate Bayou, 47 miles to new Carthage The plan is to take & Hold Grand Gulf, and make it the base of a movement in rear of Vicksburg. I don’t like the project for several reasons. The Channel by which provisions, stores ammunition &c. are to be conveyed to Carthage is a narrow crooked bayou with plenty of water now, but in two months will dry up. No boat has yet entered it and though four steam dredges are employed in cutting a Canal into it, I doubt if it can be available in ten days. The road used is pure alluvium, and three hours Rain will make it a quagmire over which a wagon could no more pass than in the channel of the Mississippi. Now the amount of Provisions, forage, and more Especially coal, used by an army & fleet such as we have will overtax the Capacity of the Canal.

Again, we know the enemy has up the Yazoo some of the finest boats that ever navigated the Mississippi, with plenty of cotton to barricade them and convert them into formidable Rams. Knowing now as they well do that our best iron clads are below Vicksburg and that it is one thing to run down stream and very different up, they can simply swap. They can let us have the reach below Vicksburg and they take the one above, and in that exchange they get decidedly the best of the Bargain. To accomplish such a move successfully we should have at least double their force, whereas we know that our effective force is but little if any superior to theirs. They can now use all the scattered bands in Louisiana to threaten this narrow long canal, and force us to guard it so, that the main army beyond will be unequal to a march inland from Grand Gulf. We could undertake & safely to hold the River and allow the Gun boat fleet to go to Port Hudson and assist in the reduction of that place, so that all could unite against Vicksburg.

I have written & explained to Grant all these points but the Clamor is so great, he fears to seem to give up the attack on Vicksburg. My opinion is we should now feint on the River and hasten to Grenada by every available Road, and then move in great force south parallel with the River, leaving the Gunboats and a comparatively small force here.

Grant however trembles at the approaching thunders of popular criticism and must risk every thing. It is my duty to back him, though the contemplated & partially executed move does not comport with my ideas. I know the Pictorials will give flaming pictures of the Successful running the Batteries of Vicksburg, but who thinks of their getting back? What will be thought if some ten large cotton freighted Boats come out of Yazoo, and put all our transports to the bottom, and leave us on the narrow margin of a Great and turbid Stream. The fear of public clamor is more degrading to the mind than a just measure of the dangers of Battle with an open fair enemy in equal or even unequal Fight.

General Thomas is here raising negro Brigades. I would prefer to have this a white man’s war, & provide for the negro after the Storm had passed. But we are in a Revolution and I must not pretend to judge. With my opinions of negroes, and my experience, yea prejudice, I cannot trust them yet. Time may change this, but I cannot bring myself to trust negroes with arms in positions of danger and trust

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About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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