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at work round Port Hudson: Farragut to good effect; Banks as usual. On the fourteenth of March Farragut started up the river with seven men-of-war and wanted the troops to make a demonstration against Port Hudson from the rear while the fleet worked its way past the front. But, just as Farragut was weighing anchor, Banks, who had had ample time for preparation, sent word to say he was still five miles from Port Hudson. “He'd as well be at New Orleans," muttered Farragut, "for all the good he's doing us.”
Six of the vessels were lashed together in pairs, the heavier ones next the enemy, the lighter ones secured well aft so as to mask the fewest guns. This arrangement also gave each pair the advantage of having twin screws. Farragut's flagship, the Hartford, leading the line-ahead, suffered least from the dense smoke on that damp, calm, moonless night. But the others were soon groping blindly up the tortuous channel. The Hartford herself took the ground for a critical moment. But, with her own screw going ahead and that of the Albatross going astern, she drew clear and won through. Not so, however, the other five ships. Only the Hartford and Albatross reached the Red River. Yet even this was of great importance, as it completely cut off Port Hudson from all chance of relief. Farragut went on up the Mississippi to see Grant, destroying all riverside stores on the way. Grant was delighted, and, in the absence of Porter, who was up the Yazoo, sent Farragut an Ellet ram and some sorely needed coal.
Grant's seventh (and first successful) effort to get a foothold (from which to carry out one of the boldest and most brilliant operations recorded in the history of war) began with a naval operation on the sixteenth of April, when Porter ran past the Vicksburg batteries by night. Though Porter had the four-knot current in his favor he needed all his skill and moral courage to take a regular flotilla round the elongated U made by the Mississippi at Vicksburg, with such a bend as to keep vessels under more or less distant fire for five miles, and under much closer fire for nearly nine. At the bend the vessels could be caught end-on. For nearly five miles after that they were subject to a plunging fire. Porter led the way on board the flagship Benton. He had seven ironclads, of which three were larger vessels and four were gunboats built by Eads, a naval constructor with orignal ideas and great executive ability. One ram and three transports followed. Coal barges were lashed alongside
or taken in tow. Some of these were lost and one transport was sunk. But the rest got through, though not unscathed. It seemed like a miracle to the tense spectators that any flotilla should survive this dash down a river of death flowing through a furnace. But the ironclads, magnificently handled, stood up to their work unflinchingly, fired back with regulated vigor, and took their terrific pounding without one vital wound.
Porter presently relieved Farragut, who went back to New Orleans. From this time, till after the fall of Vicksburg and Port Hudson, Porter commanded three flotillas, each with a base of its own: first, a flotilla remaining north of Vicksburg for work on the Yazoo; secondly, the main body between Vicksburg and Grand Gulf; thirdly, the Red River flotilla. This combined naval force commanded all lines of communication north, south, and west of Vicksburg, thus enabling Grant to concentrate entirely against the eastern side.
On the thirtieth of April Grant landed with twenty thousand men at Bruinsburg, on the east side of the Mississippi, about sixty miles below Vicksburg. A week later Sherman reinforced him to thirty-three thousand. Before the fall of Vicksburg his total strength reached seventy-five thousand. The Confederate total also fluctuated; but not so much. There were about sixty thousand Confederates in the whole strategic area between Vicksburg and Jackson (fifty miles east) when Grant made his first daring move, and about the same when Vicksburg surrendered. The scene of action was almost triangular; for it lay between the three lines joining Jackson, Haynes's Bluff, Rodney, and Jackson again. The respective lengths of these straight lines are forty, fifty, and seventy miles. But roundabout ways by land and water multiplied these distances, and much fighting and many obstacles vastly increased Grant's difficulties.
An army, however, that had managed to reach Bruinsburg from the north and west was assuredly fit for more hard work of any kind; while a commander who had left a safe base above Vicksburg and landed below, to live on (as well as in) an enemy country till victory should give him a new land line to the north, must, in view of the result. ant triumph, be counted among the master-minds
Grant's marvelous skill in massing, dividing, forwarding, and concentrating his forces over a hundred miles of intricate passages between Milliken's Bend and Bruinsburg was only excelled by
his consummate genius in carrying out this daring operation, forcing his way through his enemies, into full possession of interior lines, between their great garrison of Vicksburg and their field army from Jackson. He had to create two fronts in spite of his doubled enemy and live on that enemy'scountry without any land base of his own.
Grant knew the country was quite able to support his army if he could only control enough of it. Bread, beef, and mutton would be almost unobtainable. But chickens, turkeys, and ducks were abundant, while hard-tack would do instead of bread. Bird-and-biscuit of course became unpopular; and after weeks of it Grant was not surprised to hear a soldier mutter “hard-tack" loudly enough for others to take up the cry. By this time, however, he luckily knew that the bread ration was about to be resumed; and when he told the men they cheered as only men on service canmen to whom battles are rare events but rations the very stuff of daily existence. Coffee, bacon, beef, and mutton came next in popular favor when full rations were renewed. So when the Northern land line was reopened towards the end of the siege, and friends came into camp with presents from home, they found, to their amazement, that even