Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4, 1863: The Yazoo Pass Expedition gets underway

U.S.S. Forest Rose
On this day 150 years ago, a federal expedition meant to end run around the defenses of Vicksburg got underway. Federal troops cut a passage through the Mississippi River levee in order to deliberately flood the back country on the west bank and create a passage for light draft vessels to thread their way past Vicksburg.
YAZOO PASS, MISS., February 4, 1863-8 a. m.

COLONEL: The Pass is open, and a river 75 or 80 yards wide is running through it with the greatest velocity. I wrote you on the evening of the 2nd that by the next (yesterday) evening the water would be let through.

About 7 o'clock, after discharging a mine in the mouth of the cut, the water rushed. The channel was only about 5 feet at first, though the embankment was cut through in two places, with an interval of about 20 feet between them, the cut through which the water was first started being considerably the larger.

By 11 p. m. the opening was 40 yards wide, and the water pouring through like nothing else I ever saw except Niagara Falls. Logs, trees, and great masses of earth were torn away with the greatest ease. The work is a perfect success.

The pilots and the captain of the gunboat Forest Rose think it will not be safe to undertake to run through the Pass for four or five days, on account of the great rapidity and fall of the water. It will take several days to fill up the country so much as to slacken the current.

A prominent rebel living near Helena, General Alcorn, says there will be no difficulty whatever in reaching the Yazoo River with boats of medium size.

Captain Brown will go in with the gunboat at the very earliest moment the passage becomes practicable.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Lieutenant-Colonel, Assistant Inspector-General, &c.

Lieutenant Colonel John A. RAWLINS,

Asst. Adjt. General and Chief of Staff, Hdqrs. Dept. of the Tenn.

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