ILLINOIS in the CIVIL WAR

part of a volume entitled History of the Ninety - Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry: From Organization To Muster Out --Statistics Compiled by Aaron Dunbar Sergeant, Company " B", Revised and Edited by Harvey M. Trimble, Adjutant

Submitted by Jeffrey MacAdam, to whom every reader should be grateful.

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CHAPTER III. THE YAZOO PASS EXPEDITION.

On December 18th, A. D., 1862, an order was issued from the War Department, at Washington, whereby the Army of the Tennessee was divided into four army corps, as follows: The Thirteenth, under the command of General McClernand; the Fifteenth, under the command of General Sherman; the Sixteenth, under the command of General Hurlbut; and the Seventeenth, under the command of General McPherson. The Seventh Division, in which the Ninety-Third Illinois was then serving, was assigned to the Seventeenth corps. During the period of encampment at Ridgeway nothing transpired, out of the ordinary routine, other than a short scout, made by four companies of the regiment, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Buswell, on the 13th day of January, A. D. 1863. The Sergeant Major and Wagonmaster and three men of Company I and three men of Company K were captured, while executing orders which detached them from the command, by the same rebel force against which the scout was directed, it being a part of Major Blythe's battalion of Mississippi state troops. After an absence of seventeen days, they all returned, reaching the command on the 30th day of the month. On that day, the regiment moved to a new camp, about two miles from Memphis, where it remained during all the month of February following.

On the 2nd day of March, on board the steamer Henry Von Phul, the command moved down the Mississippi River, and landed, the evening of the 4th day of March, near Grand Lake, Arkansas. * [see note] On the morning of March 5th, the command disembarked and went into camp. On the 7th and 8th days of the month, the command, on board the steamer, moved back up the river to a point five miles below Helena, Arkansas, opposite Yazoo Pass, and, on the 11th day of the month, went into camp on the Arkansas side of the river, and remained there until the 22nd day of the month. The Yazoo Pass expedition followed.

The plan was to reach the Yazoo River, destroy the rebel also the small navy- yard and arsenal at Yazoo City, Mississippi, and possibly gain a footing for the army on the high lands above Haines' Bluff. A canal had been cut from the Mississippi River into Moon Lake. A small natural channel, called Yazoo Pass, connects Moon Lake with Cold Water River. That stream empties into the Tallahatchie River, and the latter and the Yalobusha River form the Yazoo River. Greenwood, where the rebel forces located to oppose the movement, is but a short distance south of the confluence of the Tallahatchie and Yalobusha Rivers.

The expedition was made by a considerable part of the Seventeenth Corps, and under the command of General McPherson. The Ninety-Third Illinois boarded the steamer Jesse K. Bell on the 22nd day of March. The evening of the 23rd, found the steamer passing out of Moon Lake and entering Yazoo Pass. Cold Water River was reached on the 27th, and the Tallahatchie River on the 30th day of the month. At night, on the 31st day of March, the command was no more than seventy-five miles from its last camp in Arkansas, and slowly moving down the Tallahatchie. On the 2nd day of April, a guerrilla fired a shot, from the shore, into the troops on board the boat, and severely wounded Chester Tracy, of Company K. He was the first man wounded in the regiment. The steamer landed, and the Colonel, with a small force, went ashore, and burned every building on the plantation from whence the shot was fired, and took the owner as a prisoner for having harbored the guerrilla. This loss was two-tenths of one percent of the number on the expedition.

The regiment reached the camp of McPherson's troops, near Greenwood, on the 3rd day of April, and, on the 4th, made a reconnaissance of a portion of the enemy's position at Greenwood. The fortifications there were so surrounded with water and by swamps that infantry could not reach them. When General McPherson became satisfied of this fact, he withdrew his forces without delay, and returned to Helena. The Ninety-Third Illinois began the return trip on the 5th day of April, and reached the point from whence it started at 10 o'clock p.m. on the 9th day of the month. In addition to five hundred and twenty-seven miles made by the command after leaving Ridgeway and before entering upon the Yazoo Pass expedition, the distance traversed was about three hundred and forty-four miles. A considerable part of that distance was, literally, a boat ride through big timber. The small steamers used were rent and torn, in terrible manner, by frequent contact with overhanging limbs of large trees and with the trunks of many smaller ones on either side and in the channel. The railings and cornices and fancy woodwork of the upper decks were broken into splinters and carried away. The outside walls of the cabins were penetrated in many places by great limbs of trees and considerable portions of the same practically destroyed. Smokestacks were thrown down, and pilot houses riddled. Paddle wheels were half destroyed, and rudders many times broken. When it again reached the Mississippi River, the fleet was little else than so many dismantled hulls. The crashing and smashing through the timber was full of danger and accident to those on board, as well as fearfully disastrous and destructive to the boat. And thus ended, without any effective result, another experiment which had been expected to contribute something toward the reduction and capture of Vicksburg, the rebel stronghold that blocked the great waterway of the West, and securely held the great states of Louisiana and Texas, with their wealth of supplies, to the cause of the rebellion.


Footnotes

* [Return to text] --It has sometimes been stated, erroneously, that this landing was at Lake Providence. That lake is farther south, and in Louisiana.

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