After the assault, the ground between the contending lines was covered with dead and wounded men of our army. A flag-of-truce was sent out on the afternoon of the 29th, to arrange for burying the dead and bringing away the wounded, but the Rebels would not receive it. Sunrise on the 30th, noon, sunset, and sunrise again, and they lay there still. On the 31st, a truce of five hours was arranged, and the work of humanity accomplished. A heavy rain had fallen, rendering the ground unfit for the rapid moving of infantry and artillery, in front of the Rebel position.
On the evening of the 31st, orders were issued for a new plan of attack at another part of the enemy’s lines. A division was to be embarked on the transports, and landed as near as possible to the Rebel fortifications on Haines’s Bluff, several miles up the Yazoo. The gun-boats were to take the advance, engage the attention of the forts, and cover the landing. Admiral Porter ordered Colonel Ellet to go in advance, with a boat of his ram fleet, to remove the obstructions the Rebels had placed in the river, under the guns of the fort. A raft was attached to the bow of the ram, and on the end of the raft was a torpedo containing a half ton of powder.
Admiral Porter contended that the explosion of the torpedo would remove the obstructions, so that the fleet could proceed. Colonel Ellet expressed his readiness to obey orders, but gave his opinion that the explosion, while effecting its object, would destroy his boat and all on board. Some officers and civilians, who knew the admiral’s antipathy to Colonel Ellet, suggested that the former was of the same opinion, and therefore desirous that the experiment should be made.
Every thing was in readiness on the morning of the 1st of January, but a dense fog prevented the execution of our new plan. On the following day we withdrew from the Yazoo, and ended the second attack upon Vicksburg. Our loss was not far from two thousand men, in all casualties.
General Sherman claimed to have carried out with exactness, the instructions from his superior officers respecting the time and manner of the attack. Van Dorn’s raid upon General Grant’s lines, previous to Sherman’s departure from Memphis, had radically changed the military situation. Grant’s advance being stopped, his co-operation by way of Yazoo City could not be given. At the same time, the Rebels were enabled to strengthen their forces at Vicksburg. The assault was a part of the great plan for the conquest of the Mississippi, and was made in obedience to positive orders. Before the orders were carried out, a single circumstance had deranged the whole plan. After the fighting was ended and the army had re-embarked, preparatory to leaving the Yazoo, General Sherman was relieved from command by General McClernand. The latter officer carried out the order for withdrawal. The fleet steamed up the Mississippi to Milliken’s Bend, where it remained for a day or two. General McClernand directed that an expedition be made against Arkansas Post, a Rebel fortification on the Arkansas River, fifty miles above its mouth.