After the first attack upon Vicksburg, in June, 1862, the Rebels strengthened the approaches in the rear of the city. They threw up defensive works on the line of bluffs facing the Yazoo, and erected a strong fortification to prevent our boats ascending that stream. Just before General Sherman commenced his assault, the gun-boat Benton, aided by another iron-clad, attempted to silence the batteries at Haines’s Bluff, but was unsuccessful. Her sides were perforated by the Rebel projectiles, and she withdrew from the attack in a disabled condition. Captain Gwin, her commander, was mortally wounded early in the fight.
Captain Gwin was married but a few weeks before this occurrence. His young wife was on her way from the East to visit him, and was met at Cairo with the news of his death.
About two months before the time of our attack, an expedition descended the Mississippi from Helena, and suddenly appeared near the mouth of the Yazoo. It reached Milliken’s Bend at night, surprising and capturing the steamer Fairplay, which was loaded with arms and ammunition for the Rebels in Arkansas. So quietly was the capture made, that the officers of the Fairplay were not aware of the change in their situation until awakened by their captors.
Capture of Arkansas Post.—The Army returns to Milliken’s Bend.—General Sherman and the Journalists.—Arrest of the Author.—His Trial before a Military Court.—Letter from President Lincoln.—Capture of Three Journalists.
The army moved against Arkansas Post, which was captured, with its entire garrison of five thousand men. The fort was dismantled and the earth-works leveled to the ground. After this was accomplished, the army returned to Milliken’s Bend. General Grant arrived a few days later, and commenced the operations which culminated in the fall of Vicksburg.
Before leaving Memphis on the Yazoo expedition, General Sherman issued an order excluding all civilians, except such as were connected with the transports, and threatening to treat as a spy any person who should write accounts for publication which might give information to the enemy. No journalists were to be allowed to take part in the affair. One who applied for permission to go in his professional capacity received a very positive refusal. General Sherman had a strong antipathy to journalists, amounting almost to a mania, and he was determined to discourage their presence in his movements against Vicksburg.
Five or six correspondents accompanied the expedition, some of them on passes from General Grant, which were believed superior to General Sherman’s order, and others with passes or invitations from officers in the expedition. I carried a pass from General Grant, and had a personal invitation from an officer who held a prominent command in the Army of Arkansas. I had passed Memphis, almost without stopping, and was not aware of the existence of the prohibitory order until I reached the Yazoo.