120 HISTORY OF THE SEVENTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT O.V.V.I.
TRIP DOWN THE MISSISSIPPI.
CAMP AT LAKE PROVIDENCE – VISTA PLANTATION – YOUNG'S POINT – CANAL – GRAND GULF – PORT GIBSON – RAYMOND – JACKSON – CHAMPION HILLS – BLACK RIVER – VICKSBURG.
The regiment left camp at Memphis the evening of February 20, and embarked on the Edward Walsh in company with the Thirtieth Illinois. The Paymaster was engaged in paying the regiment when the order came to march to the boat. He accompanied the regiment to the boat and finished his work on board.
The troops remained aboard until the morning of the 22d, before the boat left the landing. All the Division was loaded by Sabbath morning, and left about 8 o'clock, the steamer Continental making the start, then followed the John Dickey, Platte Valley, Louisiana, Edward Walsh, David Tatum, Mary Forsythe and others, in all eleven boats, the flag-boat Superior bringing up the rear. The trip was unpleasant on account of the cold, rainy weather. While lying at the wharf many of the boys in some way eluded the vigilance of the guards, and went off up town, determined to have a farewell spree before going down the Mississippi. Although spirits were freely imbibed, yet very few cases of drunkenness occurred on board.
After a ride of twenty-six hours we landed at Providence, a distance of three hundred and twenty-five miles from Memphis. We encamped in a cotton field, on the south bank of Lake Providence, about one and a-half miles from the Mississippi river, which is plainly in view, being much higher than the lake and surrounding country. Although it is February, the peach trees are in bloom, and but little fire is needed. The contrast between the climate here and at Memphis is great.
Lake Providence, about which there is so much talk, is about one quarter of a mile from the town, and is said to be seven miles in length. There are about five hundred negroes digging a canal from the lake to the river; the object being to turn the waters of the Mississippi into the lake, so that our boats can cross the Red river, cut off the rebel supplies from Texas, and flank the batteries of Vicksburg. The course is from the lake into Bayou Tensas, thence to Bayou Mason, thence into Black and Red rivers, and then down into the Mississippi again. The work is progressing rapidly, and is now nearly half done. Negroes are also at work clearing the timber from the Bayous. The lake is about twelve feet lower than the river. Vicksburg is seventy miles down the river, and forty by land.
Up to March 9th, nothing of interest had transpired; everything has been quiet except the occasional appearance of a few guerrillas in our front. Since our arrival here, the regiment has had much heavy duty. The work on the canal has been going on undisturbed until the 8th, when operations had to be suspended, in consequence of the water in the bayou rising and flowing towards the river. It is supposed to be the work of rebels who have constructed a dam some twelve miles below. Sixteen regiments and a section of artillery were sent down to look after them. Guerrillas are said to be swarming the country in great numbers, but as yet have done little damage. It is reported they have routed Quimby's Division which was encamped about twenty miles from this place; the rebels cut the levee above them and let the water so spread as to prevent their finding suitable camping grounds. Lake Providence was, for the first time, honored last week by the launching of a steam craft into its waters. She is intended to ply up and down the lake, and assist in the work of the canal. Flatboats are also being built for the same purpose. It is hoped that before long we may be permitted to take passage on the
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