“The work upon the canal here is progressing as well as possible”

Feb 18 1863.  I wrote Gen. Halleck,

HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE TENNESSEE,
Before Vicksburg, MISS.,

February 18, 1863.

General H. W. HALLECK,

Washington, D. C.:

GENERAL: The work upon the canal here is progressing as well as possible, with the excessively bad weather and high water we have had to contend against. Most of the time that troops could be out at all has been expended in keeping water out for our camps. Five good working days would enable the force here to complete the canal 60 feet wide, and of sufficient depth to admit any vessel here. Judging from the past, it is fair to calculate that it will take from ten to twelve days to get those five days. Three more, perhaps, should be allowed, from the fact that the work is being done by soldiers, the most of whom, under the most favorable circumstances, could not come up to the calculations of the engineer officers.

McPherson’s army corps is at Lake Providence, prosecuting the work there. They could not be of any service in helping on the work here, because there are already ad many men as can be employed on it, and then he would have to go 5 or 6 miles above to find land above water to encamptom. I am using a few hundred contrabands on the work here, but have been compelled to prohibit any more coming in. Humanity dictates this policy.

Planters have mostly deserted their plantations, taking with them all their able-bodied negroes and leaving the old and very young. Here they could not have shelter nor means of transportation when we leave.

I have sent a DIVISION of troops from Helena to join the Yazoo expedition under Lieutenant-Colonel Wilson. His last report was sent you a few days ago. If successful, they will destroy the railroad bridges at Grenada and capture or destroy all the transports in the Yazoo and tributaries.

The health of this command is not what is represented in the public journals. It is as good as any previous calculation could have prognosticated. I believe, too, that there is the best of feeling and greatest confidence of success among them. The greatest drawback to the spirits of the troops has been the great delay in paying them. Many of them have families at home who are, no doubt, in a suffering condition for want of the amount due them, and they are bound for their support.

U. S. GRANT,

Major-General.

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 7, p 338-9

O.R., I, xxiv, part 1, 18

 

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