Adm. Porter: “They have 12,000 troops at Grand Gulf, and still increasing the number.”

Apr 24 1863.  Yesterday I received the following report from Adm. Porter informing me that the Rebels are fortifying Grand Gulf.

FLAGSHIP BENTON,
Off New Carthage, April 23,1863.
DEAR GENERAL: Feeling that something was going on at Grand Gulf that should be stopped, I went down with the whole squadron to reconnoiter. A strong fort (at present mounting three guns only) pointing up the river was a part of the extensive works now under way. I went down in the Lafayette and drove the workers out; that fort did not fire at us, but one below it did; also one lower still. Three rifled shot went over the Lafayette after I left. The rebels had a steamer (the Charm) down, bringing supplies. We drove her away before she had time to land them. These forts are only partly finished; in a week they will be formidable.

I found a preacher (half Union man), who was just from Grand Gulf. He told me all about the fortifications and the number of troops. They are throwing in troops from Vicksburg as fast as they can by land, and bringing down guns, etc., as fast as they can by water. There are four forts in all, well placed, and mounting 12 large guns. They have been preparing this place six weeks, and have known all about this move; expected it sooner.

I would have attacked had there been but two forts. I made my plans to do so, but considered it unwise to put myself in a position where I might be separated from the army, which might have happened under present circumstances. They have 12,000 troops at Grand Gulf, and still increasing the number. My informant tells me that they have plenty of beef and corn meal. They seem to have about 500 contrabands at work. I could see no more. My idea was to attack the forts at once and land troops at the same time, but I think we should have superior numbers, for the position is a very strong one. If the troops can get by we can land them below, and land on a road leading to the fort, or go up Bayou Pierre, which leads to the Port Hudson Railroad. As you know your own plan. I wont pretend to offer any suggestions. I merely give you the information I have obtained. I send you a little plan of the place.
Very respectfully,
DAVID D. PORTER.

 

I wrote to Gen. McClernand,

April 24th, 1863,
Maj Gen. J. A McClernand Comdg 13th. Army Corps.

General,

I would like to have Gen Ousterhaus make a reconnaissance, in person, to a point on the Mississippi opposite the mouth of Bayou Pierre, and a short distance below, to where there is a road leading from the river to Grand Gulf.  The map shows such a road. It is desirable to learn if there is a landing at that point, and if it can be done by inquiry to learn also the condition of the road on the opposite side. If a landing cannot be made in front of Grand Gulf it may be necessary to reach there by this route. The maps show this road, and also a road from the same point to Port Gibson. It is also important to know if there is a road on the west bank of the river from here to a point below Grand Gulf. Should any of our Gunboats get below the Gulf and not be able to return it could be used in communicating with them.
Very Respectfully
U. S. Grant
Major General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 8, p 113-5

O.R., I (Navy), xxiv, 605-6

National Archives, RG 393, Dept. of the Tenn., Letters Sent

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