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The Tunica Times • P.O. Box 308/986 Magnolia Street, Tunica, MS 38676

Yazoo Pass, Part 2: Cold Hard Work

This week continues a series of history stories by the late Ashley Harris that were first published in 1994 and 1995. This story appeared in the November 24, 1994 issue.

On February 7, 1863, 4500 Union sailors and soldiers-turned marines entered the still-turbulent Yazoo Pass.  Many of them had to be transported the 350 river-miles from the Vicksburg area so they could descend the alternate river route, another 350 miles, and attack Vicksburg’s “back door” from the land side.

Because the water from the Mississippi was still rushing into the Pass the Yankees had some excitement.  A captain of the 5th Iowa Infantry gave an account of his experience:

The current grabbed his steamer and spun it around “like a toy stiff in a washtub.”  The boat was bombarded by debris and floating logs, and it was slammed into standing trees.

“In ten minutes,” wrote Captain Samuel Byers, “the rushing torrent had carried us backward down into the little lake.”

The current was so strong that the steamer’s captain ordered the engines to be run in reverse to slow the boat down.

“Not a soul of the five hundred men on board the boat in this crazy ride was lost,” wrote Byers.  Once in the lake (Moon Lake) we stopped, and with amazement watched other boats, crowded with soldiers, also drift into the whirl and be swept down the pass.  It was luck, not management, that half the little army was not drowned.”

Captain George Brown of the Forest Rose went shore with a landing party and captured three men who had just entered the Pass by the Coldwater River.  They said “the people at the mouth of the Coldwater had discovered what had been done at the levee, and that a force of rebels (some 30 or 40) with about 100 negroes, had been engaged for several days in felling timber across the stream at intervals between its junction with the Coldwater and a point nearly 5 miles from Moon Lake.”


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