In early 1863, Major General Ulysses S. Grant decided to try another method of getting around the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg. This time, he would attempt to send a combined army and navy group into the Yazoo River located above the Mississippi city. To do this, they would have to navigate a series of streams and Moon Lake in order to get into position. Moon Lake is an oxbow lake that was once part of the Mississippi River. Years ago the river changed course and created the lake. Farmers and the state then constructed a levee to allow for agricultural interests.
On February 3rd, engineers breached the levee and soon advanced a fleet of gunboats and transports into Moon Lake. A small stream known as the Yazoo Pass ran from the lake to the Coldwater River, and then into the Tallahatchie, which combines with the Yalobusha to form the Yazoo River. The Yazoo meets the Mississippi a short distance above Vicksburg. Thousands of Union soldiers and sailors were soon making their way through the curvy and narrow Pass. They were under the overall command of Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith and Brigadier General Leonard F. Ross. Small Confederate units skirmished with them and downed trees to obstruct the stream. These partisan bands were under the overall command of Captain Aaron Forrest. They would be surprised and routed on the night of February 19, 1863 by the First Indiana Cavalry near Hunt’s Mill. Eventually the battered and damaged fleet made it through, but were stopped by a Confederate defense known as Fort Pemberton. Fort Pemberton was under the command of Major General William W. Loring. The Federals withdrew and returned to Helena ending the Yazoo Pass Expedition in April.
The featured image above is where the Yazoo Pass meets Moon Lake. There is an historical marker discussing this event located on Highway 61 as it goes over the Yazoo Pass in Coahoma County.
Battle of the Yazoo Pass | Mississippi Encyclopedia. http://www.mississippiencyclopedia.org
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 24.
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