Difficulty at Chickasaw Bayou
- I went out and looked over the battlefield this weekend, and a couple
of things strike me as interesting:
Sherman's left wing staged on Blakes Levee. The dirt for this levee,
which I estimate was about 2 million cubic feet, was taken from
Walnut Hills overlooking Thompson Lake. This resulted in a sheer
wall of dirt 100 feet high which formed the Confederate right flank.
You can still see this sheer dirt wall today.
McNutt Lake is still there. Like the O.R. said, it's about 80 feet
across at the point where the federals attempted to bridge it. My
Dad seems to think it's currently fordable, and this idea comes with
a funny story. He was fishing McNutt Lake one December day, and got
the urge to pee very near where Sherman attempted to put across.
After relieving himself, he turned to get back in the boat and
noticed that it had begun to drift away. At this point, he had few
options: try to retrieve the boat in the middle of December, walk
four miles through the swamps back to the truck, or walk a mile to
the river road (old U.S. 61), beg a ride back to his truck, and
forget about the boat.
He decided to retrieve the boat, but didn't want to risk hyperthermia
from the wet clothes. So he did the only logical thing, right? He
stripped down, jumped into the water stark naked, and began wading
towards the boat. He got about halfway out into the lake, and was
still touching bottom before the stinging cold water finally got to
him and he started freestyling for the boat as fast as he could. So
he seems to think he could have kept walking across. He's about 5'9".
Chickasaw Bayou no longer connects to McNutt Lake. A (mostly) dry
riverbed still runs in that direction, but the connection has been
severed in several locations by bulldozers. I found the back end of
McNutt Lake by following this old riverbed, getting up to my knees in
mud. This was before my dad informed me that it's probably easier to
get to by boat: a road from the Yazoo Harbor continues up to the
other end of McNutt Lake and a small boat ramp.
It appears that if Sherman had made it across McNutt Lake, he would
have been facing about a one mile march to the river road, after
which he would have been under the hill up which currently runs
Sherman Avenue. The Confederates had internal lines of movement onto
the top of this hill, so I doubt that Sherman could have exploited
this avenue of attack. He could have alternately turned towards
Vicksburg itself, which would have had him charging headlong into the
River Battery under Fort Hill. It's hard to see how he would have
gained much by pursuing either of these.
Mr. Blake says hello, and claims that his Great Grandfather Benjamin
Blake fought in the battle, some of which actually took place on the
family plantation. I'll have to look him up to see if he shows up in
one of the units.
- Hey Slip, thanks for the walking tour. I have a couple questions
regarding the geography in that area, if you don't mind:
1) When did the Mississippi change course away from Vicksburg?
2) When was the Yazoo diversion project undertaken? Does that
completely re-route the Yazoo or is the circa 1860 mouth still part
of the river?
3) When was the Blake's levee project undertaken?
I have been to the area only once, but I'm trying to get a better
idea of then versus now. Thanks
--- In email@example.com, "slippymississippi"
> I went out and looked over the battlefield this weekend, and acouple
> of things strike me as interesting:levee,
> Sherman's left wing staged on Blakes Levee. The dirt for this
> which I estimate was about 2 million cubic feet, was taken fromflank.
> Walnut Hills overlooking Thompson Lake. This resulted in a sheer
> wall of dirt 100 feet high which formed the Confederate right
> You can still see this sheer dirt wall today.
- Thanks for a wonderful description, Slippy.
I've been to Chickasaw Bayou twice. The first was in 1994, late
spring, and during a flood.
We got started towards the Yazoo, and the road was under water. We
could see across the road, about 100 yards, where the road peeked out
of the flood. We didn't try to guess where the road actually was.
A pickup with a bass boat came along, stopped, and then proceeded to
drive over the floodwaters to the other side. We didn't try ... :-)
I was also there last summer, and even in the summer, it's a muddy
mess after a rain. The ground, I would guess, is drier today than it
was then, due to modern drainage techniques. A lot of the bayou area
is under cultivation.
That said, where the bayou / waters still exist, is flat-out ugly.
One look at the creek / bayou, as well as imagining Sherman's
soldiers seeing high water marks ten feet up on trees, would be
enough to honestly understand why his men would think they'd
For meritous service in walking through mud, water, etc. you are hereby awarded a French salute of a kiss on both cheeks.
From Britney Spears of course.