150 years ago this week Federal troops began digging a canal that was intended to cut between two sections of the Mississippi River so that Union ships could avoid passing by Vicksburg and its effective cannon defenses.
From A Seneca Falls, New York newspaper published July, 1862:
We are permitted to peruse a very interesting letter from JOHN ARNETT, of our village, received this morning by his parents. It is dated on board the U.S. Steamer Westfield, off Vicksburg, June 30th, and gives an account of the bombardment of that city by the mortar and gunboats, which commenced on the 26th ult. The rebels seem to make an obstinate resistance to the fleet, and from last reports the city had not yet surrendered. – JOHN states that there are five thousand Federal troops near Vicksburg, under command of Gen. WILLIAMS, and that they, together with the contrabands are cutting a new channel for the river, which, when completed, will leave the city a distance of 3 miles from the same. The Westfield and all on board had a narrow escape during the bombardment. He states that a rifle shot from the enemy passed through the starboard wheelhouse and through the armory, bringing up in the passage way, within three inches of the steam cylinder.
The letter is very interesting, and we regret that we have not had time or room this week to publish it complete.
As that national Park Service link points out, the 1862 work on the canal ended after about a month of deaths from disease and heat. The canal was not big enough for ships to pass.