With the arrival of spring 150 years ago, the Volunteer Regiment from Appanoose County began an expedition to take part in the Yazoo Pass, or Fort Pemberton Expedition. The regiment was 600 strong at this point because of a number of illnesses in camp. They embarked down the Mississippi in February, 1863. The operation was conceived by Gen. Grant and entailed blowing an opening through the east bank of the Mississippi River near Moon Lake below Helena to open a channel connecting with an inland water route to encircle the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg from the north.
As the expedition proceeded, the regiment had to wade in ice-cold water waist-deep. It was still fairly cold in the water as it was not yet spring. The regiment saw its first action at Shell Mound, Miss. After witnessing a fierce artillery duel between federal and rebel batteries, Capt. Swiggett noted that the 36th Iowa had a “sharp exchange” with the rebels. They spent 40 days of wading in the Coldwater River and fighting through this desolate but well-fortified area. They found no pass unguarded along the way. The expedition had to be abandoned. As they approached Ft. Pemberton on March 11, 1863, they had to back away as it was too well fortified and deemed too risky to proceed.
During the campaign, the men suffered greatly because of almost continuous exposure to the elements on this campaign. They were exposed to freezing rain and high winds that blew down their tents. Many were brought down by cold, flu and fever due to constant cold and dampness. Losses included Asbury Hall, Company C, killed at Shell Mound, W.W Reynolds, Company C, Mound City, R. B. Shaffer, killed at Shell Mound and Sgt. H.N. Swallow, Company F, killed at Shell Mound.
They finally returned back to camp at Helena, Ark. in April, 1863, 150 years ago this month.
More to come later.