Grant the Relentless
At the end of January Grant concentrated his whole army on the west bank of the Mississippi north of Vicksburg. He now had some 60,000 men divided into three corps—XIII under quarrelsome McClernand, who was angry over his demotion from army command; XV under Sherman, Grant's righthand man; and XVII, under dependable Major General James B. McPherson. Grant also had available another corps, XVI, commanded by Major General Stephen Hurlbut, who was guarding railroads in Tennessee. This force seemed large enough to take Vicksburg, but Grant first had to find a vulnerable spot to attack. Grant was persistent enough to keep trying, even though Vicksburg was to prove difficult to conquer.
Grant's first project was to attempt to complete the canal across DeSoto Point, the peninsula opposite Vicksburg, that had been started the previous summer. By chance the Mississippi makes a great bend to the east of Vicksburg, so forming a large peninsula on the Arkansas side called Desoto Point. The base of this peninsula was only one and a half miles wide, a distance that some naval officers had felt could be cut through by a canal that would enable boats to totally bypass the fortifications at Vicksburg. Plans accordingly had been drawn up for a canal to be constructed from a spot six miles upstream of Vicksburg to an outlet three-and-one-half miles below the town. It was to be made 50 feet wide and deep enough for the boats to pass. The whole project was supervised by Brigadier General Williams, who used his own troops as laborers. Supporting them were