Grant's Final Drive
The failure of all four projects attempted since the end of January (the DeSoto Canal, Lake Providence expedition, Yazoo Pass Project, and Steele's Bayou expedition) left Grant in a most awkward position. Though his troops had been encamped for nearly three months at Young's Point, almost in sight of Vicksburg, he was still no closer to capturing the Confederate fortress than he had been when he first moved against Holly Springs. Three options now lay before him. One was to assault Vicksburg at the Chickasaw Bluffs where Sherman had attacked in December; Grant dismissed this as too costly, especially in view of the increased size of the Vicksburg garrison (now at 30,000). A second option was to return to Memphis and attack by way of either Holly Springs or Grenada; Grant dismissed this choice because he had already attempted it unsuccessfully the previous December. This left him with his third option: to move his entire command south of Vicksburg through the more open country to its southeast.
To carry out this project, Grant needed to clear an all-water route for his supply transports from his base at Milliken's Bend to a point near New Carthage, about 30 miles below Vicksburg. His plan was to gather as many supply transports as he could at New Carthage, and use them to carry his troops across the river to capture Grand Gulf. Once he possessed Grand Gulf, he would be free to operate at will in the rear of Vicksburg. Before he did this, though, he was urged by General Halleck to help Banks