Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant

On March 28, 1863, Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant ordered an end to the Yazoo Pass Expedition. [Wikimedia Commons]

Yazoo Pass Expedition Facts

February 3–April 8, 1863

Key facts about the Yazoo Pass Expedition.

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Date and Location

  • February 3–April 8, 1863
  • Leflore County, Mississippi

Campaign

Notable Engagements

Principal Union Commanders

  • Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith (USN)
  • General Leonard F. Ross (USA)
  • Brigadier General Isaac F. Quinby

Principal Confederate Commanders

Union Forces Engaged

  • Naval flotilla (8 gunboats, 2 rams, 1 mortar raft)
  • 13th Army Corps (partial)

Confederate Forces Engaged:

  • Army of Vicksburg (Fort Pemberton garrison)

Number of Union Soldiers Engaged:

  • Roughly 5,000

Number of Confederate Soldiers Engaged:

  • Roughly 2,000

Estimated Union Casualties:

  • Roughly 20

Estimated Confederate Casualties:

  • Fewer than 20

Result

  • Confederate victory

Significance

  • The only significant engagement of the Yazoo Pass Expedition was the Battle of Fort Pemberton.
  • The Yazoo Pass Expedition began on February 3, 1863, when Union engineers breached a levee on the Mississippi River about 300 miles north of Vicksburg, flooding a channel that previously connected the Mississippi River to the Tallahatchie River via Moon Lake and the Coldwater River.
  • The Yazoo Pass was a waterway that connected the Mississippi River to the Tallahatchie River via Moon Lake and the Coldwater River.
  • On February 24, 1863, a federal flotilla commanded by Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith entered the Yazoo Pass and began steaming toward the Tallahatchie River.
  • Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith’s flotilla included two ironclads, six gunboats, and two rams, and troop transports carrying 4,500 Union soldiers from the 13th Army Corps, commanded by General Leonard F. Ross.
  • On February 9, 1863, Confederate General John C. Pemberton, commander of the Army of Vicksburg, learned about the Union’s Yazoo Pass Expedition.
  • He immediately dispatched a small contingent of soldiers to fell trees and otherwise hinder the progress of the Federal flotilla, which was already moving excruciatingly slow due to natural obstructions and Lieutenant Commander Smith’s lack of urgency.
  • Principal Confederate commander(s): Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton, Major General William W. Loring
  • Major General William W. Loring’s division arrived at Greenwood, Mississippi, on February 21, 1863.
  • As Union forces navigated the Yazoo Pass, Confederate Major General William W. Loring’s force constructed Fort Pemberton at the junction of the Tallahatchie and Yazoo Rivers, about four miles downriver from Greenwood.
  • Fort Pemberton consisted of a series of artillery batteries, protected by earthworks and cotton bales, which were connected by lines of rifle pits and entrenchments.
  • The Federals referred to Fort Pemberton as Fort Greenwood.
  • On March 11, 1863, Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith’s forces initiated the Battle of Fort Pemberton, a series of several unsuccessful attempts over a period of five days to subdue Fort Pemberton.
  • On March 17, 1863, Lieutenant Commander Watson Smith reported himself unfit for duty due to illness and relinquished command of the Yazoo Pass Expedition to Lieutenant Commander James P. Foster, captain of the USS Chillicothe.
  • On March 18, 1863, Lieutenant Commander James P. Foster ordered the U.S. naval flotilla to return to Helena, Arkansas, on the Mississippi, ending the Battle of Fort Pemberton.
  • As the federal flotilla withdrew upriver after their loss at the Battle of Fort Pemberton, they encountered Union Brigadier General Isaac F. Quinby, leading part of his division downstream to reinforce the expedition. Quinby assumed command of all the army forces and ordered them back downstream.
  • On March 23, 1863, Union Brigadier General Isaac F. Quinby launched a final unsuccessful assault on Fort Pemberton.
  • On March 28, 1863, Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant ordered an end to the Yazoo Pass Expedition.
  • On April 5, 1863, Union Brigadier General Isaac F. Quinby began the withdrawal of Union forces from the Yazoo Pass.
  • On April 8, 1863, the Yazoo Pass Expedition ended when the last Union forces left the Yazoo Pass.
  • Although the Yazoo Pass Expedition was a military failure for the Union, it did inflict some economic hardship on the Confederacy.
  • The breach in the levee on the Mississippi River flooded thousands of acres of farmland, causing a Confederate loss of 4,000 to 5,000 bales of cotton, plus other staples, and an estimated financial loss of over one million dollars.

Timeline of the Vicksburg Campaign

These are the main battles and events of the Vicksburg Campaign in order.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Yazoo Pass Expedition Facts
  • Coverage February 3–April 8, 1863
  • Author
  • Keywords yazoo pass expedition
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 28, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 14, 2021
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