On the same day (March 31, 1863) that Colonel Bennett's task force left Milliken's Bend, LA, to reconnoiter the road to New Carthage, ground was broken on the Duckport Canal. If completed, the canal would connect Duckport Landing on the Mississippi River with Walnut Bayou, and enable the Federals to reach New Carthage by flatboat. The route could also be used to supply the army as it moved south through Louisiana. A force of 3,500 men from McClernand and Sherman's Corps worked under the direction of Col. George G. Pride, a volunteer aide-de-camp on the army's engineering staff, and the canal became known as "Pride's Ditch." Six companies of Col. Josiah Bissell's Engineer Regiment of the West assisted in the effort to cut a three-mile canal from the river to Cooper's Plantation on Walnut Bayou. Rapid progress was made as the soldiers excavated a ditch 7 feet deep and 40 feet wide.
At noon on April 13, the levee was cut and four steam dredges entered the canal and commenced deepening the channel. Fatigue parties worked to remove trees and stumps as they cleared Walnut Bayou south to Dr. David H. Dancy's Crescent Plantation. Water levels in the bayous, however, did not rise as rapidly as the engineers had expected. Compounding these difficulties, the Mississippi River began to fall. By May 4, 1863, even the most optimistic engineer gave up hope, and work on the canal came to a stop. Two dredges and 20 barges were marooned in the shallows of the canal and Walnut Bayou. Only one vessel, the tug Victor, managed to reach New Carthage. The army would have to march to New Carthage.