Fort Hill was the anchor of the left flank of the rear Confederate defense line. The fort's position was so strong that the Union Army did not even attempt an attack during the assaults of May 19 and 22. Overlooking the Mississippi River and the water battery located on the bank below, Fort Hill commanded the bend in the river north of the city.
Grant required naval assistance to carry out his plan to capture Vicksburg. Admiral David Dixon Porter assembled a fleet of seven ironclad gunboats, a ram and three transports for his attempt to pass the city. The transports were fortified with bales of cotton and hay, while the ironclads, with coal barges lashed to their sides, would provide additional protection for the vulnerable vessels. These transports would be used to transfer the Union infantry from the west bank to the east bank of the Mississippi River. From Fort Hill you can observe the area where Admiral Porter's fleet began its run past the Vicksburg batteries.
On the night of April 16, the fleet steamed down the Mississippi River in single file, hugging the western shore in an effort to sneak by without being detected. But Confederate lookouts spotted the boats and sounded the alarm. Quickly, Southern batteries went into action. To aid the Confederate gunners, tar barrels were lit along the city's river bank and houses in the village of De Soto, LA, across the river, were set on fire. With that assistance, the Confederate artillery fire pounded the Union ships, but despite numerous hits, only one transport was sunk. The remainder of the fleet met Grant's infantry near Hard Times, LA, as planned.
During the siege, the Union ironclad and sister ship to the U.S.S. Cairo, the U.S.S. Cincinnati, was sunk by the combined fire of the water battery and other river batteries. The Cincinnati was eventually raised, refitted, and returned to service.
Last updated: April 14, 2015