Grant’s Canal: The Union’s Attempt to Bypass Vicksburg
by David F. Bastian
In addition to doing my Back-To-Back Books and taking notes on other books, I’ll also be reading books without taking detailed notes. After reading these books, I hope to give “Reviews In Brief”. My purpose is to give readers an idea of the content and quality of the books reviewed in this way. In this edition of Reviews In Brief, I’ll take a look at David Bastian’s coverage of the Union canal across De Soto point, which was built with the intent to bypass Vicksburg and make taking the city unnecessary for the control of the Mississippi River. As most students of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign already know, Grant’s Canal ultimately failed during the war, although the Mississippi did change course in the 1870’s, showing that what Grant wanted to accomplish was possible. Bastian is well-suited to write this book, as he is a Civil Engineer and a Canal specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Bastian, with his knowledge of Hydraulics, concludes that had the canal been dug to a depth of 11 feet and a width of 60 feet, the strength of the current would have eroded a permanent channel. Though the River later changed its banks, it did not use Grant’s Canal to do so. It is an ironic footnote that Grant was President at the time of the River’s change.
I enjoyed this short retelling of the efforts to dig a canal across the base of De Soto Point. The author writes in an engaging style and is as qualified as anyone to write this piece. The maps are numerous and give the reader a clear idea of what the Union troops were trying to do. I also managed to pick up a signed copy of the book, much to my delight. Although this is not the only monograph covering Grant’s Canal (both Bearss’ monumental 3-volume work on Vicksburg and a BGES pamphlet also do so to some extent), I would recommend picking this one up. It is currently listed at $6.95 at www.amazon.com, and at that price you can’t go wrong. Anyone interested in the Vicksburg Campaign or the war in the west should own a copy. 88 pp., 14 maps
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