As described by Arthur Robinson in is Memorandum and Anecdotes of the Civil War 1862 to 1865, on December 28th orders were read for the 33rd Regiment to return to Memphis. Companies of the 33rd Regiment quartered very comfortably just outside the Memphis city limit until February 7, 1863.
“The morning of February 7th, 1863, we were paid four months’ pay, issued five days’ rations, 60 rounds of cartridges and a sheet of canvas 5 feet by 6 feet, with buttons on one edge and stake loops on the other, so that two sheets could be buttoned together, which we called dog tents. These were to be our tents and shelter. Our quartermaster had been around and taken an inventory of our camp. That meant there was something in the wind. That afternoon, on dress parade, there were orders read to be ready to march to the city landing by 6 A.M., leaving our tents and camp stand. This was not approved by some of the boys.They did not like the idea of leaving our comfortable camp for some new regiment to occupy and enjoy, and there were a good many pranks played, such as splitting the forks of the stakes that supported the bunks, burying blank cartridges in the fireplaces, or stuffing the chimneys with old blankets and castoff clothing; any thing that would be likely to give annoyance to the new occupants.
We were in line promptly at 6 o’clock the morning of the 8th, and were marched to the city landing. There we stacked our arms and lay awaiting our turn for loading on the boats. There were three boats assigned for our brigade. (A brigade consisted of 3 to 6 regiments; a regiment was 10 companies of 100 men, so a brigade could be 3000 to 6000 soldiers.) The 3d Iowa and the 41st Missouri were embarked on the White Cloud, a large boat and the one that first brought our regiment to Memphis. The 14th Illinois was next, on the Queen, a stern wheeler; our regiment, the 33d Wisconsin, on the Natchez, a stern wheeler, and we were started down the river in that order, leaving Memphis at 11 o’clock A.M. The third day, as we neared Young’s Point, the White Cloud was fired into by a masked battery from the east bank. We answered with a volley of musketry, and our boat in the rear was ordered to land at a landing a short distance above, the other two going down the river. Our regiment was landed and marched across the bend about two miles, where we came in sight of the battery, two guns. They had spied us and were off in a gallop. Here they had another embrasure and would have given the boats another shot had we not surprised them. We pursued them four miles. We then marched back to Iuca, twelve miles below where we had landed, and found our boats awaiting us there. We were not molested again in our going down the river, and arrived at Milican’s Bend the 12th, where we were disembarked and went into camp.
February 13th we awoke in the morning to find our camp flooded with water from the river, everything was drenched, and we were wading out to higher ground, and the boys were singing the nautical song as they marked out. “Mark Twain, Mark above water Twain, nine feet, no bottom.” It was quite amusing to see how cheerful the boys took their wetting. The country is a flat level and protected by a levee, a bank of earth thrown up along the bank of the river. This had washed out or broken in many places, letting the water in.
Grant was concentrating his army here and some had already gone below Grand Gulf, on this side of the river. Troops were moving south every day. We were in sound of the gunboats’ fire on Vicksburg. There was a large lot of army stores here, which we were guarding, unloading from boats every day and wagon trains were loaded and sent down below Vicksburg. There was a deserter came to our camp the 17th and reported that there was a rebel camp up the river about 30 miles, near the mouth of White River, where they had a small steamboat and two barges that they were crossing men to the east side with; that their camp was secreted on a bayou entering the White River, a camp of 500 men, commanded by Colonel Gurley.
We had received orders to be ready to march at 10 o’clock, issued five days’ rations, 40 rounds of cartridges and light camp outfit, two wagons loaded with picks and shovels and were marched up the river twenty miles, where we apparently go into camp, but only until darkness, when our regiment was divided into two troops. Companies K and I were sent up the river to the mouth of White River; the balance of the regiment was marched west in the cypress swamp over a corduroy road. We moved with great caution. I must here state that our picks and shovels were unloaded at the river, where they were put in array as if we were to work on the levee, ostensibly for a blind, to lead the rebels, if any were spying our movements, to think our purpose was to repair the levee.
Engineers building a “corduroy” road.Wood was put down in swampy areas to make a road.
We were moving with great caution, probably having gone twelve miles, when we came to a halt, and there one company was detached, turning their ponchos wrong side out over their shoulders. They marched on and we heard them halted by the enemy’s picket. The rebel who had come to our camp was dressed in rebel uniform and was sent up, announcing a friend with the countersign. He relieved the picket and told him that they are on the march to cross the river. This ruse was followed up until we relieved all their sentinels and we stationed our pickets and disarmed the rebels. Then we marched in on their camp and took them totally by surprise without firing a gun. We found their guns stacked and took possession of them before we aroused them. The jig was up. We had captured 400 prisoners, with their entire camp outfit and we guarded them in their own camp until daybreak, when we burned everything that would burn–the two scows and steamboat–and marched out to where we had formed our camp and were back in Milican Bend February 20th in our old camp. The Johnnies were sent up the river the next day. They wanted a boat ride, and they got one. They had been ferrying troops across the river to the east side at night and secreted their boat during the daytime. This had been the source of reinforcements to Pemberton for some time.
We remained at Milican Bend guarding the army stores until the 28th of March. That afternoon we were ordered to embark on a boat and with two of the marine boats were sent up the Yazoo River after dark. The fleet ran the blockade that night and the sky was red with shell from our mortar fleet, and the rebel batteries were pouring their shot into our fleet. Our motive was to blow out the blockade in the Yazoo river while the fleet passed Vicksburg, but it was found impracticable, as the rebels had it covered in range of four of their siege guns and were on the alert, and commenced shelling us before we could reach the blockade. They had spies out all along the river.
We returned to Milican Bend and were in our old camp again. The river was very high and the Yazoo was flooding the whole country on its north bank, which is nearly all cypress swamp. The mortar fleet was firing shell into Vicksburg every night. It made a beautiful sight as the fuse twirled with the revolution of the shell, but they must have created sad havoc in the city,and it made me shudder with horror for the poor people who were within their range. Was is cruel! War is inhuman.”