NP, WJ 5/25/1863

From the Wilmington Journal
May 25, 1863
From the Charleston Courier
Places in Mississippi
Editors Courier,
   Herewith, should you choose to publish, you will find some facts regarding points and places among which a momentous struggle is to take place. These statements are, I believe, mainly correct, and may be of interest to your readers.
   A description of Vicksburg would be repeating a tale already thrice told. Suffice it to say the natural defences in its rear are fully equal to those in its front, which look so sternly victorious upon the river.
   The Southern {of Mississippi} Rail Road running from Vicksburg to Meridian, a distance of 140 miles, is conducted by gentlemen of energy and ability, who have made every effort to furnish transportation for troops and supplies, and keep the road and rolling stock in the best possible condition. Going East the first station is Mount Albon, seven miles from Vicksburg -- a place of twelve or fifteen scattered houses. Next Bovina, ten miles from Vicksburg, three or four houses, two stores, but is the depot of the neighborhood within fifteen miles. Two miles from Bovina, and twelve miles from Vicksburg, is Big Black Bridge, crossing that stream some fifteen {fifty} miles from where it empties into the Mississippi river. This stream is about one hundred yards wide, and was formerly navigable for small vessels as high up as where the rail road crosses, but the stream has become obstructed by trees and the caving in of embankments, so that its navigation would be difficult, if not impossible.
   The topography of the country through which the river runs, below the rail road, is generally swampy; above, it gradually arises into undulating and heavily wooded land. As may be supposed, the stream is fordable, but owing to the nature of its banks, the passage of artillery and wagons are difficult, and confined to few fords. The bridge which crosses the river here is about half a mile long and eighty feet high. The pare of it which is immediately over the river is supported by strong columns of stone and brick; the rest is of strong wooden timbers. Of course the destruction of this bridge, or the possession of it by the enemy, would isolate Vicksburg from communication with other parts of the Confederacy. Six miles from the bridge, eighteen miles from Vicksburg, and twenty-eight miles from Jackson, is Edward's Depot. A few houses, few stores, a blacksmith and carriage shop, make up the place. In the season between eighteen and twenty-five thousand bales of cotton are shipped from here. The wagon road to Jackson runs by here -- as, in fact, it does all along the railroad. There seems to be no reason, from its position, that it should be considered a strategic point, other than to protect the rail road bridge, and to prevent the enemy crossing the Big Black. But, at the same time, the possession of this point, or, in fact, a point either side of it, would open to them the Yazoo country.
   Next through an undulating, wooded country, we come to Bolton's Depot, eight miles from Edward's Depot, twenty-six miles from Vicksburg and twenty miles from Jackson. This place is like the last in point of size and importance. A rail road extends from Bolton's to Raymond {the Raymond RR}, a distance of some eight miles, but it is not now in operation. Ten miles on is Clinton, of 1000 or 1500 population -- seat of an excellent College and was once one of the most flourishing cities in the State. Another ten miles and you reach Jackson, the junction of N. O. J. and G. N. Railroad {New Orleans, Jackson & Great Northern RR} with So. Railroad, forty-six miles from Vicksburg, 95 from Meridian and something over two hundred miles above New Orleans. It is a city of 5000 or 6000 inhabitants, pleasantly situated and contains handsome State buildings. The Southern Railroad crosses Pearl river here. This stream is navigable for small craft to Jackson, but such is the risk of navigation that it is never attempted but as an experiment. This stream runs South and empties into or near Mississippi Bay. Canton, where the Mississippi Central Rail Road and N. O. J. and G. N. Rail Road connect, lies twenty-three miles North of Jackson. Brandon, a place of 1500 inhabitants, and quite an enterprising town, is twelve miles from Jackson. Going onward we pass Pelahatchie, Morton, Lake, Forest, Newton Hickory, and so on to Meridian, where the So. Rail Road connects with three different railroads running North, South and East {Mobile & Ohio RR going north and south, Northeast & Southwest Alabama RR going east for a few miles, the connecting with the Alabama & Mississippi Rivers RR continuing east}. Meridian, in the hands of the enemy, would give him command of our rail road transportation between Mississippi and all other parts of the Confederacy. Meridian is a low, sandy place, consisting of rail road buildings, two or three "hotels" and a half dozen houses. The stations between Brandon and Meridian are simply depots and not likely to be the scene of a struggle.
W. H. J.