An illustration that appeared in Harper's Weekly, August 1862 shows hundreds of blacks "Cutting the Canal Opposite Vicksburg". Grant's Canal, as it became to be known, was an attempt to cut a new channel across the base of De Soto Point on the west side of the Mississippi River across from Vicksburg, Mississippi. The purpose of the canal was to develop a channel for navigation that would enable gunboats and transports to bypass the Confederate batteries at Vicksburg. On June 28, 1862, General Thomas Williams began digging work on the canal by employing local laborers and some soldiers. Many of the men fell victim to tropical diseases and heat exhaustion, and the work was abandoned at the end of July.
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