ALBERT O. MARSHALL
In order to attain his objective of finally taking Vicksburg, Grant boldly cut his lines of supply and communications and went tearing into Mississippi to the south of the town. After defeating the forces under Confederate General Joseph Johnston at the state capital, Jackson, on 14 May, the Federals learned from a Confederate courier turned Yankee spy that enemy forces from Vicksburg under John C. Pemberton were attempting to link up with Johnston's army to strike at Grant's rear. Rather than allow this event to pass, the Federal general struck at Pemberton as he moved to comply, defeating the Southerners decisively at Champion Hill on 16 May 1863. On the following day, Grant's troops crushed the Confederate force guarding a crossing of the Big Black River. Both battles enabled Grant to lay siege to the beleaguered Confederates in their entrenchments before Vicksburg. Serving with the 33rd Illinois Regiment at the time, Albert 0. Marshall wrote of his experiences in the campaign in his work Army Life: From a Soldier's Journal.
At an early hour on Saturday morning, May 16, 1863 our entire army was aroused, a hasty breakfast consisting of some coffee and hard tack eaten, and every thing put in readiness for the coming contest. The thick woods in our front covered the Confederate army lying there and waiting for us. The ground was broken and hilly as well as covered with a heavy growth of timber. Many capital positions could be selected by an army that chose to stand on the defensive. This was the course taken by the enemy. Between where we had camped for the night and the wooded hills where the rebels had taken their stand was some open ground.
Our army corps, the thirteenth, was the left of the advancing Union army. At an early hour, between seven and eight o'clock, and before we were fairly under way, we heard the first guns of the day's contest. It was