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First Assault On Vicksburg
May 19, 1863
by Cpl. Theodore Wolbach, Company E
Web Author's Notes:
The following is a description of the first assault on the Confederate stronghold of Vicksburg, Mississippi, written by Cpl Theodore Wolbach of Company E. Wolbach's colorful history of the 16th Ohio can be read (additional chapters being published frequently) here.

After Gen. Ulysses Grant's brilliant circling maneuver, bringing his large force south from Milliken's Bend, crossing the Mississippi River, and, in rapid order, winning the battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion's Hill and Big Black River Bridge, he now had Gen. Pemberton's Confederates almost completely surrounded, holed up in and close around Vicksburg. Grant could now concentrate his forces on the city and attack, at will, wearing down the enemy toward ultimate surrender. The Union gunboats kept any supplies or reinforcements from reaching Vicksburg by river and Grant's infantry cutoff all supply lines by land. There seemed to be little hope the Rebels would be able to save Vicksburg from Union control.

After pursing the retreating Rebels for nearly three weeks, Grant first attempted to take Vicksburg with a full frontal assault, hoping the Confederates would be so beleaguered and demoralized they would not be able to mount an adequate defense. The first assault occurred on May 19, 1863, and is described below.

The First Assault on Vicksburg

On the morning of the 19th we were on the move early and after marching about two miles we began to see the distant yellow earth-works that environed the rear of the city of Vicksburg. As we deployed and swept forward in line, white puffs of smoke from the works disclosed to us the position of their batteries. Never faltering, the line pressed onward under the increasing fire that was noisy and warlike enough, though not very destructive, until we got within about one fourth of a mile, when the infantry began to peck away at us. In spite of this combined fire we approached close to the rifle-pits--the infantry of our brigade within about fifty yards. The rebel cannon in our immediate front were in position on the parapets. The exposed position of the gunners soon enabled us to silence their pieces. In gaining this ground several of the 16th were killed--the writer recollects two, John Jordon, of Co. E, and Jacob Megary, of Co. C, and a number wounded. Clouds of powder-smoke and the dark lines of Federals showed how the work was progressing far to our right. The Confederate fortifications were now invested to about two thirds of their extent. The place occupied by the 16th was near the extreme left of the Federal line. The way was for a few days necessarily open to the south and if the rebels had chosen to, before reinforcements arrived and extended our line they could have made annoying sorties on our exposed left flank. The ground adjacent to the works was fortunately favorable to a beseiging [sic] army, permitting it to get, by a little resolution a good strong position within close rifle-range of the enemy, who had their line constructed on the higher ridges; we being in most cases located lower. The rebel rifle-pits formed the horizon in our front, and every hand or head that appeared above the crest was quickly detected by our watchful sharp-shooters. A lively fusilade [sic] was kept up from the time we struck the works in the forenoon, until it became too dark to see anything in the evening. From that on into the wee hours, talking, moving around and now and then a little shooting was kept up. The sound of the pick and shovel was heard on the crest of the hills to the rear, where entrenchments were being thrown up for the field guns that were fairly prepared for work next morning. The dead were carried back for burial and the wounded to the hospital, so when day dawned the front line had only their enemies to look after and let fly at them when they exposed themselves.

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