Battle of Big Black River Bridge

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Battle of Big Black River Bridge
Big Black

May 17, 1863


Same day


Hinds and Warren Counties, Mississippi


Western Theater


Grant’s Operations against Vicksburg


Union victory

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Conf Navy Jack.png

XIII Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee

Bridgehead Defense Force


John A. McClernand
Major General, USA

John S. Bowen
Brigadier General, CSA





Reeling from their defeat at Champion Hill, the Confederates reached Big Black River Bridge, the night of May 16–17. Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton ordered Brig. Gen. John S. Bowen, with three brigades, to man the fortifications on the east bank of the river and impede any Union pursuit. Three divisions of Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s XIII Army Corps moved out from Edwards Station on the morning of the 17th. The corps encountered the Confederates behind breastworks and took cover as enemy artillery began firing. Union Brig. Gen. Michael K. Lawler formed his 2nd Brigade, Carr’s Division, which surged out of a meander scar, across the front of the Confederate forces, and into the enemy’s breastworks, held by Vaughn’s East Tennessee Brigade. Confused and panicked, the Rebels began to withdraw across the Big Black on two bridges: the railroad bridge and the steamboat dock moored athwart the river. As soon as they had crossed, the Confederates set fire to the bridges, preventing close Union pursuit. The fleeing Confederates who arrived in Vicksburg later that day were disorganized. The Union forces captured approximately 1,800 troops at Big Black, a loss that the Confederates could ill-afford. This battle sealed Vicksburg’s fate: the Confederate force was bottled up at Vicksburg. (NPS summary)