Military Wiki
Battle of Big Black River Bridge
Part of the American Civil War
Grant's Operations against Vicksburg
DateMay 17, 1863 (1863-05-17)
LocationHinds County, Mississippi
Result Union victory
United States United States (Union) Confederate States of America CSA (Confederacy)
Commanders and leaders
John A. McClernand John S. Bowen
John C. Vaughn
Units involved
XIII Corps, Army of the Tennessee Bowen's Division
Vaughn's East Tennessee Brigade
Casualties and losses
276[1] 1,751[1]

The Battle of Big Black River Bridge, or Big Black, fought May 17, 1863, was part of the Vicksburg Campaign of the American Civil War. Union commander Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Tennessee pursued the retreating Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton following the Battle of Champion Hill, in the final battle before the Siege of Vicksburg.


Reeling from their defeat at Champion Hill, the Confederates reached Big Black River Bridge, the night of May 16–17. 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 Corps moved out from Edwards Station (now the town of Edwards, Mississippi) on the morning of May 17. The corps encountered the Confederates behind breastworks of cotton bales fronted by a bayou and abatis. They took cover as enemy artillery began firing. Union Brig. Gen. Michael K. Lawler formed his 2nd Brigade, Eugene A. Carr's 14th Division, which surged out of a meander scar, across the front of the Confederate forces, through waist-deep water, and into the enemy's breastworks, held by Brig. Gen. John C. Vaughn's East Tennessee Brigade.

Confused and panicked, the Confederates began to withdraw across the Big Black River by two routes: the railroad bridge and the steamboat Dot, used as a bridge across the river. As soon as they had crossed, the Confederates set fire to the bridge and steamboat, preventing close Union pursuit. The fleeing Confederates who arrived in Vicksburg later that day were disorganized.


The Union forces captured approximately 1,700 troops at Big Black and many drowned,[1] a loss that the Confederates could ill-afford. Fewer than half of the Confederates who had fought at Champion Hill made it into the defenses at Vicksburg. This battle sealed Vicksburg's fate: the Confederate force was bottled up at Vicksburg.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Kennedy, pp. 170-71.


Further reading

  • Ballard, Michael B. Vicksburg, The Campaign that Opened the Mississippi. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8078-2893-9.
  • Bearss, Edwin C. The Campaign for Vicksburg. Vol. 2, Grant Strikes a Fatal Blow. Dayton, OH: Morningside House, 1986. ISBN 0-89029-313-9.
  • Fullenkamp, Leonard, Stephen Bowman, and Jay Luvaas. Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998. ISBN 0-7006-0922-9.
  • Grabau, Warren E. Ninety-Eighty Days: A Geographer's View of the Vicksburg Campaign. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2000. ISBN 1-57233-068-6.
  • Korn, Jerry, and the Editors of Time-Life Books. War on the Mississippi: Grant's Vicksburg Campaign. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1985. ISBN 0-8094-4744-4.
  • Winschel, Terrence J. Triumph & Defeat: The Vicksburg Campaign. Campbell, CA: Savas Publishing Company, 1999. ISBN 1-882810-31-7.
  • Woodworth, Steven E., ed. Grant's Lieutenants: From Cairo to Vicksburg. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001. ISBN 0-7006-1127-4.
  • CWSAC Report Update

External links

Coordinates: 32°20′50″N 90°42′15″W / 32.3471°N 90.7043°W / 32.3471; -90.7043

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