Big Black River Bridge Battle Hero

Big Black River Bridge

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Reeling from their defeat at Champion Hill and heading west toward Vicksburg, the Confederates reached Big Black River Bridge, the night of May 16-17th. 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 Thirteenth Corps moved out from Edwards Station on the morning of the 17th. They encountered the Confederates behind breastworks and took cover as enemy artillery opened fire. Union Brig. Gen. Michael K. Lawler formed his brigade, which surged out of a meander scar near the river, across the front of the Confederate forces, and into the enemy’s breastworks, held by John C. Vaughn’s East Tennessee Brigade. Confused and panicked, the Rebels began to withdraw across the Big Black on two bridges: the railroad bridge and three steamboats moored together athwart the river. As soon as they had crossed, the Confederates set fire to the bridge and the boats, 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 the Big Black River, a loss that the Confederates could ill-afford. This battle sealed Vicksburg’s fate: the Confederate force was bottled up in the city.

Battle Facts

Result

Union Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
4,500

Union

2,500

Confederate

2,000
Total Estimated Casualties
2,273

Union

273

Confederate

1,751