Big Black River Bridge, MS

Date: May 17, 1863

Campaign: Grant’s Operations Against Vicksburg [1863]

Battles in Campaign:



  • Union: Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand

  • Confederate: Brig. Gen. John S. Bowen

Principal Forces:

  • Union: XIII Army Corps, Army of the Tennessee

  • Confederate: Bridgehead Defense Force (three brigades)


  • After their defeat at Champion Hill, the Confederates reached Big Black River Bridge on the night of May 16-17.

  • Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton ordered Brig. Gen. John S. Bowen to man the fortifications on the east bank of the river with his three brigades and slow 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.

  • McClernand’s corps encountered the Confederates behind breastworks and took cover as enemy artillery began firing.

  • Union Brig. Gen. Michael K. Lawler's 2nd Brigade attacked across the front of the Confederate forces and into the enemy’s breastworks, which was held by Vaughn’s East Tennessee Brigade.

  • The confused and panicked Confederate troops withdrew across the Big Black on a railroad bridge and a steamboat dock.

  • After they had crossed, the Confederates set fire to the bridges to prevent Union pursuit.

  • However, the Union forces did capture approximately 1,800 troops.

  • The disorganized Confederates arrived in Vicksburg later that day.

  • The Confederate force was bottled up at Vicksburg which Grant put under siege.

Slide Presentation: None

Classification2: B


  • Union: 273

  • Confederate: 2,000

Results: Union Victory

Battlefield Websites:

Lodging and Restaurants: Mississippi Tourism

Recommended Resources:

1National Park Service summary.

2 Classification:

  • A - having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war

  • B - having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign

  • C - having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign

  • D - having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives

3 Casualties are someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.

Revised 07/20/2013