Battlefield Road Trips


Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg

Port Gibson, MS (May 1, 1863) - Maj. Gen. U.S. Grant launched his march on Vicksburg in the Spring of 1863, starting his army south, from Milliken's Bend, on the west side of the Mississippi River. Grant planned to cross the river at Grand Gulf, but the Union fleet was unable to silence the Confederate big guns there. Grant then marched farther south and crossed at Bruinsburg on April 30th. Union forces came ashore, secured the landing area and began marching inland by late afternoon. Advancing on the Rodney Road towards Port Gibson, Grant's force ran into Confederate outposts after midnight and skirmished with them for around three hours. The fighting stopped after 3:00 am.  Union forces advanced on the Rodney Road and a plantation road at dawn. At 5:30 am, the Confederates engaged the Union advance and the battle ensued. The Federals forced the Confederates to fall back. The Confederates established new defensive positions at different times during the day but they could not stop the Union onslaught and left the field in the early evening. This defeat demonstrated that the Confederates were unable to defend the Mississippi River line and the Federals had secured their beachhead. The way to Vicksburg was open.

Raymond, MS (May 12, 1863) - Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton, Confederate commander at Vicksburg, ordered Brig. Gen. John Gregg to lead his force from Port Hudson, Louisiana, to Jackson, Mississippi, and then to Raymond to intercept approaching Union troops. Before dawn on May 12, Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson had his XVII Army Corps on the march, and by 10:00 am they were about three miles from Raymond. Gregg decided to try to prevent the crossing of Fourteen Mile Creek and arrayed his men and artillery accordingly. As the Union forces approached, the Confederates opened fire, initially causing heavy casualties.  Some Union troops broke, but Maj. Gen. John A. Logan rallied a force to hold the line. Confederate troops attacked the line but had to retire. More Federal troops arrived and the Union force counterattacked. Heavy fighting ensued that continued for six hours, but the overwhelming Union force prevailed. Gregg’s men left the field.

Champion Hill, MS (May 16, 1863)  - On May 16, 1863, about 7:00 am, the Union forces engaged the Confederates and the Battle of Champion Hill began. Pemberton’s force drew up into a defensive line along a crest of a ridge overlooking Jackson Creek. Pemberton was unaware that one Union column was moving along the Jackson Road against his unprotected left flank. For protection, Pemberton posted Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Lee's men atop Champion Hill where they could watch for the reported Union column moving to the crossroads. Lee spotted the Union troops and they soon saw him.  If this force was not stopped, it would cut the Confederates off from their Vicksburg base. Pemberton received warning of the Union movement and sent troops to his left flank. Union forces at the Champion House moved into action and emplaced artillery to begin firing. When Grant arrived at Champion Hill, around 10:00 am, he ordered the attack to begin. By 11:30 am, Union forces had reached the Confederate main line and about 1:00 pm, they took the crest while the Rebels retired in disorder. The Federals swept forward, capturing the crossroads and closing the Jackson Road escape route. One of Pemberton's divisions (Bowen’s) then counterattacked, pushing the Federals back beyond the Champion Hill crest before their surge came to a halt. Grant then counterattacked, committing forces that had just arrived from Clinton by way of Bolton.  Pemberton’s men could not stand up to this assault, so he ordered his men from the field to the one escape route still open: the Raymond Road crossing of Bakers Creek. Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman’s brigade formed the rearguard, and they held at all costs, including the loss of Tilghman. In the late afternoon, Union troops seized the Bakers Creek Bridge, and by midnight, they occupied Edwards. The Confederates were in full retreat towards Vicksburg.

Big Black River Bridge, MS (May 17, 1863) - 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.

Vicksburg, MS  (May 18-July 4, 1863) - In May and June of 1863, Grant’s armies converged on Vicksburg, investing the city and entrapping a Confederate army under Lt. Gen. John Pemberton. On July 4th, Vicksburg surrendered after prolonged siege operations. This was the culmination of one of the most brilliant military campaigns of the war. With the loss of Pemberton’s army and this vital stronghold on the Mississippi, the Confederacy was effectively split in half. Grant's successes in the West boosted his reputation, leading ultimately to his appointment as General-in-Chief of the Union armies.Vicksburg National Military Park, Mississippi, United States

Helena, AR (July 4, 1863) - Maj. Gen. Benjamin M. Prentiss, in command of the District of Eastern Arkansas, was headquartered at Helena with approximately 20,000 troops.  Brig. Gen. Frederick C. Salomon had been placed in charge of the forces manning the defenses of Helena, a Mississippi River port town at the terminus of Crowley's Ridge and was ringed by steep hills cut by heavily thicketed ravines. Four artillery batteries with breastworks and rifle pits were placed in a semi-circle around the town. In addition, the USS Tyler, a "timber-clad" gunboat was assigned to support Prentiss. Right before the battle, a large number of troops were transferred to Vicksburg to strengthen the siege around that city. This transfer left only about 4,000 Union soldiers to protect the Federal enclave at Helena. Lt. Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes, commander of the Confederate District of Arkansas, planned a coordinated attack from three sides on the formidable Federal fortifications surrounding Helena in order to relieve pressure on Vicksburg and to prevent Helena being used as a base to attack further into Arkansas.

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Revised 03/29/2013