Battle of Big Black River Bridge Facts & Summary | American Battlefield Trust
Big Black River Bridge Battle Hero

Big Black River Bridge

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Reeling from their defeat at Champion Hill and retreating west toward Vicksburg, the Confederates under Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton reached the Big Black River railroad bridge the night of May 16, 1863. Pemberton ordered Brig. Gen. John S. Bowen, with three brigades, to fortify the east bank of the river to impede Union army pursuit. Three divisions of Maj. Gen. John A. McClernand’s XIII Corps moved west from Edwards Station on the morning of the 17th and encountered the Confederates behind their breastworks. Union Brig. Gen. Michael Lawler formed his brigade and surged out of a cut near the river, across the front of the Confederate forces, and into their breastworks, held by John C. Vaughn’s East Tennessee Brigade. Confused and panicked, the Rebels began to withdraw across 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 Union forces captured almost 1,800 troops at the Big Black River, a loss that the Confederates could ill-afford. The battle sealed Vicksburg’s fate: Pemberton’s army was now 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