May 17

This Day in History

Civil War

May 17, 1863:

Confederates defeated at the Battle of Big Black River

The Union army defeats the Confederates on the Big Black River in Mississippi and drives them into Vicksburg in part of a brilliant campaign by General Ulysses S. Grant. The Union leader had swung his army down the Mississippi River past the strong riverfront defenses, and landed in Mississippi south of Vicksburg. He then moved northeast toward Jackson and split his force to defeat Joseph Johnston's troops in that city and John C. Pemberton's at Champion Hill.

During the engagement at Champion Hill, a Confederate division under William Loring split from Pemberton's main force and drifted south of the battlefield. Pemberton was forced to retreat to the Big Black River where he waited for Loring's troops. Loring, however, was heading east to join Johnston's army because he believed he could not reach Pemberton. While Pemberton waited for Loring on a bridge over the Big Black River, Grant attacked.

Pemberton suffered his second defeat in two days at the Big Black River. The battle began at dawn, and by 10 a.m. the Confederate position appeared hopeless. The Confederates suffered 1,752 troops killed, wounded or captured, while the Yankees had 279 casualties. Pemberton withdrew across the bridge and then burned it down. With the bridge out, Grant could no longer advance. But he now had Pemberton backed up into Vicksburg. He soon closed the ring and laid siege to the town, which surrendered on July 4, 1863.

Fact Check We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us!

What Happened on Your Birthday?

Pick a Date

Shop HISTORY