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Bruinsburg-Port Gibson - Page 2
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Union General John A. McClernandBattle of Port Gibson (May 1, 1863) - Once Union General John A. McClernand's corps landed at Bruinsburg, their objective was to capture Grand Gulf, which was to be Grant's base. From Grand Gulf, Port Gibson was the next target, as roads from there led to Vicksburg and Jackson. A road led directly from Bruinsburg to Port Gibson, and Bayou Pierre, a navigable stream, bisected the road. Once McClernand's 14th Corps of 17,000 strong landed, the rebels abandoned Grand Gulf and moved toward Port Gibson. Hoping to capture the bridges over Bayou Pierre before the retreating Confederates destroyed them, McClernand ordered a forced march during the evening of April 30-May1.

 

In the meantime, Confederate General John C.  Pemberton had been completely confused by Grant's diversions and had widely dispersed his troops to defend Vicksburg. As a result there were few Confederates present to contest Grant's march inland from Bruinsburg.

 

On April 30, 1863, the Confederate brigades of Brigadier Generals Martin E. Green and Edward Tracy marched south along the Bruinsburg Road to contest the Union invasion of Mississippi and block both the Rodney and Bruinsburg Roads west of Port Gibson. At the point of deployment, an interval of 2,000 yards separated the roads. The brigades of Tracy, on the right, and Green, on the left, were separated by a deep cane-choked ravine which prevented one flank from reinforcing the other flank. To do so, the Confederates had to march back to the road junction. The "Y" intersection of the roads was thus the lateral avenue of movement for the Confederates.

 

Shortly after midnight the crash of musketry shattered the stillness as the Federals stumbled upon Confederate outposts near the A. K. Shaifer house. Union troops immediately deployed for battle, and their artillery, which soon arrived, roared into action. A spirited skirmish ensued which lasted until 3:00 a.m, with the Confederates holding their ground. For the next several hours an uneasy calm settled over the woods and scattered fields as soldiers of both armies rested on their arms. Throughout the night the Federals gathered their forces in hand and both sides prepared for the battle which they knew would come with the rising sun.

At dawn, Union troops began to move in force along the Rodney Road toward Magnolia Church. One division was sent along a connecting plantation road toward the Bruinsburg Road and the Confederate right flank. With skirmishers well ahead, the Federals began a slow and deliberate advance around 5:30 a.m. The Confederates contested the thrust and the battle began in earnest.

Most of the Union forces moved along the Rodney Road toward Magnolia Church and the Confederate line held by Brigadier General Martin E. Green's Brigade. Heavily outnumbered and hard-pressed, the Confederates
gave way shortly after 10:00 a.m. The men in gray fell back a mile and a half. Here, the soldiers of Brigadier General William E. Baldwin's and Colonel Francis M. Cockrell's brigades, recent arrivals on the field, established a new line between the White and Irwin branches of Willow Creek. Full of fight, these men re-established the Confederate left flank.

 

The morning hours witnessed Green's Brigade driven from its position by the principle Federal attack. Brigadier General Edward D. Tracy's Alabama Brigade, astride the Bruinsburg Road, also experienced hard fighting. Although Tracy was killed early in the action, his brigade managed to hold its tenuous line.

 

It was clear, however, that unless the Confederates received heavy reinforcements, they would lose the day. Brigadier General John S. Bowen, Confederate commander on the field, wired his superiors: "We have been engaged in a furious battle ever since daylight; losses very heavy. The men act nobly, but the odds are overpowering." Early afternoon found the Alabamans slowly giving ground. Green's weary soldiers, having been regrouped, arrived to bolster the line on the Bruinsburg Road.

 

 

 

Bruinsburg Road, MississippiEven so, by late in the afternoon, the Federals had advanced all along the line in superior numbers. As Union pressure built, Cockrell's Missourians unleashed a vicious counterattack near the Rodney Road, and began to roll up the blue line. The 6th Missouri also counterattacked, hitting the Federals near the Bruinsburg Road. All this was to no avail, for the odds against them were too great. The Confederates were checked and driven back, the day lost. At 5:30 p.m., the battle-weary Confederates began to retire from the hard-fought field.

 

The battle of Port Gibson cost Grant 131 killed, 719 wounded, and 25 missing out of 23,000 men engaged. This victory not only secured his position on Mississippi soil, but enabled him to launch his campaign deeper into the interior of the state. Union victory at Port Gibson forced the Confederate evacuation of Grand Gulf and would ultimately result in the fall of Vicksburg.

 

After the battle, Brigadier General John A. Logan's troops entered the town of Port Gibson, Mississippi.

After the battle, Brigadier General John A. Logan's troops entered the town

 of Port Gibson, Mississippi.

 

The Confederates suffered 60 killed, 340 wounded, and 387 missing out of 8,000 men engaged. In addition, 4 guns of the Botetourt (Virginia) Artillery were lost. The action at Port Gibson underscored Confederate inability to defend the line of the Mississippi River and to respond to amphibious operations. Confederate soldiers from these operations are buried at Wintergreen Cemetery in Port Gibson.

 

Now firmly established below Vicksburg, Grant would continue to take north, taking Raymond on May 12th and the capitol of Jackson on May 14th. From there, the Union troops turned west again, winning the battles of Champion Hill  on May 16th and the Battle of the Big Black River Bridge the next day. On May 18, 1863, the Siege of Vicksburg would begin, Lasting for nearly six weeks, the prolonged battle would become a major turning point in the Civil War giving control of the Mississippi River to the Union and foreshadowing the fall of the South.

 

 

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