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1863 May 30: Latest on the Vicksburg Campaign

May 31, 2013

The following is a little more detail on the Battle of Big Black River Bridge from the May 30, 1863, issue of The Polk County Press.  It begins with a short recap of the recent battles around Vicksburg.

The portion that starts with “WASHINGTON, May 23” and ends with “JNO. A. RAWLINS, A. A. G.” also appeared in the May 30, 1863, issue of The Prescott Journal, under the heading Grant’s Success.

General & Official Despatches.

CAIRO, May 23— Reports from Gen. Grant’s army are highly important, and believed to be reliable.  It seems that, after accomplishing all that was desired at Jackson, the army marched towards Black River bridge, burning all behind them.  It is doubtless their intention to prevent an attack in the rear.

At the bridge a heavy battle  was fought.

It is reported we captured twenty-seven guns, a large number of prisoners, and that the rebels were being driven back towards Vicksburg.  If they don’t escape up Yazoo River, most of them will be captured.

WASHINGTON, May 23.— The following has just been received at the War Department:

MEMPHIS, May 23.—I forward the following, just received from Col. John A. Rawlins, A. A. G.:

REAR OF VICKSBURG, May 20.— The Army of Tennessee landed at Brulinsburg [sic] on the 30th of April.

On the 1st of May we fought the battle of Port Gibson and defeated the rebels under Gen. Bowen,¹ whose loss in killed, wounded and prisoners was at least 1,550 and loss in artillery five pieces.

On the 12th of May at the battle of Raymond, the rebels were defeated with a loss of 800 men.

On the 14th of May we defeated Gen. Joseph E. Johnson [sic: Joseph E. Johnston], and captured Jackson, with a loss to the enemy of 400 men, besides immense stored and manufactories, and 17 pieces of artillery.

On the 16th of May, we fought the bloody and decisive battle at Baker’s Creek, in which the entire force at Vicksburg, under Gen. Pemberton [John C. Pemberton], was defeated with the loss of 29 pieces of artillery and 4, 000 men.

On the 17th of May we defeated the same force at the Big Black river bridge, with the loss of 2,000 men and 17 pieces of artillery.

On the 18th of May we invested Vicksburg closely.

To-day Gen. Steele² carried the rifle pits on the north of the city.  The right of the army rests on the Mississippi, above Vicksburg.


P.S. I learn further that there are from 16,000 to 20,000 men in Vicksburg, and that Pemberton has lost nearly all his field artillery, and that the cannonading at Vicksburg ceased about 3 P.M. on the 20th of May.

WASHINGTON, May 24.—At 11 o clock A.M. to-day the President received the following:

CLEVELAND, May 24.—A dispatch from Mr. Fuller, manager of the telegraph at Memphis, dated late in the night, says the stars and stripes float over Vicksburg, and the Victory is complete.

LATEST.—Washington, May 27.— Later advices from Vicksburg are to Friday, when the Federals were carrying on a vigorous bombardment by land and water.

A special despatch from Murfreesboro says rebel prisoners report that on Sunday last a courier dashed up with a dispatch from Col. Breckinridge [John C. Breckinridge] to Gen. Wheeler [Joseph Wheeler] at McMinnville, saying that Vicksburg had fallen but Pemberton had escaped with most of his army but lost his artilery [sic] and stores.

Yazoo City with the whole of its army stores rebel Navy Yard and all are captured by Com. Porter [David D. Porter] and destroyed.  This is good and glorious news.

J.S. Bowen of Missouri, C.S.A., from the Library of Congress (see footnote 1)

J.S. Bowen of Missouri, C.S.A., from the Library of Congress (see footnote 1)

1. John Stevens Bowen (1830-1863) graduated from West Point and was a career military officer. He was first assigned to the army cavalry school at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and in 1855 he was transferred to the Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis. Later in 1855 he resigned from the U.S. Army and in 1857 he moved to Missouri and became active in the Missouri Volunteer Militia, patrolling the border looking for Kansas Jayhawkers. In May 1861 Bowen was captured by Union General Nathaniel Lyon, and while waiting to be exchanged he was commissioned a colonel in the Confederate States Army. He then became a brigade commander in Kentucky under General Leonidas Polk. Bowen was promoted to brigadier general in March 1862 and his brigade was assigned to General John C. Breckinridge’s Reserve Corps of the Army of Mississippi. He distinguished himself at the Battle of Shiloh, where he was severely wounded. After his recovery he commanded a brigade command in the Army of West Tennessee and took part in the Second Battle of Corinth.
In 1863 Bowen was assigned to the post of Grand Gulf with only a brigade of infantry. He became convinced that Grant would land near Grand Gulf and he repeatedly requested additional supplies and men from General Pemberton, but each request was refused. At the Battle of Port Gibson (May 1, 1863), Bowen, despite being severely outnumbered, managed to delay Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennessee for most of a day. Bowen fought at the Battle of Champion Hill (May 16, 1863), where a counterattack by his division almost split Grant’s army in half. After that battle Pemberton retreated to Vicksburg, ordering Bowen to cover the retreat and he suffered defeat at the Battle of Big Black River Bridge. Bowen died from dysentery shortly after the fall of Vicksburg.
The portrait of General Bowen is from the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
2.  Frederick Steele (1819-1868) graduated from West Point and was a career military officer. He served in the Mexican War, in the Yuma War in California, and in Minnesota Territory, Kansas Territory, and Nebraska Territory. In May 1861 we was appointed a major in the 11th U.S. Infantry and fought at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. In September 1861 he became colonel of the 8th Iowa Infantry, at the end of January 1862 he was appointed a brigadier general of U.S. volunteers, and in March 1863 he was confirmed as a major general of volunteers. He fought at the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou in December 1862 and in the Battle of Arkansas Post in January 1863. For the Siege of Vicksburg, his division was renamed the 1st Division in General William T. Sherman’s XV Corps. A monument to Steele stands on the Vicksburg National Military Park.

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