Term: Port Gibson, Battle of
Date(s): May 1, 1863
Location: Port Gibson, Mississippi (Google Map)
Other name(s): Thompson’s Hill
Campaign: Grant's Operations Against Vicksburg (March-July 1863)
Outcome: Union victory
Port Gibson was the opening battle in a successful two-month-long Union campaign to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, and take control of the Mississippi River.
By 1863, Union forces controlled almost the entire length of the Mississippi River. Vicksburg, Mississippi, was one of only two places remaining in Confederate hands. As long as they held it, Union forces could not ship men or supplies any further south.
In late April 1863, Union troops on the west bank advanced toward Vicksburg. Because the city was perched atop a heavily fortified bluff, they decided to cross the Mississippi downstream from it and circle around from the rear.
On the night of May 1, 1863, 23,000 Union soldiers landed a few miles south of Vicksburg at Port Gibson, Mississippi. Confederate units, outnumbered more than 3-to-1, made a fierce but vain defense of the town throughout the day. At nightfall they were forced to yield and the Union victory established a foothold to attack Vicksburg.
The 11th, 23rd, and 29th Wisconsin Infantry regiments and the 1st and 6th Wisconsin Light Artillery batteries participated in the assault on Port Gibson.
The 11th Wisconsin Infantry was among the first units to attack and remained in front throughout the battle. The 23rd Wisconsin Infantry was held in reserve during the morning but in the afternoon captured 20 prisoners. This was the first battle for the 29th Wisconsin Infantry, which fought for more than an hour against the Confederates. It lost 21 men. Eleven were killed on the field and 10 died of wounds. The 1st Light Artillery destroyed a Confederate battery, but the 6th and 12th batteries took no important part in the battle.
William D. Love summarized the experiences of Wisconsin troops on pages 643-646 of his book, Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Chicago, 1866).
View original documents
[Source: Report on the Nation’s Civil War Battlefields (Washington, 1993); Estabrook, C. Records and Sketches of Military Organizations (Madison, 1914); Love, W. Wisconsin in the War of the Rebellion (Madison, 1866).