Today in History: Grant Advances on Vicksburg

The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1863 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

May 1, 1863 – The Vicksburg Campaign:  The Battle of Port Gibson

Battle flag of 4th Mississippi Infantry. Accession Number: 1968.44.1 (Museum Division Collection)
Battle flag of 4th Mississippi Infantry. Accession Number: 1968.44.1 (Museum Division Collection)

President Abraham Lincoln called Vicksburg, Mississippi, “the key” to winning the Civil War, and General Ulysses S. Grant launched the Vicksburg Campaign in the spring of 1863. The campaign was a series of battles and maneuvers that led to the eventual siege and surrender of the Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River.

Despite many setbacks, Grant’s army crossed the Mississippi River at Bruinsburg on April 30­–May 1, 1863, and began moving toward Vicksburg. The unopposed crossing was the largest amphibious operation in American military history until the D-Day invasion of World War II. A skirmish began soon after midnight on May 1 when the advancing federal army engaged a Confederate outpost at the A. K. Shaifer House near Port Gibson. Grant gathered his forces and advanced on Rodney Road and Bruinsburg Road, and the Battle of Port Gibson began in earnest later that morning. Out-manned nearly three to one, the Confederates could not hold their position during the day of fighting. By the day’s end, the Battle of Port Gibson claimed over 1,600 casualties, and Grant made an important gain in his advance toward Vicksburg.

The image shows the battle flag of the 4th Mississippi Infantry, which participated in several battles of the Vicksburg campaign including the Battle of Port Gibson. This flag was later captured near Brentwood Hills during the Battle of Nashville on December 16, 1864.

The Shaifer House, the site of the first shots of the Battle of Port Gibson, was recently restored. Below is a link to photographs of the dedication ceremony held in 2007.

Source: “Vicksburg Campaign and Siege March-July 1863,” Vicksburg National Military Park, National Park Service,