The first battle during General Grant’s Big Black River campaign of 1863 (American Civil War). Having landed on the east bank of the Mississippi south of Vicksburg, General Grant was now faced by Confederate forces that almost equal to his in number. However, those forces were not yet united. The largest Confederate army was at Vicksburg, while away to the east reinforcements were being rushed towards the scene of crisis.
In order to deal with this threat, Grant decided to abandon his supply lines, living off the land while he dealt with the two Confederate forces in detail (one by one). His line of advance was along the Big Black River, thus the name of the campaign. On 7 May his army, now numbering around 45,000 men, began their march north east along the river. The army’s left wing followed the line of the river, with the centre and right wing further east.
It was General McPherson, commanding the right wing, who first encountered opposition. Confederate efforts were concentrating on gathering a new army at Jackson, the state capitol. By 12 May that force was probably around 11,000-12,000 strong. Showing an unwillingness to concentrate that would cost them dear, 5,000 of these men were actually at Raymond, just over ten miles to the west.
These men, commanded by General Gregg, were formed up two miles outside Raymond. McPherson encountered them at 2 p.m. on the afternoon of 12 May. The first division to encounter them, under General Logan, attacked as soon as it was in formation to do so, and forced them out of their positions. Gregg withdrew to Jackson, where he would have another encounter with the same enemy two days later.
Grant gave the casualty figures in the battle as 66 killed, 339 wounded and 37 missing on the Union side, and 100 killed, 305 wounded and 415 captured for the Confederates. Of more significance than the casualties was the effect the battle had on the new Confederate commander in Mississippi, General Joseph Johnston. He had been ordered to the area on 9 May, but only arrived at Jackson on 13 May. There he discovered far fewer men than he had hoped for, and Grant much more advanced than he had expected. On arriving at Jackson, he telegraphed Richmond to tell them ‘I am too late’.