Thursday, May 16, 2013

May 16, 1863

May 16, 1863


Battle of Champion Hill



U.S.     Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant           Army of the Tennessee        32,000

C.S.     Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton         Army of Mississippi             22,000


Grant pushes his troop westward from Jackson.  Pemberton, the Confederate commander of the Army of Mississippi, having been forsaken by Joseph Johnston, does not know whether to push East to attack the Yankees, divert southeast to destroy their supply line (not knowing that Grant no longer has one), to come out and fight, or to flee into the fortress of Vicksburg.  Pemberton marches 22,000 of his Confederates east to a crossroads where the roads from Jackson, Raymond, and Vicksburg meet, and deploys his line on a ridge overlooking the area, covering the Raymond and Middle Roads.  Grant orders McPherson’s XVII Corps to advance from Bolton Station, and for McClernand’s XIII Corps to advance from Raymond.  Gen. Pemberton deploys Bowen’s division on the Middle Road, Loring’s division on the Raymond Road, and Stevenson’s division farther north, making the Rebel left flank by the Jackson Road.  McPherson advances his divisions to attack the Confederate left at Champion Hill, where there were few Rebel troops.  McClernand finally gets his divisions on track and moving forward, but at a very slow pace. 

A fanciful interpretation of the Battle of Champion Hill

Pemberton, still unaware of how many Yankees were in front of him, almost gives orders to break off the fighting and head north to unite with Gen. Johnston’s 10,000.  However, soon Stevenson’s pickets encounter McPherson’s columns advancing along the Jackson (Clinton) Road, and so Stevenson deploys his division on the crest of Champion Hill, overlooking the road. 
McPherson’s Federals attack the hill, and are beaten off.  McPherson re-forms, and as the Yankees rush up the hill, Hovey and Crocker’s westward attack and Logan’s southward attack catch the Rebels in a vise: the Rebel left is crushed, and is routed.  As Grant arrives on the battlefield, he focuses on the left and pushes McClernand’s slow corps forward.  But Pemberton’s one remaining division, Bowen, launches a counterattack that pushes the Federals back on their heels.  Bowen splits the Union lines, but his losses are high and he is fearfully short of ammunition.  Pemberton looks for reinforcements, and tries to move Loring to the left to bolster the line on the right of Champion Hill, but Loring is reluctant, since he has McClernand’s Yankees in his front.  Stevenson  and Bowen rally and try to recover their position, but McPherson counterattacks, and once again the Rebel line collapses.  Bowen orders a retreat, and the entire army retreats west to Edward’s Station, where Pemberton sets up an artillery line, and the two sides shells each other for the rest of the day.  Grant’s men are too exhausted to push into another attack, but by midnight, the Rebels withdraw, and Grant’s men occupy Edward’s  Pemberton falls back to the Big Black River.  This battle turns out to be the decisive battle of the Vicksburg campaign.  Union Victory.

Losses:         Killed           Wounded                Captured/Missing           Total

U.S.                  410                  1,844                                  187                             2,457

C.S.                  381                  1,018                               2,441                            3,840

---Sergeant Osborn H. Oldroyd, of the 20th Ohio Infantry Regiment, records his impressions of this battle and aftermath in his journal:

The enemy charged out of the woods in front of us in a solid line, and as they were climbing the fence between us, which separated the open field from the timber, DeGolier's battery, stationed in our front, opened on them with grape and canister, and completely annihilated men and fence and forced the enemy to fall back. Such terrible execution by a battery I never saw. It seemed as if every shell burst just as it reached the fence, and rails and rebs flew into the air together. They, finding our center too strong, renewed their charge on our left, and succeeded in driving it a short distance, but their success was only for a moment, for our boys rallied, and with reinforcements drove them in turn. We now charged into the woods and drove them a little ways, and as we charged over the spot so lately occupied by the foe, we saw the destruction caused by our battery, the ground being covered thickly with rebel grey. When we reached the woods we were exposed to a galling fire, and were at one time nearly surrounded but we fought there hard until our ammunition was exhausted, when we fixed bayonets and prepared to hold our ground. . . .

This was a hard day's fight, for the rebels, finding that they had been beaten in three battles about Vicksburg, had no doubt resolved to make a desperate stand against our conquering march; but alas! For them, this day's course of events was like the rest. When the fight was over, Generals Grant, McClernand, Sherman, McPherson and Logan rode over the victorious field, greeted with the wildest cheers. I wonder if they love their men as we love them. We received our mail an hour or two after the fight, and the fierce struggle through which we had just passed was forgotten as we read the news from home. Our fingers fresh from the field left powder marks on the white messengers that had come to cheer us.

Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant

---Private Jenkin Lloyd Jones, of the 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, writes in his journal of Champion Hill, where his battery has been engaged:

Logan’s Division managed to get on their [Confederate] right flank, driving them with rapidity, but at the same time they were driving the line on the left and came near penetrating our center, many of our men having used all their ammunition, and the amount of stragglers falling back without order becoming dangerous. It was a dangerous moment. All eyes were anxiously looking, almost trembling, for the result; but at last there comes Colonel Holmes with his Brigade on double quick, which soon checked their progress, and the artillery were brought into position, McAllister’s 24-pounder howitzers on the left, with Quinby’s on the right and center. The infantry fell back at double quick as we opened fire on them, shelling the woods—38 pieces in all, belching away in fearful rapidity. Kept it up for one hour. When we ceased firing, they had left and all was still. The fight continued about five hours, the musketry having been exceedingly hot. We took seventeen pieces of artillery and about 2,000 prisoners.

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