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Focused on Mississippi: The Battle of Champion Hill

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Walt Grayson is with us and he is focused on Mississippi with a story about the Champion Hill Battle Field that soon will be included in the Vicksburg National Military Park at the.

This is not the best-known battle of the Civil War but it needs to be better known. Why’s that, Walt?

It was the most decisive battle in the Vicksburg Campaign. But many historians say the Civil War itself was ultimately won and lost because of the results of The Battle of Champion Hill. Here’s why.

Some of the landmarks are still here from the day Confederate General Pemberton bumped into Union General Grant’s army between Edwards and Bolton in an area of Hinds County known as Champion’sHill. That’s a hill on the Champion family farm where the Confederates took up their defenses in May of 1863.

The railroad is about where it was on the day of the battle. The northern road is Champion Hill road is today. The southern road is state highway 467.  The Coker House has been restored. It was used as a field hospital. It’s on the southern road. And the crossroads on the middle road is where this National Historic Landmark is located.

Well for many years this little, what? foot and a half by foot and a half marker was the only official marker on the Champion Hill Battlefield. Which to me is probably the smallest marker anywhere when juxtaposed to the importance of what it marked.

There are other markers here now that help tell the story of the place where the South had its best chance of defeating Grant’s Union army and saving Vicksburg in the process and where the North had its best chance of disintegrating Pemberton’s army on the battlefield- saving the need of the 47 day siege and shelling of Vicksburg.

But because there were generals on BOTH sides who didn’t particularly care for their commanding generals, some orders on both sides were either slowly carried out or directly disobeyed, allowing the South to escape the battle without winning and allowing Pemberton to get what was left of his army back across Baker’s Creek and all the way Vicksburg without being soundly defeated on the battlefield.

So the upshot of the Battle of Champion Hill- the siege and fall of Vicksburg became academic after it. And the defeat of the South was sooner or later inevitable after Vicksburg fell. Winston Churchill observed that the drums of Champion Hill sounded the doom of Richmond.

So an unplanned meeting of armies and revolts within the ranks allowed the Union to have a decisive victory at Champion Hill. But the outcome could have been entirely different save a couple of generals who wanted to do things their way. Pivotal Champion Hill is an important reason we have the America we have today.

There are some interpretive markers at the Coker House on highway 467 near Edwards at Cal-Maine Foods.

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