Sesquicentennial Event a Grand Success
By Rebecca Blackwell Drake
Photography by Clione Rochat
On May 18th, 2013, over 600 visitors arrived at Champion Hill to be a part of the 150th Anniversary Commemoration. The visitors came from 22 states and more than 200 of those present were descendants of those who fought in the battle.
The Champion Hill Road leading from Bolton to the battlefield set the stage for those who had never visited the historic site. Sections of the Old Jackson-Vicksburg Road, Grant’s 1863 pathway to Champion Hill was visible nearby. Magnolia trees were in full bloom, just as they were on May 16, 1863, when the battle was fought. Union soldiers were taken with the magnolia trees, describing them as white flowers whose blooms were the size of a hat. The picturesque sunken road was draped with arching tree limbs, forming a sight almost comparable to that of Oak Alley in Louisiana.
The all-day commemoration event featured vendors, lunch on the grounds and a stroll to the Hill of Death but the most exciting part of the event was the featured speaker, Bertram Hayes-Davis, who along with his wife Carol, came to be a part of the tribute to the soldiers who fought. A standing ovation was given to the great-great-grandson of Jefferson and Varina Davis who spoke from his heart while addressing the crowd. As the new Director of Beauvoir, he and Carol will lead the way in preserving the historic home that was almost destroyed during Katrina. They will also pave the way in rebuilding the Jefferson Davis Library.
Twenty-nine of the descendants who came to receive medallions had ancestors who were killed during the battle. Chris Gooch and his son C. J. Gooch, received medallions honoring their 2nd and 3rd great-grandfather, Captain Samuel Jones Ridley, who was killed while facing the enemy alone with his cannon. Ridley was later awarded the Confederate Medal of Honor for his bravery. Allison Dingman and her daughter Rachael from Arizona came to receive a medallion honoring their direct ancestor, Corporal Thomas Pritchard, 36th Georgia. He was shot through the face and neck and left on the battlefield to die. A Union soldier found him and was credited with having saved his life. Eddy Pascal from Alabama received a medallion in honor of 13 direct ancestors who fought in the Battle of Champion Hill.
largest families in attendance to receive medallions were: the
Champion Family, the family of Lt. Col. Leonidas Horney (USA), and
the family of Brig. Gen. Stephen D. Lee.
The medallions were awarded by: Rebecca Blackwell Drake, board member; Sid Champion V and his daughter Lauren; The Very Reverend Billie Abraham; Annette Hall, Grace Hall, Jackson Hall and Sara Hall, all the 2nd and 3rd great-grandchildren of Sid and Matilda Champion and Bertram Hayes-Davis who greeted the honorees.
close the morning ceremony, a poem, I Was There: The Battle of
Champion Hill by Bertha Lewis of Champion Hill, was read by Ed
Shelnut. This was followed by bagpiper, James Clark, playing Amazing
Grace and an Infantry Salute before the Retiring of the Colors.
The Champion Heritage Foundation appreciates all who came to be a part of this historic event. It was a union of the American people and a sharing of the values that we all hold dear, including the honoring of the ancestors, blue and gray, who fought.
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Copyright (c) James and Rebecca Drake, 2013. All Rights Reserved.