Alonzo L. Brown
4th Minnesota Infantry Volunteers

Champion Hills
History Of The Fourth Regiment of Minnesota Infantry Volunteers During The Great Rebellion, 1861-1865
St. Paul, Minn., The Pioneer Press Company, 1892

Alonzo Brown
4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry

May 16th- Saturday. Started at 7:00 A.M. Soon heard heavy firing to the front. We got to the battlefield at 11:00 A.M. Sly says:

At Baker's creek or Champion Hills the regiment, charged the rebels and drove them across the creek into the woods. The regiment got lost and had to return to our lines. I lost the regiment, and went up the hill into the road in the rear of the rebels, and could see large numbers of them over in the field. I returned across the creek, found a wounded man, and another man and I put him on to a litter and started to go behind Logan's battery, when the Rebels began shelling the battery very hard. The shells threw the dirt over us. We carried the wounded man to a ditch and laid down until the firing stopped some; then carried him back to the hospital. I returned to the regiment. After the rebels retreated we were in the road in the dark, and a horse kicked another one and that made the men jump and cock their guns. There was some time consumed in getting everything in order again. We passed a rebel battery piled up in the road between two gate posts, where the forward horses had got shot and the rest run onto them before they could stop. Camped late at night near the battlefield.

On the night of the fifteenth, Gen. Alvin P. Hovey's Twelfth Division of General McClernand's corps rested near Bolton Station, and on the sixteenth was in the advance of McPberson's troops. Two roads diverge from the road extending from Raymond to Bolton and lead to Edward's Station. McClernand's other three divisions marched on these: Osterhaus' Ninth, followed by Carr's Fourteenth on the northern, and A. J. Smith's Tenth on the southern. Blair's division of Sherman's Fifteenth Corps also marched in rear of Smith's division. All were marching toward Edward's Station, near which place it was expected to meet Pemberton and his army. Grant's movements after crossing the Mississippi river bad bewildered and misled Pemberton, who expected the Union general would have his base for supplies at Grand Gulf, or some other point on the river, according to the rules of military science, and operate from that place against Vicksburg. He therefore kept his army on the defensive covering that city. After the battle at Raymond he concluded to attack Grant's army and cut it off from its base. The Union army had, no base. It was living off of the country. At 5:00 o'clock P.M. of the fifteenth, Pemberton's army marched from Edward's Station toward Raymond and halted, at about 3:00 A.M. of the sixteenth, six miles from the place of starting. At 6:00 A.M. of the sixteenth a courier from Johnston arrived and informed Pemberton of the defeat at Jackson and instructed him to move to the north side of the railroad and join Johnston's army as soon as possible near Canton. For this purpose Pemberton's army had begun its retrograde movement over the same route it had traveled when our advancing pickets on the Raymond roads opened a vigorous skirmish which, before half-past ten, had grown into a small battle.

Midway, or Champion's Hill is equidistant from Jackson and Vicksburg. It is a high promontory, sixty or seventy feet above the level of the surrounding country, bald on its top and mostly covered with woods which partly extend down its sides. Undulating fields extend to the north and northeast, and at its eastern base is a deep ravine with a thick growth of woods and tangled vines, which, running off to our right, terminated at Baker's creek. The wagon road extending from Clinton to Edward's Station, after passing the residence of Mr. Champion, turns southward and ascends the hill to its top on its eastern side, and then turning northwest descends it by a gentle declivity and then on to Baker's creek, a little less than a mile away.

editor's note: this map has errors related to location of the  Military Road, Mrs. Ellison's house, and the road to Dillions.

Pemberton formed his three divisions into line by placing Gen. W. W. Loring's on the right, Gen, John S. Bowen's in the centre and Gen. Carter L. Stevenson's on the left, which rested on the natural fortress, Champion's Hill. This last division bore the brunt of the ensuing battle and consisted of four brigades and Waul's Texas Legion, and was formed by placing Gen. Stephen D. Lee's Alabama Brigade on the left, then Gen. A. Cumming's Georgians on its right; then Reynold's Tennesseeans; then Barton's Georgia Brigade. The line of Lee and Cumming was formed on the crest of the hill, where the heaviest fighting subsequently occurred. The whole line of battle was about three miles long and crossed both of the Raymond roads. Along its entire eastern front the ground was a chaos of ravines, narrow hills with steep sides, and all was covered with a dense growth of wood and brush, except the narrow public road on which Osterhaus and Carr were marching, which wound, like a small serpent, over the ground, and along which it was impossible, to see over a hundred yards. We doubt if the rebels could have selected in the state a field better suited to their purpose.

At about 10:00 A.M. Hovey's advance struck the skirmishers of Cumming and Lee. Hovey had two brigades. He formed the one commanded by Col. James B. Slack on the left of the Clinton road, the other - Gen. George F. McGinnis' - across the road and to its right. When General Logan came up he formed Gen. M. D. Leggett's brigade on the right of McGinnis, Gen. John E. Smith's on Leggett's right and Gen. John D. Stevenson's in reserve, behind the other two. Capt. Samuel DeGolyer's battery was placed two hundred yards in rear of Leggett, Rogers' battery on Smith's right and behind all, on a commanding ridge in the rear, Captain Williams' Third Ohio Battery as a reserve.

About 11:30 A.M. Hovey's troops advanced, opened the battle and were warmly supported by those under Logan, whose brigades were in the open field, about one thousand two hundred feet distant from the enemy. As our line advanced it became crescent-shaped, conforming, to the shape of the bill in its front, whose sides were scarred by ravines which impeded the troops in their advance. Hovey's men gallantly drove the enemy full six hundred yards, and scaled the heights, capturing, eleven pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners. The enemy rallied, was re-enforced by Bowen's division and drove them back, taking back several of their cannon. The contest raged back and forth over the same ground. Meanwhile Logan's men had been heavily engaged against the enemy, attacking them from the north. The ground in front of Leggett and Smith was hotly contested. Barton's brigade and several batteries re-enforced Lee's left and contested every foot. Stevenson's troops during this engagement finally moved up on the right of Smith, drove the enemy from his chosen position and he retired under cover of a second ridge. In the meantime they had planted a battery in Stevenson's front to open, an enfilading fire on the other two brigades. Stevenson swung, round his right, then charged, and driving the supports from the guns, captured five pieces, and having turned the left flank of the enemy, drove, them on to the ground before Smith and Leggett, whose troops bad been fighting desperately and suffering from a severe enfilading fire. A united effort of the three brigades finally resulted in the rout of the rebels in that part of the field, the capture of several more cannon and several hundreds of prisoners.

These movements carried Logan's troops far to the right and in rear of the enemy and left a long interval on the right of Hovey. Quinby's division, commanded by Crocker, being near at hand, with Boomer's brigade in the advance, this brigade was, after some delay in getting an order from General Grant, sent into the gap next to Hovey, and soon after that the Fourth Minnesota and Fifty-ninth Indiana also went in on the right front and helped to fill the space. By the time they bad got into position Colonel Sanborn sent in the Forty-eighth Indiana and Eighteenth Wisconsin on the left front on Hovey's right. All of these troops were not sufficient to drive the enemy.

It was a very critical period in the battle, and while Stevenson had turned the enemy's left flank and cut off his retreat by the main roads, he seemed determined to turn ours at this point and cut our army in two. Grant, McPherson and their staffs were opposite the dangerously long interval which we did not have troops enough to fill. At about 3:00 P.M. Hovey stationed sixteen guns belonging to the batteries of Schofield, Murdock and Dillon in the open field beyond a slight mound on his right. Colonel Holmes had come up with the Seventeenth Iowa and Tenth Missouri on the double-quick through the stifling dust and burning sun. These regiments forced their way up the hill, driving the enemy before them, crowning its summit and retaking several of the guns Hovey's troops bad before taken and lost, and the sixteen guns opening a brisk cannonade, encouraged our men. The rebels soon broke and left the field. The battle was over by 4:00 P.M. and the enemy were marching across-lots and through the woods to make their escape. Stevenson's brigade and DeGolyer's battery started at once on the double-quick in pursuit on the Clinton road to head them off their rapid advance; a shelling by the battery and also the advance of Carr's division of the Thirteenth Corps on the middle Raymond, road prevented Loring's division from crossing the creek. On finding they could not cross the stream by the bridges, because of the rapid advance of Logan's troops, the divisions of Bowen and Stevenson crossed below at a ford. Loring's troops remaining behind to protect the rear were cut off, and after abandoning all of their artillery - and without the wagon train which contained their cooking utensils, which bad crossed and gone toward Vicksburg - they made their escape by marching from the field in a southwesterly direction, and then, by traveling through the woods and on by-roads, passed between Raymond and Utica, and on the evening of the seventeenth struck the railroad about twenty-five miles south of Jackson.

We captured thirty pieces of artillery in this battle.

Quinby says he joined the army on the sixteenth just as it was about to perform its part in the battle, and it was not deemed, proper to relieve Crocker at that time. He resumed command of his division on the morning of the seventeenth. Holmes' brigade was left behind to help clear up the battlefield.

Colonel Sanborn States in his report:

On the morning of the sixteenth I moved my command at an early hour along the road toward Bolton and Edward's Depot, following the Third Brigade and Logan's division. I had marched but an hour and a half when rapid firing of artillery in front again announced the presence of the enemy. My command moved forward rapidly, and arrived upon the field about the time the engagement became general. I formed, as ordered, under cover of the woods at the right of DeGolyer's battery and about four hundred yards distant. During this formation I was under a light fire of artillery and musketry, from which I lost a few officers and men. As soon as my command was reformed I received an order from General McPherson, commanding the corps, to send two regiments immediately to the support of DeGolyer's battery. I ordered forward the Fifty-ninth Indiana, with instructions to form on the left of the battery, and the Fourth Minnesota, with instructions to form on its right. This order was complied with in double-quick time, and about the same time the regiments were so formed the enemy commenced falling back at this point (the enemy's left), and the regiments advanced, the Fourth Minnesota across the ravine, capturing 118 prisoners, and the Fifty-ninth Indiana into the ravine, bearing further to the left, the enemy's line crossing the ravine diagonally at this point, capturing here the colors of the Forty-sixth Alabama Regiment [Sergt. John Ford, Company C, Fifty-ninth Indiana, captured them] and many prisoners. These regiments retained their positions on the right of our lines until the close of the engagement - about three hours. By the time these two regiments had got into position on the right and left of the battery, I was ordered to take the other two of my command - the Forty eighth Indiana and Eighteenth Wisconsin - about one hundred rods to the east of the battery and form, there in the edge of the woods in support of what seemed to be General Hovey's right. The Forty-eighth Indiana Regiment immediately went into position under a most galling fire of musketry, and retained it for at least three hours and long after the regiments on its right and left had given way, and then fell back by my order a short distance to replenish ammunition only after it was exhausted, but stood like a wall of adamant wherever it was placed till the close of the engagement. The Eighteenth Wisconsin was moved from right to left and back two or three times, by order of the general commanding, as the attack was made more fiercely on either hand. The regiment moved with great promptness and held every position firmly until removed by orders. After this engagement ceased I moved forward on the Vicksburg road about three miles and bivouacked for the night.

Lieutenant Colonel Tourtellote said, in his official report:

At Champion's Hill, near Bolton, Miss., we came up to the line formed by Generals Hovey's and Logan's divisions, who were already engaging the enemy. My regiment was placed on the right of a battery as a support therefor. Almost immediately, however, by order of General McPherson, my regiment was ordered to hasten forward and assist the right of General Logan's division, which was reported to be hard-pressed. The men threw their knapsacks and blankets from their shoulders and dashed forward in the direction indicated, at the double-quick step, up the hill, into the woods and upon a body of the enemy, of whom my regiment captured 118. Directly, finding myself some distance in front of and unsupported on either side by the line formed by the remainder of the troops, and finding that the enemy was massing a heavy force in front, I sent my adjutant to General McPherson to report our situation and ask for instructions. Almost at the same time the enemy opened upon us with artillery. I caused the men to lie down, where they remained, sheltered by the crest of the hill, until I received orders to draw the regiment back, so as to connect with the right of such troops as I found first in my rear. This was executed and the regiment formed on the right of Colonel Leggett's brigade of General Logan's division. Here we remained about an hour, when the line of march to the front was again resumed, when I joined my regiment to the balance of Colonel Sanborn's brigade. My loss in the regiment was Captain Thompson and Private Michael Dolan of Company E, both wounded, the captain severely.

We wrote to General Tourtellotte for his reason for threatening to shoot the first man of his regiment at this battle who fired at the enemy, and under date of Oct. 18, 1887, he says:

The circumstance of threatening to shoot our men at Champion's Hill was this: As the Fourth came into line of battle that day, General Logan sent by staff officer to General McPherson, asking for re-enforcements. General McPherson immediately ordered our regiment forward and told the staff officer to direct me. The staff officer pointed out the direction and then left me. But Logan had gone to the right and our advance led us through a gap in our lines upon quite a body of the enemy. On our left we had gone quite beyond the first line of the enemy. I sent notice of our position to General McPherson and he directed me to move back to a hill in our rear, which I did. But meantime the enemy on our left broke and ran. The enemy in going to the rear were quite disorganized, and passing near our left and front I wished to capture them. My regiment commenced to fire upon the retreating enemy, some of whom threw down their guns and up their hands in token of surrender. Do you think I could allow such men to be fired upon? Two or three companies of the regiment were wheeled about to capture these retreating rebels, and 118 (perhaps more) were sent to the rear as prisoners. More might have been captured, but I did not think best to change front of my whole regiment when the enemy were in force on the other side of the road, and, by extending our front further to the left we should have risked the shots from our own troops who had forced the enemy to retreat.

When the fighting ceased we walked along the wooded, hill and examined the artillery captured from the enemy, and, unless mistaken, counted twenty-eight pieces which had been captured and which the enemy bad abandoned in the road after taking away the horses. We saw one battery upon the brow of the hill. Some of the horses had been killed, and upon one of them sat its rider, - dead. The animal lay on the side of a sharp little slope so that the right leg of the rider was under its body while the other was extended naturally, with the foot in the stirrup. He held the bridle rein in his right band and with eyes wide open, as if looking to the front, sat upright in the saddle as naturally as if still alive. His features looked like marble, and he was apparently not over seventeen years of age. Near to this battery we counted, fully a dozen ramrods that the soldiers had fired into the trees and which were fastened in them and sticking out, our men being apparently in too great a burry to remove the ramrods before firing. The enemy had evidently been driven from his guns before our regiment came on that part of the field.

The residence of Mr. Champion - a two-story white frame on the left of the road where it turned up the hill - was used as one of the hospitals for our wounded. After our forces had left, the Confederates came and paroled the wounded. Capt. J. M. Thompson of Company E was anxious to save his sword and revolver, so he had his servant secrete them for him, and thus preserved them. He says he was the only one out of about two hundred who managed to save his arms.

Captain Thompson writes, under date of March 22, 1888:

I was shot through the body (left lung) at Champion's Hill1 and was reported by Surg. J. H. Murphy mortally wounded. When our army moved on to Vicksburg I was left with others reported as mortally wounded at Bowles' plantation house2. The rebels soon came up. Their surgeon reported me mortally wounded and left me within the rebel lines to die, and I was reported as dead in the St. Paul papers. I was paroled at the same plantation by Captain Terry of the Confederate service, and in September, 1863, was exchanged; on Jan. 14, 1864, was promoted to first major of the Second Minnesota Cavalry and was mustered out at St. Paul, to take effect May 1, 1865.

1 This battle is called in the official war records Champion's Hill, but with our men it was called Champion Hills.
2 Bowles' house was a log building on the south side of the main road and east of Champion's house.

History Of The Fourth Regiment of Minnesota Infantry Volunteers During The Great Rebellion, 1861-1865 was made available courtesy of Charles Christian, historian, Santa Rosa, California.


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