Alonzo L. Brown
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:
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.
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:
Lieutenant Colonel Tourtellote said, in his official report:
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:
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:
1 This battle is
called in the official war records Champion's Hill, but with our men it
was called Champion Hills.
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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