My Dear Wife ~ Letters to Matilda tells the story of a family whose lives were forever changed as a result of the Civil War. Sid S. Champion, a 38-year-old plantation owner, was determined to join the Confederate Army in spite of the protests of his wife, Matilda, who was 34 years old and the mother of four young children. Sid was persuasive. He argued that the war would be brief and that the South would be victorious.
As Grant and Sherman threatened Vicksburg, Sid found himself caught up in the excitement of war. In spite of Matilda’s protests that he was too old to have enlisted, Sid chose to remain in the army and to fight for the Cause.
In 1863 as Grant’s army marched for Vicksburg, the Champion plantation became the scene of one of the bloodiest and hardest fought battles of the war. Matilda’s grief was amplified when the Yankees torched her house, leaving it in smoldering ruins. Anguished over the loss, Matilda speculated, “I have always looked on the dark side of this war and what the end will be is beyond human comprehension.” Her fears were soon realized when Vicksburg fell to the enemy and Sid was taken prisoner. Seven months later the regiment was ordered to Georgia to begin yet another campaign.
During the Atlanta Campaign, Sid’s hopes were dashed when the Confederate Army, commanded by John Bell Hood, was ‘outgeneraled’ by Sherman and Atlanta fell to the Union. During this time, Matilda read the local papers to learn the names of the wounded and the dead. She cringed in fear of finding Sid’s name among those listed. Sid’s final campaign was the Tennessee Campaign fought in November and December of 1864. Sid was still hopeful that the South could be victorious but instead the Confederate Army was all but annihilated during the Battle of Franklin when 3,000 Confederates, including six generals, were killed or wounded.
Sid S. Champion was one of the last of the intrepid warriors. He was mustered out of the army in May 1865 and returned to Matilda. They rebuilt another house at Champion Hill and prepared to resume their lives but Sid died three years later, leaving Matilda a widow at the age of 38.
What Matilda endured as a result of the war is a story that reads like Gone With The Wind. The letters tell of a couple caught up in the passion of war, eventually losing everything they held dear, including each other.
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Dedication On November 12,
2005, Rebecca B. Drake and Sid J. Champion, great-great grandson of Sid and Matilda Champion and the
fifth generation to hold the name Sid Champion, hosted the dedication on the
grounds of the Champion's house built in 1865 after Sid returned home from the
war. The Champion’s first house was burned by Union soldiers in July, 1863
after being used as a Union hospital following the Battle of Champion Hill.
On November 12,
2005, Rebecca B. Drake and
Sid J. Champion, great-great grandson of Sid and Matilda Champion and the fifth generation to hold the name Sid Champion, hosted the dedication on the grounds of the Champion's house built in 1865 after Sid returned home from the war. The Champion’s first house was burned by Union soldiers in July, 1863 after being used as a Union hospital following the Battle of Champion Hill.
In Their Own Words: Soldiers Tell the Story of the Battle of Raymond by Rebecca Blackwell Drake tells the story of the Battle of Raymond based on numerous old diaries, old newspaper articles, rare and out of print books, and historical data. The book features diaries and first hand accounts of the soldiers as well as photographs of men who fought in the Battle of Raymond. Signed by author. Available for $15.00.
The Battle of Raymond and Other Collected Stories by Rebecca Blackwell Drake features 19 stories about the Battle of Raymond as well as the history of Raymond. The book is illustrated with photography taken during the 1998 National Re-enactment of the Battle of Raymond. Signed by author. Available $10.00.
Blue and Gray Magazine featuring
Lone Star General: Hiram Bronson Granbury by Rebecca Blackwell Drake and Thomas Holder tells the story of a Confederate soldier who was torn between two passions - fighting for the Confederate Cause and caring for his terminally ill wife. To Fannie he had pledged, “To love and to cherish until death do us part,” and to the Confederate army he had pledged to serve “Three years or the war.
Granbury married Fannie Sims Granbury, a 20-year-old beauty from Alabama. She would follow Hiram from battlefield to battlefield and from prison to prison before she was stricken with cancer and died at the age of twenty-five.
Following Fannie’s death, Granbury served as commander of the 7th Texas Infantry in the battles of Raymond, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. On February 29, 1864, he was promoted to brigadier general and given his own command, Granbury’s Brigade, comprised of all Texas regiments. General Hiram Granbury was one of the six Confederate generals killed at the Battle of Franklin. Signed by author. Available for $20.00.
The Personal Diary portion of the book, as well as the Author’s Preface and the Introduction by Maj. Gen. M. F. Force, was edited by Rebecca Blackwell Drake and has been reprinted for the Friends of Raymond. The Diary provides a fascinating account of Grant's march from Bruinsburg to Vicksburg. Sixty-five captivating entries shed light on the events that happened as Oldroyd marched with the Seventeenth Corps on the long and hard march inland. The diary is available for $15.
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