Historic Coker House at Champion Hill
to be Razed

Rebecca Blackwell Drake

The Coker House as it appeared during the 1970s after Cal Main Industries donated the house and property to the Jackson Civil War Roundtable.  In the year 2000, the ownership of the property was transferred to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The house was built circa 1852  by H. B. Coker and was used as a Union hospital during and after the Battle of Champion Hill.

The Coker House, located on the Raymond-Edwards road three miles southeast of Edwards, is known for the role that it played during the Battle of Champion Hill. The one-story Greek Revival house was built circa 1852 by H. B. Coker who was a prominent planter in the area.   After the Battle of Champion Hill, Coker and his family abandoned the house and took refuge in Alabama.

The Coker House was one of five houses to play a prominent role during the Battle of Champion Hill.  Other prominent houses on the battlefield included:  Hiawatha, located  on the Raymond-Edwards road near the crossing at Baker’s Creek; the Isaac Roberts House, headquarters of General John Pemberton, located  a short distance north of the Coker House;  the Cook House, located on the westward stretch of the Jackson-Vicksburg road;  and the Champion House, located on  the Jackson-Vicksburg road within sight of the Southern Railroad.

Unfortunately, except for the decaying ruins of the Coker House, none of these houses can be seen on the battlefield today.  The Champion House was burned by the Yankees soon after the Siege of Vicksburg. The Roberts House was bulldozed years ago, but the old cistern remains in the weeds. Another old cistern is all that survives from the original Cook House but the land was recently purchased by the Civil War Preservation Trust.  Hiawatha, the only house left standing, was moved from the battlefield to the nearby city of Raymond where it was restored and is now a private residence.  A pair of old Magnolia trees marks the site where the house once stood.

On May 16, 1863, three Confederate divisions (Loring, Stevenson, and Bowen) commanded by General John Pemberton met General U. S. Grant’s army in the Midway Station area situated near the Southern Railroad, the Jackson-Raymond Road, the Raymond-Edwards Road, and Baker’s Creek.   The encounter turned out to be a day-long battle with the tactical advantage shifting numerous times.  By late afternoon, as the Confederates faced defeat, Pemberton ordered a retreat to the Big Black River near Bovina. During the retreat, General Lloyd Tilghman, (Loring’s Division) was killed as he defended the escape route across Baker’s Creek.  His body was carried from the battlefield to nearby Hiawatha.  During and after the battle, the Coker House was used as a Union hospital while Hiawatha served as a Confederate hospital. 


A rear view of the ruins of the Coker House as seen today. 

Around mid-century, the Coker House was bought by Cal Main Industries which later donated it to the Jackson Civil War Round Table.  Mississippians and Civil War historians were hopeful that the house, one of Mississippi’s Civil War treasures, would be  restored.   In the year 2000, the house changed hands once again when the Jackson Civil War Round Table made the decision to donate the house and property to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. By this time, however, the house was in desperate  need of repair and nature had begun to take its toll.  By the year 2003, the cost of trying to save the historic structure had soared to almost two million dollars. 

Recently, in the December 2007 issue of the national newspaper Civil War News,  a feature article by Deborah Fitts entitled, “Coker House to Come Down at Champion Hill Battlefield” stated the news that all Mississippians and Civil War historians hated to hear: “The Coker House, the last remaining structure to witness the battle of Champion Hill, was expected to be ‘deconstructed’ in November and placed in storage.”   Sources say that a replica will be built in its place but this is yet to be determined.

Mississippians and those passionate about Civil War history will bemoan the loss of the Coker House but will wait to see what plans are in the making to replace the structure.  It is our dream that the Champion Hill battlefield will be developed in a way that will attract tourists to Mississippi while at the same time preserving the pristine qualities of one of the most famous battlefields in the South.  With the combined efforts of the Mississippi Department of Archives & History, the Civil War Preservation Trust, and the Vicksburg National Military Park this dream is sure to happen.


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Copyright (c) James and Rebecca Drake, 2007.  All Rights Reserved.