The Champions of Champion Hill
Rebecca Blackwell Drake
Sid S. Champion
1823 - 1868
family, whose roots were in North Carolina, came to Mississippi and
settled in Hinds County as early as 1839. The property they purchased
was located along the banks of Baker’s Creek, near the old roadbed that
connected Jackson to Vicksburg. Prior to the war, the Southern
Mississippi Railroad, running between Jackson and Vicksburg, was
constructed and the line went directly through the Champions’ property.
The station at Champion Hill was known as Midway since it was located
half way between Bolton and Edwards stations.
One of the first Champions to migrate from North
Carolina to Mississippi was Willis Champion, the father of Sidney Smith
Champion. It is thought that he also went by the name “Henry” but in the
1850 census he is listed as Willis Champion. Willis was first married in
Rockingham County, North Carolina, and the marriage produced three sons:
David S. Champion, Sidney Smith Champion, and Nathaniel Champion. While
Willis migrated to Hinds County, Mississippi, his brother, John Champion
and his sister, Elizabeth Champion Smith, moved to Oktibbeha County,
Mississippi. The fate of Willis’ wife is unknown but when Willis moved
to Mississippi with his sons, it appeared he was a widower.
Sid Champion III, grandson of Sidney S. Champion, later
wrote of Willis Champion’s arrival to the area: “He arrived at the port
at Brownsville on the Big Black River where he purchased several hundred
acres of land in Hinds County.” The land he purchased would later become
known as Champion Hill when it became the site of one of the bloodiest
battles fought during Grant’s campaign for Vicksburg.
On February 5, 1839, after arriving in Hinds County,
Mississippi, Willis Champion married his second wife, Martha Ellis. They
had one daughter named Laura.
On November 22, 1853, Sid S. Champion married Matilda
Montgomery Cameron Champion, a divorced woman from a wealthy family in
Madison County. The marriage was a first one for Sid and a second one
for Matilda. At the age of 16, Matilda had married Malcom Cameron, the
son of a wealthy plantation owner, and given birth to a son, John
Rutherford, at the age of 17. The marriage ended in divorce. She left
the infant son with his father
and returned to Madison County to live
with her parents before meeting and marrying Sid.
Sidney Johnson Champion
The Federal Census of 1860 listed Sid Champion as a
farmer with real estate valued at $9,000 and a personal estate valued at
$25,405. At the time of the census, Sid and Matilda were living on the
property originally purchased by Willis Champion. Listed in the census
were the three children of Sid and Matilda: Mary Elizabeth Champion, age
5; Wallace Montgomery Champion, age 4; and William Balfour Champion, 11
months. Sidney S. Champion II, their youngest, was born the following
On March 13, 1862, as the war entered Mississippi, Sid
and his brother Nathaniel and nephew, Robert Champion, son of Davis S.
Champion, joined the 28th Mississippi Cavalry. They would fight together
for the duration of the war before being mustered out in 1865.
Following the devastation of the Champion property in
1863 at the hands of the Yankees, the family temporarily moved to the
northern part Rankin County where Matilda lived on 180 acres of land
purchased as a refuge home. In February of 1864, Sid left his family at
the new home in Rankin County while he continued in the war - first
fighting in the Atlanta Campaign, then in the Tennessee Campaign until
he was finally mustered out in the spring of 1865. Immediately after the
war, they sold their property in Rankin County and returned to Champion
Hill where they built a second house to replace the one torched by the
enemy. This historic home, now the property of Sidney Johnson Champion,
great-grandson of Sid and Matilda Champion, remains in the Champion
family but is in need of repair.
To members of the Champion family, Champion Hill
represents home and a parcel land that has been in the family for over a
century and a half. To others, especially historians, Champion Hill
represents the site of one of the bloodiest battles fought during
Grant’s campaign for Vicksburg. On these hallowed grounds, Pemberton’s
army faced defeat at the hands of Grant’s powerful army. The loss set
the stage for the siege of Vicksburg and sadly, for the Confederates,
ultimately changed the course of the war.
Information regarding the genealogy of the Champion
family from “Memoirs” of Sid Champion III, the letters of Sid and
Matilda Champion, and Charlotte Miller, a genealogist and descendant of