Champion Hill -- Living History Event
September 29, 2018
The Champion Heritage Foundation is happy to announce that we will once again gather on the Champion Hill Church Grounds and the Old Jackson Road for the Saturday, September 29, 2018 event. The year’s program will not feature a reenactment but, instead, two wonderful living histories and the dedication of a new historic marker.
Once again, the Champion Hill Missionary Baptist Church will open their grounds to host the event that honors the soldiers who fought and died during the Battle of Champion Hill, May 16, 1863. The church is rich in history - built in 1897 on a portion of the battlefield that was once the site of the Champion Plantation Home. During the battle, Matilda and her youngest son, Sid Champion Jr. hid in the cellar. When the smoke cleared, Matilda emerged from her hiding place only to find that her home had been turned into Grant’s Headquarters and a Union field hospital.
Visit the Champion Hill Website in future months to discover the activities that will take place on September 29th. As always, the highlight of the day will be the OPENING CEREMONY at 10:00 AM followed by Dinner on the Grounds prepared by the Lewis Family Singers— $10.00 a plate. At 2:00 PM, a new marker, Cockrell's Counterattack, will be dedicated along the historic Old Jackson Road. Be sure and wear comfortable shoes in the event you hike the Old Jackson Road to visit the Hill of Death and to be a part of the new marker dedication.
Living History: Bertha Lewis
The 2018 Opening Ceremony will feature two skits written by Bertha Lewis, poet, author, re-enactor and manikin-maker. Bertha, a native of Champion Hill, began her career as a writer in 2013 when she premiered her poem "I Was There: The Battle of Champion Hill" at the 150th Anniversary. The poem, performed by professional reader, Ed Shelnut, left the audience mesmerized and in tears. Since that time Bertha has continued writing and producing living history skits related to the rich history of Champion Hill.
One of the skits to be performed this year is based on her poem, "I Was There: The Battle of Champion Hill" and features members of the Lewis Family in period dress as they re-enact former slaves of the Champion Family. The aged slaves reminisce The Battle of Champion Hill. The skit was first performed in 2017 and deserves a curtain call this year.
Bertha’s newest skit, Darwina Loud: Freedman School Teacher will premiere this year. Elisabeth Gent of Vicksburg will re-enact Darwina, a freedman school teacher who in 1865 was stationed with the 52 US Colored Infantry at Champion Hill. In her diary, Darwina gives a view of Champion Hill as it appeared after the war and the Union soldiers (newly freed slaves) that she taught to read and write. The diary is brief but the contents are informative and poignant.
Bertha was born at Champion Hill almost five decades ago. Her parent’s home overlooks the rear of the Hill of Death. Her young life was spent listening and learning about the battle that took place on the hill May 16, 1863. "Even as a child," she recalls, "I got chill bumps every time I walked on the battlefield."
Bertha not only writes poetry and skits but is also the designer of all the period manikins that are seen on the grounds during events. The manikins are images of people whose lives played a part in the history of Champion Hill.
Living History: Elisabeth Gent to Re-enact Darwina Loud
Elisabeth Gent will play the role of Darwina Loud, diarist, during the Champion Hill event. In 1865, during her brief stay at Champion Hill , she kept a diary detailing her work as a Freedman School Teacher. Darwina was encamped with the 52 US Colored Infantry assigned to Champion Hill to repair the railroad.
Afraid that she might forget the day-to-day experiences of life at Midway Station, Darwina kept a little journal of daily events: "Perhaps, it will be pleasant to sit down and look over these pages and see just how 'life in a tent' here among the swamps and woods of Mississippi--in the lonely camp of a regiment of black soldiers--seemed like while it was passing. And, here, in this wild military life, each day seldom fails to bring its own pleasures and adventures."
The diary encompasses a four-week time span and is a small gem of historical significance.
Ed Shelnut: Professional Reader
Ed Shelnut, former actor in the movie industry, performed Bertha Lewis'
poignant poem "I Was There: The Battle of Champion Hill" at Champion Hill's Sesquicentennial event in 2013. This year, he will begin the Opening Ceremony by reading A Place Called Champion Hill —another descriptive work by Bertha. He will also serve as narrator for Bertha's newest skit “Darwina Loud: Freedman School Teacher.” This will be a performance that you don’t want to miss.
Shelnut is a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London) and a former member of the Screen Actors Guild. He has appeared in three feature films and numerous radio & TV shows. Ed has a great deal of interest in the Champion Hill battlefield since one of his ancestors fought in the battle.
Living History: Amie Clark & Family
Amie Clark is a veteran living historian, having been involved in various areas of the hobby for over 20 years. Researching and fielding a wide variety of impressions in many different settings, she has also portrayed a number of historic figures through out the years.
Amie's passion lies in portraying the lower working class of the South. She has done extensive research in this area and enjoys the constant challenge of accurately showing this under-represented population to the spectators. Her favorite area of study is the Granny Woman, the midwife and healer of the Southern Appalachian and Ozark Mountains. This oft-forgotten character study has allowed Amie to achieve a level of familiarity with the poor Southern people of the era not often found among her peers. Amie's children are a large part of her impression and as a family they strive to work together to continually improve their presentation.
Charlie Carlisle, Historian
Charlie Carlisle, historian, will lead the afternoon stroll along the Old Jackson Road to the Hill of Death. A new historic marker honoring Col. Francis Cockrell, CSA, will be dedicated at 2:00 along the historic battlefield road. Wear comfortable shoes and be sure and spray with OFF to keep mosquitoes, ticks, etc. away. Take water to hydrate yourself in the event it’s a hot day.
The Hill of Death and the Crossroads were two of major sites associated with the Battle of Champion Hill – both saw heavy fighting during the final stages of the May 16, 1863 battle.
The walk to the Hill of Death and Crossroads is approximately one mile. Round trip approximately two miles. A wagon will be available to carry those who need assistance.
Do not stray from the path of the sunken road. Keep a cell phone handy.
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