The Battle of Edwards’ Station or Champion’s Hill

Condensed from the correspondence of the New York World
(source unknown)

Champion’s Hill

The place where this battle, which I am describing, was fought is called “Champion’s Hill,” after the planter who owns the property. He is an ardent rebel, and lives in a pretty mansion, with a green lawn in front, thickly studded with evergreens and flowering trees. A military man would at once pronounce the position an excellent one for battle. There was a hill beyond a deep ravine, though which the road passes; an open field below, and just across the latter a series of hills and valleys covered with dense forest trees, affording excellent cover for an enemy; while we were obliged to skirmish and fight in the meadow, exposed to a galling fire, without an opportunity to reply effectively. We were not surprised, therefore, that our advance guard received a heavy fire of musketry from the advance line of the enemy’s skirmishers posted in the edge of the timber. The enemy had also planted a battery of artillery on the right of the road where Champion’s Hill juts out bold faced and clear of timber, and overlooks the fields below. The disposition of our forces was properly and quickly made, and a heavy line of skirmishers thrown out in advance, backed up by the two brigades drawn up in line of battle. Occasional shots were fired – enough to indicate the rebel position and to demonstrate their willingness to fight us there.

McPherson’s corps just then coming up, Logan’s division was thrown out to the right of General McGinnis, General Leggett taking the left, General J. E. Smith the centre, and General Stevenson the extreme right.

The Battle

After the line was formed, DeGolyer’s Eight Michigan Battery was moved to the rise of ground back of the right of General Leggett; the skirmishers were advanced, received the rebel fire and returned it with great vigor, and thus the battle began. The rebel fire was becoming extremely troublesome, when DeGolyer opened upon the line of skirmishers in the edge of the timber, and dropped shell and shot among them without mercy. This caused him to cease firing for an instant, but as our line advanced, the fire of the enemy became more violent a hundred rods (165 feet) to the right, where shell could not so easily penetrate. Our brave soldiers essayed to advance, but could not withstand the terrible storm, and were forced to fall on their faces and let the tempest pass over their heads. An open plot of ground was discovered on the right of the timber, and limbering up his guns, DeGolyer made a wide detour to the right, and planted them there. He was quickly in position, and opened a terrible enfilading fire upon the enemy. Another battery was placed in DeGolyer’s old position. While DeGolyer was thus hurling his missiles of destruction along the edge of the forest, it was noticed the rebel fire suddenly died away, and the knowing ones said they wee about to charge the battery. Sure enough, five minutes afterward, a brigade of rebel infantry emerged from the forest, looking, from point of observation, as if they leaped bodily forth from the earth. They advanced in solid columns and in magnificent style. Waiting till they had reached a point two hundred yards from the mouth of the cannon, the gunners sprang to their pieces and discharged them, a terrible volley, full in the faces of the advancing columns. At the same moment, the battery on the hillside opened on them, exploding four shells where the rank was firmest.

The terrible enfilading and cross fire these gallant men could not withstand, and they quickly sought the cover of the forest. Thrice was this splendid feat assayed and thrice were they beaten back with great slaughter. This skirmishing and cannonading continued for an hour, and the enemy were driven further into the fastnesses of the forest. At this time a general advance was ordered. The troops in two lines advanced in order of battle and received a terrible fire. They entered the edge of the timber and fought on equal terms with the enemy, except that the rebels had the crest of the hill. The enemy pressed his forces on the right and attempted to flank us by superiority of numbers, but Gen. Smith’s brigade and Stevenson’s brigade fixed their bayonets and drove all before them like chaff before the whirlwind. Disappointed in their intention of turning our right flank, they turned their attention to our left, where Colonel Slack and General McGinnis were stationed. For a time they poured terrible volleys into their ranks, and forced them to yield a little and fall back. Receiving reinforcements from Crocker’s division, the order, charge bayonets, was given here also, and the enemy fell back in the utmost confusion.

It is impossible to convey an adequate idea of the slaughter occasioned on the right and centre of the line. The ground was literally covered with the dead and dying. In the ravines, behind trees, on the summit of the hills, lay the unfortunate men of both armies, some of them stiff and cold in death’s icy grasp, others with wounds of every description; here, an arm cut off by cannon balls; there a leg hanging on my the muscles.


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