Jerry McWilliams to Unveil Painting
“Colonel Cockrell Leading a Charge: Battle of Champion Hill”

By Rebecca Drake

On May 16, 2009, 2:00 p.m., Jerry McWilliams, Civil War artist, will unveil his latest painting depicting Colonel Francis Cockrell, CSA, leading a charge during the Battle of Champion Hill.

The unveiling will be held in conjunction with the 146th Anniversary events commemorating the Battle of Champion Hill. Recognized as a Civil War and historic artist, McWilliams’ art depicts on canvas what books depict with words. Some of his most famous paintings include: Chimneyville (the burning of Jackson), The Sinking of the USS Cairo; Colonel Randal McGavock: God’s Own Gentleman; Lone Star General: Hiram B. Granbury; General John Gregg; Lt. General John C.Pemberton: Defender of Vicksburg; Jefferson Davis and his Dog, Traveler, at Beauvoir; Sky Parlor Hill (Vicksburg); and Except for You: Andrew and Rachael Jackson.

An avid reader and historian, McWilliams enjoys finding old diaries and books which relate incidents that stir his imagination. One such incident was Col. Randall McGavock, commander of the 10th Tennessee Infantry, at the moment he was killed during the Battle of Raymond. “The Sinking of the US Cairo, was a difficult picture to paint,” commented McWilliams “in that it took so much research. I had to paint the Cairo in the right season of the year in order for the landscape along the river to be appropriate and I then had to get the explosion which occurred on the vessel just perfect,” While painting Chimneyville, (the burning of Jackson), McWilliams’ depicted Jackson City Hall burning in the background. “It wasn’t until I showed that painting to Grady Howell, historian who works at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, that I found out that the Jackson City Hall during the Civil War had a cupola on top. Unknowingly, I had painted it without one. It’s paying attention to detail which make my paintings accurate historically speaking.”

One of the books McWilliams’ read recently, The History of the First and Second Missouri Confederate Brigades, 1861-1965, by R. S. Beivers, described an event which occurred during the heat of battle: “Colonel Cockrell rode down the lines: in one hand he held the reins and a large magnolia flower, while with the other he waved his sword, and gave the order to charge.” The description was so picturesque, McWilliams decided it had to be captured on canvas.

The unveiling of “Colonel Cockrell Leading a Charge: Battle of Champion Hill” will take place at 2:00 p.m. at Matilda’s House on Champion Hill Road west of Bolton. Red, white, and blue balloons will mark the entrance to the old house site and property which, at one time, played such an important role in the Campaign for Vicksburg. The events commemorating the 146th Anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill will begin at 8:00 a.m. at Champion Hill Missionary Baptist Church and end at Matilda’s House at 5:00 p.m. Come and join the fun.


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Copyright (c) James and Rebecca Drake, 2009.  All Rights Reserved.