Photo Credit: Union troops assail the Confederate center at Champion’s Hill midway between the state capitol of Jackson, Mississippi, and the stronghold of Vicksburg. The action at Champion’s Hill proved to be the decisive action of the Vicksburg campaign.
By Robert L. Durham The barren summit of Champion’s Hill presented an ideal site for Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton’s Confederate army to deploy artillery batteries on the morning of May 16, 1863. If the Union soldiers of Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Tennesee wanted to take out the artillery, they would have to push through deep ravines choked with tangled underbrush in order to reach the summit. But that was exactly what they did at the start of the battle. As the Yankees of Brig. Gen. George F. McGinnis’ brigade neared the crest of the hill, Captain James F. Waddell’s Alabama Battery loaded its guns with canister rounds designed to repulse infantry at close quarters. McGinnis’ Yankees fixed bayonets as they made their way towards the summit and the menacing Confederate artillery. When they were 75 yards from the battery, McGinnis issued orders for his troops to lie down to avoid the Confederate artillery fire. When the Confederate gunners fired their guns, the tin cans containing the iron balls tore open as soon as they left the barrel, but their contents whisked over the heads of the prone Federals. The 11th Indiana was the first unit to gain the crest of Champion’s Hill, but McGinnis brought up Colonel Thomas H. Bringhurst’s 46th Indiana to reinforce the other Hoosiers already on the summit. The 46th Indiana came on at the double-quick and captured the guns. Confederate infantry, however, rallied and counterattacked in a bid to retake the guns.
Join The Conversation
View All Comments