Champion Hill to host 154th anniversary

Published 12:23 pm Monday, May 15, 2017

Historians, residents and visitors will gather Saturday at the Champion Hill MB Church grounds as the Champion Heritage Foundation observes the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill and remembers the Union and Confederate soldiers who fought and died during the last battle before the Siege of Vicksburg. 

Church gates will open at 8 a.m. with the opening ceremony beginning at 10 on church grounds, which was the site of the Champion House during the May 16, 1863 battle and was destroyed after the Siege of Vicksburg. Admission is free. 

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Bertram Hayes-Davis, the great-great grandson of Jefferson and Varina Davis, will serve as guest speaker for the event, which will feature the unveiling of a new historic marker commemorating the counter attack by Confederate Brig. Gen. John S. Bowen’s 3rd Division during the battle.

Other activities include the Lewis Family Gospel Singers performing “Amazing Grace,” a battle skit written by Bertha Lewis who was born and raised at Champion Hill, an artwork presentation by Dr. Lamar McMillin and Jerry McWilliams, book vendors and exhibits, and a noon picnic with music provided by Johnny and Kevin Lewis and friends. The lunch is $10 a plate.

The program will also include a walking tour along the Old Jackson Road that leads through the heart of the battlefield to the Crossroads and Hill of Death.

On May 16, 1863, about 32,000 advancing Union soldiers met 23,000 Confederates in a fierce struggle for a crossroads roughly halfway between Vicksburg and Jackson.

The field was dominated by a bald hill on land owned by the Champion family, from which Confederate artillery opened fire on the Union army at 9:45 a.m.

The battle ended when the Confederate forces were crushed and forced to retreat to Vicksburg.

The retreat led to the siege of Vicksburg.

During the battle, the Champion house was used as Grant’s headquarters and as a field hospital for soldiers wounded during the fight. The house was burned after the fall of Vicksburg.

In 1897, Matilda Champion donated the property to the black community for a church which was built the same year.