Champion Hill, Mississippi, May, 1983

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James N.

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Champion's Hill, Mississippi, was in the 1980's the scene of an annual reenactment of the Battle of Champion's Hill, fought May 16, 1863, between the forces of Ulysses S. Grant and John Clifford Pemberton. It was hosted by Robert McLauren of Stanford's Mississippi Battery and sponsored by Herb Phillips, head of the Champion Hill Battlefield Foundation and his nearby Cactus Plantation. The particular event pictured here occurred in 1983 and featured my friend Marty @Marty US Grant Brazil of Biloxi, Mississippi, portraying Grant and several members of the North Texas Reenactment Society of Dallas, Texas, as members of Grant's staff. Above at left is Ed Owens, standing next to myself seated as Grant's aide-de-camp and Marty (obviously!) seated at right. Unfortunately, I can no longer identify the others.

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The tent and fly above with the United States flag out front served as Union headquarters; below, what appears to be a sutler's wagon and tent.

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The Battle of Champion's Hill
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Our battlefield above was located between the Union and Confederate camps and was east of Baker's Creek (another name for this battle) on land across which Pemberton's main force retreated after being defeated on Champion's Hill which is a mile or more to the north-northeast. This route was defended by the brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman who was killed by a shell while directing Confederate artillery only a short distance east of our location.

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Above, Union pickets and skirmishers appear east of another small creek; below, they are joined by the Big Brass as Grant himself makes a personal reconnaissance with his faithful aide-de-camp and color bearer on foot just behind and above him.

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Above, Confederate guns look out over the long slope of "Champion's Hill" as the spectators at right watch and try to keep dry from the steady drizzle!

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The 7th Illinois Cavalry skirmishes with the main Confederate line-of-battle on the crest of the hill.

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The Union infantry finally appears and prepares to assault the Rebels!

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In the above photo, Union infantry is barely visible in the background mist as the cavalry again trots forward, joined at a safe distance at the left by the color bearer and the aide-de-camp wearing not only his rubberized poncho but also his Havelock in a vain attempt to stay dry!

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The cavalry resorts to their normal tactic of dismounting to fight on foot with every fourth man holding the horses of the other three.

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About this time I discovered a supposedly "dead" Rebel who had been playing possum and taking potshots at the Federal infantry from behind, and I quickly dispatched him with my trusty sword; I'm here at the center - obvious in my white Havelock - kneeling beside the miscreant! Unfortunately, the steady drizzle in which our battle was fought was only the beginning of an eventual downpour that turned Baker's Creek into a torrent, flooding adjacent fields that were being used for participant parking; luckily, I was able to drive my car out of the fast-forming lake - others weren't so fortunate and wound up paying local farmers exorbitant fees to tow them out using their tractors!

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Rusk County Avengers

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Seems like a very small event, even by today's standards. Let me guess, was it a weather forecast (had to have been primitive back then lol) or was this a new event at the time? Either way, I'd love to do a Champion Hill reenactment, which I don't think there is one nowadays.
 

James N.

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Seems like a very small event, even by today's standards. Let me guess, was it a weather forecast (had to have been primitive back then lol) or was this a new event at the time? Either way, I'd love to do a Champion Hill reenactment, which I don't think there is one nowadays.
It WAS small and drew reenactors mainly from the Deep South, though the members of the 7th Illinois Cavalry were from all over. May in Mississippi is always a bad time to schedule an event - it's a wonder Grant didn't have more trouble from the weather! (It had been very rainy in the weeks and months leading up to the campaign though.) The event was hosted by Stanford's Battery and the owner of the nearby Cactus Plantation (!) in nearby Edwards, which was exactly what it sounds like, a farm that grew cactus commercially. One fond memory of this or possibly another Champion's Hill was the night General Grant and his staff descended on the nearest Shoney's at Vicksburg for dinner!
 
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Rusk County Avengers

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It WAS small and drew reenactors mainly from the Deep South, though the members of the 7th Illinois Cavalry were from all over. May in Mississippi is always a bad time to schedule an event - it's a wonder Grant didn't have more trouble from the weather! (It had been very rainy in the weeks and months leading up to the campaign though.) The event was hosted by Stanford's Battery and the owner of the nearby Cactus Plantation (!) in nearby Bolton, which was exactly what it sounds like, a farm that grew cactus commercially. One fond memory of this or possibly another Champion's Hill was the night General Grant and his staff descended on the nearest Shoney's at Vicksburg for dinner!
Small event may be unimpressive to spectators compared to larger ones, but to any reenactor they should have a charm. I know they hold a charm for me. Oh and I've heard a lot about that old cactus farm.

As for y'alls dinner trip, one thing I've noticed is being an officer on a staff has advantages. Reminds me of the old line "Its good to be the king!" my one and only foray into "officering" at an event opened my eyes to that!
 

Lampasas Bill

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I don't remember the exact year, but members of the Missouri Civil War Reenactors Association chartered a bus and attended one year, both blue and gray. It was not a year when Marty Brazil was portraying Grant, but it was another year with frog-strangeling rain--all Saturday night and into the battle on Sunday. My most distinct recollection was of Kal Kinzer, from the Union Rifles, out of Arkansas, sitting up all night around the swamped fire pit in his poncho, while every one else huddled in their dog tents trying to keep dry. Much to Kal's credit, he had a reputation for trying to "do it right," and I guess that's what he was doing--or perhaps he just forgot his dog tent.
 

alan polk

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Thanks for sharing!! What memories for me!! As a kid, I went to every single reenactment out there- it was the highlight of my childhood. Y’all always put on a great show and it was always well attended by spectators!!
 
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I don't remember the exact year, but members of the Missouri Civil War Reenactors Association chartered a bus and attended one year, both blue and gray. It was not a year when Marty Brazil was portraying Grant, but it was another year with frog-strangeling rain--all Saturday night and into the battle on Sunday. My most distinct recollection was of Kal Kinzer, from the Union Rifles, out of Arkansas, sitting up all night around the swamped fire pit in his poncho, while every one else huddled in their dog tents trying to keep dry. Much to Kal's credit, he had a reputation for trying to "do it right," and I guess that's what he was doing--or perhaps he just forgot his dog tent.
I don't know why, but one memory I have of Champion's Hill is one night at registration where there was a bright overhead light that was attracting what seemed to be swarms of large, green luna moths that were beating themselves to death against a billboard while trying to get to the "moon"!
 
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Thanks for sharing this awesome story and photos. Enjoyed reading and the photos.
I forgot to mention it, but I think strangely enough I don't now have any idea WHO it was who took these photos, though I'm pretty sure that it was with my old Kodak Brownie camera!?
 
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