The Civil War, Day by Day

Battle for the Shenandoah (detail)

Battle of Champion’s Hill

At the Sid Champion plantation in Baker’s Creek, Mississippi, some 20,000 Confederate soldiers, under the command of General John Pemberton, fought almost 30,000 of Ulysses S. Grant’s Union troops.

S.H.M. Byers, a Union soldier, recalled that “for half an hour we pumped red hot lead into each other’s faces. We had forty rounds each in our cartridge boxes, and probably nine-tenths of them were fired in that half-hour.” At one point, a teenaged boy ran to Byers and cried through tears, “My regiment is gone! What shall I do?” Byers told the boy to pitch in alongside him, “and pitch in he did. He was of metal, that boy, and kept his place with the bravest veteran in the line.”

Pemberton’s men pushed back the Northerners several times during the confrontation, as an admiring throng of Southern belles cheered and sang “Dixie” from the sidelines. However, the Union ultimately gained strength and sent the Confederates retreating toward Vicksburg. At the end of the battle, more than 1,600 Confederate soldiers were missing. The Union Army cheered General Grant, who in Byers’ words, “pushed on past, like an embarrassed man hurrying to get away from some defeat. Once he stopped near the colors, and without addressing anyone in particular, said “Well done!”

Mort Künstler painted this dramatic battle scene, a detail from Battle for the Shenandoah, which typifies the fighting which took place at the Battle of Champion’s Hill.

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All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.