Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg

Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg

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by Timothy B. Smith

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The Battle of Champion Hill was the decisive land engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign. The May 16, 1863, fighting took place just 20 miles east of the river city, where the advance of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Federal army attacked Gen. John C. Pemberton's hastily gathered Confederates.

The bloody fighting seesawed back and forth until superior Union leadership…  See more details below


The Battle of Champion Hill was the decisive land engagement of the Vicksburg Campaign. The May 16, 1863, fighting took place just 20 miles east of the river city, where the advance of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Federal army attacked Gen. John C. Pemberton's hastily gathered Confederates.

The bloody fighting seesawed back and forth until superior Union leadership broke apart the Southern line, sending Pemberton's army into headlong retreat. The victory on Mississippi's wooded hills sealed the fate of both Vicksburg and her large field army, propelled Grant into the national spotlight, and earned him the command of the entire U.S. armed forces.

Timothy Smith, who holds a Ph.D. from Mississippi State and works as a historian for the National Park Service, has written the definitive account of this long overlooked battle. His vivid prose is grounded upon years of primary research and is rich in analysis, strategic and tactical action, and character development.

Champion Hill will become a classic Civil War battle study.

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Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although it was not known by either side at the time, the Battle of Champion Hill was the most important engagement in the Vicksburg Campaign. This was the last opportunity by Confederate forces to maneuver against their opponents before the siege of this key point on the Mississippi River. After the defeat the Rebel army defending the 'Confederate Gibralter' was forced to operate within its formidable defenses, but without hope of resupply. Most efforts at describing the campaign which split the Confederacy in two and ulitmately spelled its doom have focused on Union efforts to approach the fortress city and accounts of the siege once Confederate forces were trapped within the impressive defenses. Some historians, however, have seen its importance. J.F.C. Fuller described the battle in its proper perspective when he stated, ¿The drums of Champion¿s Hill sounded the doom of Richmond.¿ This battle eliminated the chance for the Confederate army guarding Vicksburg to breakout and to join the other Rebel army in the region to create a real challenge to Grant's Union forces and ensured the severing of the Confederacy into portions east and west of the Mississippi River. Although he was certainly famous prior to the Battle of Champion Hill, Grant would become the most powerful Union commander during the war and arguably began the long road to his presidency after the Vicksburg Campaign. Only a handful of historians have tackled this monumental campaign with the attention it deserves. No one has, until now, concentrated on the Battle of Champion Hill. That has been remedied with this book by Timothy B. Smith, staff historian at Shiloh National Military Park. Dr. Smith has expanded his Ph.D. dissertation into this volume and the result is an excellent description of the battle. As one would expect, there is a heavy reliance on the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and secondary sources, but relatively few (by percentage of citations) diary and journal citations. The author does a superb job in recounting the story and placing the battle in its proper context within the campaign. His writing style is clear and concise. There are several strong points that add to the value of this volume. The excellent maps are plentiful, easy to read, very detailed, and are a great aid to the reader. There is an abundance of photographs of personalities from the campaign. The order of battle is very detailed, with the name of commanders down to regimental level. The postscript, entitled ¿Thereafter,¿ lists the prominent personalities in the engagement and details what happened to their careers after the battle. This book is a welcome addition to the literature of the War in the West, and in particular, the Vicksburg Campaign. Dr. Smith has done an excellent job in this fine scholarly effort.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although Gettysburg ended Robert E. Lee's invasion of the North, the actual strategic turning point of the Civil War was the Battle of Champion Hill. This battle was Union General U.S. Grant's ¿D-Day Invasion¿ that subsequently enabled the capture of Vicksburg, the so-called ¿Gibraltar of the Confederacy.¿ Dr. Timothy Smith has written a wonderfully lucid account of this vital confrontration. Many histories about war tend to lose the reader by constantly changing focus from company to regiment to corps to their commanders and substitute commanders ... and back again. But Dr. Smith's book carefully keeps track of all the players without confusion, and without neglecting the factual history. Simply put, the book reads more like an action novel than an historical tome... My great grandfather and two great granduncles fought in this battle as part of U.S. Grant's command. Dr. Smith's book has helped make sense out of much family lore. I would recommend 'Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg' to anyone interested in this era in American history.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The reading Civil War battle histories can be very enjoyable or an exercise in frustration depending on the author's ability to explain the battle. Many times the reader's prior knowledge of the battle becomes critical to the enjoyment of the book. Noah Andre Trudeau once apologized for writing another book on Gettysburg. His point was with so many Gettysburg books on the market reading a book on Gettysburg is like visiting a childhood friend. Only a few words are necessary to recall shared experiences from a long acquaintance. Other battles are strangers we may have heard about but lack knowledge of. This lack of shared experiences and the common ground of an old friend can make an introduction awkward and difficult. Becoming 'lost' on the battlefield is a common problem as the action moves past but leaves us clueless to the importance or location of the event. The 'little picture' takes full control leaving the reader with only the vaguest idea of how we arrived on the field, why we are fighting the battle or where we will go afterwards. The less prior knowledge you have of the battle, the more likely you are to encounter problem understanding the battle. This book will often end up on eBay or sitting in the bookcase with a scrap of paper marking where you gave up. We all have bought this book and each time we wonder, 'What is it that makes a good battle history?' What do we need when being introduced to a battle to make a pleasant and informative beginning? What will keep our interest and make us want to finish reading the book? 'Champion Hill Decisive Battle for Vicksburg' by Timothy B. Smith from Savas Beatie LLC is a battle book that can answer these questions. Civil War buffs are familiar with Grant's Vicksburg Campaign; some of us can even name most of the battles. We know that the battle of Champion Hill located between Jackson and Vicksburg is the critical battle of the campaign. Grant's defeat of Pemberton caused the latter be trapped in Vicksburg and forced to surrender on July 4, 1863. Good start, now how much do we really know about this battle? Champion Hill, as most western battles, suffers from a lack of available books making a new book something of an event. Sam Elliott, the actor and Civil War author, has characterized Tim Smith as 'a fine young Civil War scholar'. This book shows why he can say that. The writing is sure, swift moving and compelling. The opening chapter outlines the frustration of the Vicksburg Campaign while introducing the main characters. This gives us an understanding of how few options Grant had and why he chose what many considered the most dangerous one. This is a battle history. The promise is a battle and a battle is what they deliver! In the package is a clear concise, descriptive account of the campaign that ends in the siege of Vicksburg. Not one battle, but Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill and Big Black occur during the nineteen days of May between crossing the Mississippi River and arriving at Vicksburg. Thirty-eight maps ensure we don't get lost or have to go searching for a map. The map you need is always on the page or only a couple of pages away. I never had to bookmark a map or try to figure where the action is with a map that did not fit. Theodore P. Savas did the maps. As the editor, he makes sure the maps are informative, timely, detailed and easy to read. Photographs of the people involved, while never required add a nice touch. They help the reader see the characters as flesh and blood people, giving them a face in a way that words alone will not do. The book gives us seventy-eight photographs of the characters and puts them where we encounter this person. I find this nicer than a section of photographs in the middle of the text. Something else I like is the 16 page 'Modern Photographic Gallery' of the battlefield with a map showing the location and angle of view of the photographs. No matter where I was in the
Guest More than 1 year ago
CHAMPION HILL - DECISIVE BATTLE FOR VICKSBURG by Dr. Timothy B. Smith, published by Savas Beatie LLC, is a must read for those convinced that the Western Campaign of America¿s Civil War is as important as the battles east of the Appalachian Mountains. Dr. Smith has taken much effort to provide his readers with information concerning the major participants in the struggle for the Fortress City on the Mississippi River. By telling us about these individuals with well constructed and crisp writing, as well as providing photographs of a great majority of them, we are able to place faces with names while learning about the decisive battle of the campaign. Dr. Smith also provides a unique collection of maps of the area in Mississippi as well as the battlefield itself which further allows the reader to place formerly little known places such as the Shaiffer House, at Port Gibson, Fourteen Mile Creek and Utica Road at Raymond, Ratliff Road, Middle Road, Raymond Road and Jackson Road at Champion Hill in perspective. His effort to show, with his excellent maps of troop movements on the battlefield between Baker¿s Creek and Jackson Creek at Champion Hill make his effort of great value above and beyond his excellent narrative of the events leading up to the battle as well as the battle itself. A detailed but brief synopsis of General Pemberton¿s six successful repulses of Grant¿s Federal Armies¿ attempt to take Vicksburg serve well to show the dilemma of the northern-born Southern general. He simply had to be perfect each time, and the seventh time, he was not. They likewise show the bull-dog tenacity of the Ohio born Federal general; one that served him well for the duration of the war. Smith leads his reader from Port Gibson, through Raymond and Jackson and leaves us well informed as to what happened at these lesser but vital battles that preceded the early May, 1863 battle of Champion Hill. His seven chapters concerning the battle itself leave much of the ¿blame¿ for Confederate failure at Pemberton¿s doorstep, but Dr. Smith also points out well that the lack of support from Pemberton¿s department commander, General Joe Johnson, a lack of cooperation by his staff, and the before mentioned tenacity of General Ulysses Grant must also share in the final affect of the campaign on the Confederate Gibraltar on the Mississippi River. Also, the seemingly unimportance of Steele¿s foray to Greenwood, Mississippi and Grierson¿s more well known raid through central Mississippi is shown by Dr. Smith as having been far more important than many have previously felt. The eventual success of the entire Vicksburg Campaign, Smith seems to feel, was a result of much previous planning, several previous setbacks and the daily Herculean efforts of the common soldier of the United States. This effort is a must read for Western Theater fans and should also be read by those, not as much interested in taking sides of importance to the entire war, wanting to know the war in its entirety. Perhaps we have yet another offering for the always elusive ¿turning point¿ of the Civil War.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago