A Family Legacy Preserved: 498 Acres at Champion Hill
During the 1863 Battle of Champion Hill, the fighting unfolded on land owned by Sid and Matilda Champion. Still located in the area, the Champion family agreed to sell their entire holdings after building a multi-year relationship with the Trust, including a 144.4-acre tract that the Trust had previously worked to place a conservation easement on. But now, that tract and an additional 353.6 acres have been acquired by the Trust, making for the battlefield preservation nonprofit’s most recent victory.
What does this mean?
- More than 1,200 acres have been preserved by the Trust at Champion Hill
- Approximately 2,091 acres associated with the Vicksburg Campaign have been saved by the Trust
- More than 4,700 acres of battlefield land preserved in the State of Mississippi
It also means an opportunity to expand public access and interpretation, as has been the goal of the Trust and the National Park Service since Vicksburg National Military Park’s boundary was expanded to include the Champion Hill Battlefield. Augmenting the park’s historical footprint, this land witnessed a triumph in the making.
Early on, in 1861, President Abraham Lincoln and his civil and military leaders recognized the crucial role of the Mississippi River. Examining a map of the nation, he pinpointed Vicksburg as the key to controlling the river. “The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pocket."
Initial efforts by Union land and naval forces to capture this key and open it to navigation ended in defeat. On March 31, 1863, Gen. Ulysses Grant, with his job in the balance after a series of failed attempts, set out upon a fresh campaign to take the fortress city. His men created log roads and built bridges, determined to reach their target. But to do so, they had to first cross the Mississippi River, which they accomplished from Bruinsberg. After arriving on Mississippi soil on April 30, they proceeded to clash with Confederates at Port Gibson and Raymond. By May 14, the Federals had taken Jackson.
On May 16, 1863, the largest battle of Grant’s Vicksburg Campaign took place at Champion Hill. Along with the next day’s battle at Big Black River, the Union victory at Champion Hill forced the Confederates into a doomed position inside the fortifications of Vicksburg. After a 47-day siege, on July 4, 1863, Gen. John C. Pemberton’s Confederates surrendered — just one day following the Federal victory at Gettysburg.
At a time when Vicksburg National Military Park is feeling the impact of destructive landslides, this victory at nearby Champion Hill has even greater meaning and puts a spotlight on the power of preservation. Boosted by support granted by the American Battlefield Protection Program, State of Mississippi and the HTR Foundation, Trust donors made this 498-acre achievement possible.