Reports of Brig. Gen. Alvin P. Hovey,
U.S. Army, commanding Twelfth Division, including operations May 2-20.
MAY 16, 1863, Battle of Champion's Hill, or Baker's Creek, Miss.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXIV/2 [S# 37]
HDQRS. TWELFTH DIVISION, THIRTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Before Vicksburg, Miss., May 25, 1863.
Lieut. Col. WALTER B. SCATES,
Asst. Adjt. Gen. on Major-General McClernand's Staff.
COLONEL: In compliance with an order from Major-General McCler-nand, I herewith send you a report of the action of my division from the battle of Port Gibson, on the 1st instant, to the date of my arrival at the works before Vicksburg, on the 20th instant.
The night after the battle of Port Gibson we slept upon the field; arrived in the town and bivouacked on the second day, and assisted in building a bridge over Bayou Pierre. We marched for Willow Springs on the 3d, arriving there the same evening.
On the 6th, encamped at Rocky Springs. On the 7th instant at Big Sandy, where we remained until the 10th, on which day we marched to and encamped upon Five-Mile Creek.
On the 12th, we marched for Fourteen-Mile Creek, on the Edwards Station road. Here my division, being in front, encountered the enemy's pickets, who were encamped at Edwards Station in considerable force. We had marched from 4 o'clock in the morning over a rugged country, with little or no water, and our only hope was to force the enemy back beyond Fourteen-Mile Creek. A sharp skirmish ensued, and we drove the enemy back and encamped on both sides of the creek for the night. Our men enjoyed both the skirmish and the water.
On the 13th, I received orders to cover the flank and rear of the Thirteenth Army Corps in its march on Jackson. The enemy lay in strong force near the line of our march, and there was danger of an attack, as we marched by the flank a short distance from their encampment. The Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Divisions, of the Thirteenth Army Corps, had just passed, and when in the act of moving my division my pickets were again attacked by what seemed to be a strong picket guard. I ordered Colonel Slack, commanding Second Brigade, to bring back the Forty-seventh Indiana, Twenty-eighth Iowa, and Fifty-sixth Ohio, and force the enemy back. Another brisk skirmish ensued, the enemy fleeing before the Twenty-eighth Iowa, the Fifty-sixth and Forty-seventh being held in reserve, faced to the flanks of the Twenty-eighth, to meet any emergency. In the mean time I had ordered my division forward, so as not to have my column delayed in its march on Jackson. Our losses in these skirmishes were 4 slightly wounded.
On the same night we encamped beyond Fourteen-Mile Creek, at Dillon's Cross-Roads, on the field of a conflict a few days previous by forces under the command of Major-General Sherman.
On the 14th, we marched through Raymond in a severe storm, the roads in places having to be drained by the labor of my pioneers before our wagons could pass, and encamped near a creek about 4 miles distant from Clinton.
Learning at Raymond that Jackson had fallen and was in possession of our forces, our direction was again changed toward Vicksburg, and on the 15th we marched to a point near Bolton Station, and encamped for the night.
On the 16th, my division moved in the direction of Midway, or Champion's Hill, on the extreme right of the corps, Generals Osterhaus', Carr's, and Smith's divisions moving in the same direction, on other roads still farther to the south and left. My route lay on the Clinton and Vicksburg road, nearest to and on the south of the railroad.
During the morning I had thrown forward a part of my escort, under First Lieut. James L. Carey, First Indiana Cavalry, to make reconnaissances in front of the advance guard and skirmishers of General McGinnis' brigade.
On arriving near Champion's Hill, about 10 a.m., he discovered the enemy posted on the crest of the hill, with a battery of four guns in the woods near the road, and on the highest point for many miles around. At the time I was marching between the First and Second Brigades, so as to be ready for an attack on either flank. I immediately rode forward and ordered General McGinnis to form his brigade in two lines, three regiments being in the advance and two in the reserve. Before my arrival, General McGinnis had formed his three advanced regiments in line of battle, and had thrown out skirmishers in the front and flank of his command.
The Second Brigade, Col. James R. Slack commanding, was immediately formed on the left of the First Brigade, two regiments in advance and two in reserve. Skirmishers were at once sent forward, covering my entire front, and had advanced to within sight of the enemy's battery. They were directed not to bring on the action until we were entirely ready.
At this point I attempted to communicate with Brigadier-General Osterhaus, but my messengers, not knowing the country nor his exact locality, were unable to find his division. In the mean time Major-General Grant had arrived, and with him Major-General McPherson, with his command. Before proceeding further, it is necessary that the topography of the field should be described.
Midway, or Champion's Hill, is equidistant from Jackson and Vicksburg, and is near the Midway Station, on the Vicksburg and Jackson Railroad. It is a high promontory, some 60 or 70 feet above the common level of the country, and covered with woods, the Vicksburg and Clinton road leading over the crest. To the right and northeast of the hill are undulating fields, and on the left a woody tangled ravine, through which troops might pass with great difficulty. (See map accompanying this report. About half a mile from the point of the hill, General McPherson formed his line of battle in the open field, facing toward the side of the hill, a distance from the hill of about 400 yards, his front and the main front of my division being nearly at right angles. As my division ascended the hill, its line conformed to the shape and became crescent-like, with the concave toward the hill. As soon as General McPherson's line was ready to take part in the contest, about 10.30 a.m., I ordered General McGinnis and Colonel Slack to press their skirmishers forward up the hill, and follow them firmly with their respective brigades. In a few minutes the fire opened briskly along the whole line, from my extreme left to the right of the forces engaged under Major-General McPherson, and at 11 o'clock the battle opened hotly all along the line. The contest here continued for an hour by my forces. For over 600 yards up the hill my division gallantly drove the enemy before them, capturing 11 guns and over 300 prisoners, under fire. The Eleventh Indiana, Colonel Macauley, and Twenty-ninth Wisconsin, Colonel Gill, captured the four guns on the brow of the hill, at the point of the bayonet. Colonel Bringhurst, with the Forty-sixth Indiana, gallantly drove the enemy from two guns on the right of the road, and Colonel Byam, with his brave and eager Twenty-fourth Iowa, charged a battery of five guns on the left of the road, driving the enemy away, killing gunners and horses, and capturing several prisoners.
At this time General McGinnis requested me to permit him to take one section of the Sixteenth Ohio Battery, commanded by Captain Mitchell, up the hill. The section was taken up, and after fighting gallantly and firing 16 rounds was withdrawn, the danger of capture being imminent. Captain Mitchell, who fell during this attempt, will prove a great loss to his friends and country. First Lieutenant Murdock acted very gallantly during this affair, and deserves much praise for his coolness and bravery.
In the mean time the enemy, being rallied under cover of the woods, poured down the road in great numbers upon the position occupied by my forces. Seeing from the character of the ground that my division was likely to be severely pressed, as the enemy would not dare advance on the open ground before General McPherson, who had handled them roughly on the right, I ordered our captured guns to be sent down the hill. A short time afterward I received a request to send support to General McGinnis, on the right. At this time my whole division, including reserves, bad for more than one hour been actively engaged, and my only hope of support was from other commands. Brigadier-General Quinby's division, commanded by General Crocker, was near at hand, and had not yet been under fire. I sent to them for support, but being unknown to the officers of that command, considerable delay (not less than half an hour) ensued, and I was compelled to resort to Major-General Grant to procure the order for their aid. Colonel Boomer, commanding Third Brigade, of Quinby's division, on receiving the command from General Grant, came gallantly up the hill; Colonel Holmes, with two small regiments, Tenth Missouri and Seventeenth Iowa, soon followed. The entire force sent amounted to about 2,000 men.
My division in the mean time had been compelled to yield ground before overwhelming numbers. Slowly and stubbornly they fell back, contesting with death every inch of the field they had won. Colonel Boomer and Colonel Holmes gallantly and heroically rushed with their commands into the conflict, but the enemy had massed his forces, and slowly pressed our whole line with re-enforcements backward to a point near the brow of the hill. Here a stubborn stand was made. The irregularity of our line of battle had previously prevented me from using artillery in enfilading the enemy's line, but as our forces were compelled to fall slowly back, the lines became marked and distinct, and about 2.30 p.m. I could easily perceive, by the sound of fire-arms through the woods, the position of the respective armies. I at once ordered the First Missouri Battery, commanded by Captain Schofield, and the Sixteenth Ohio Battery, under First Lieutenant Murdock, to take position in an open field, beyond a slight mound on my right, in advance of, and with parallel ranges of their guns with, my lines. About the same time Captain Dillon's Wisconsin battery was put in position; two sections of the Sixteenth Ohio Battery on the left, the Wisconsin battery in the center, and Captain Schofield's battery on the right. Through the rebel ranks these batteries hurled an incessant shower of shot and shell, entirely enfilading the rebel columns.
The fire was terrific for several minutes, and the cheers from our men on the brow of the hill told of the success. The enemy gave back, and our forces, under General McGinnis, Colonel Slack, Colonel Boomer, and Colonel Holmes, drove them again over the ground which had been hotly contested for the third time during the day, five more of the eleven guns not taken down the hill falling a second time into our possession.
I cannot think of this bloody hill without sadness and pride. Sadness for the great loss of my true and gallant men; pride for the heroic bravery they displayed. No prouder division ever met as vastly superior foe and fought with more unflinching firmness and stubborn valor. It was, after the conflict, literally the hill of death ; men, horses, cannon, and the debris of an army lay scattered in wild confusion. Hundreds of the gallant Twelfth Division were cold in death or writhing in pain, and, with large numbers of Quinby's gallant boys, lay dead, dying, or wounded, intermixed with our fallen foe. Thus ended the battle of Champion's Hill at about 3 p.m., and our heroes slept upon the field with the dead and dying around them.
I never saw fighting like this. The loss of my division, on this field alone, was nearly one-third of my forces engaged. Of the Twenty-ninth Wisconsin, Twenty-fourth and Twenty-eighth Iowa, in what words of praise shall I speak? Not more than six months in the service, their record will compare with the oldest and best tried regiments in the field. All honor is due to their gallant officers and men; and Colonels Gill, Byam, and Connell have my thanks for the skill with which they handled their respective commands, and for the fortitude, endurance, and bravery displayed by their gallant men.
It is useless to speak in praise of the Eleventh, Twenty-fourth, Thirty-fourth, Forty-sixth, and Forty-seventh Indiana and Fifty-sixth Ohio. They have won laurels on many fields, and not only their country will praise, but posterity be proud to claim kindred with the privates in their ranks. They have a history that Colonel Macauley, Colonel Spicely, Colonel Cameron, Colonel Bringhurst, Lieutenant-Colonel McLaughlin, and Colonel Raynor, and their children's children will be proud to read.
My brigades could not have been managed with more consummate skill than they were by Brigadier-General McGinnis and Col. James R. Slack. Their services deserve the highest reward that a soldier can claim.
My staff, as usual, did their whole duty. Capt. John E. Phillips, assistant adjutant-general, and First Lieuts. J. T. McQuiddy and J.P. Pope, my aides, were untiring during the whole day, and by their coolness, promptitude, and energy aided me in every trying emergency. I am also much indebted to First Lieuts. George Sheeks, acting assistant quartermaster, and W. H. Sherry, and Second Lieut. T. C. Withers, of the signal corps, for valuable services throughout the day.
It is no easy task to specify individual gallantry, where the field is filled with deeds of fame, but I cannot forbear giving the full meed to those who have suffered. The division lost, in killed and wounded, 54 officers--29 in the First Brigade and 25 in the Second.
Col. W. T. Spicely, of the Twenty-fourth Regiment Indiana Volunteers, conspicuous for his daring gallantry throughout the day, was wounded, but remained upon the field until the victory was ours. Col. Daniel Macauley, Eleventh Indiana, was wounded through the thighs near the close of the fight, while leading his noble regiment through the hottest part of the field. Lieutenant-Colonel Barter, Twenty-fourth Indiana, while bearing the colors of his regiment forward, was severely wounded. Lieutenant-Colonel Swaim, Thirty-fourth Indiana, was severely wounded while cheering his men and encouraging them in the performance of their duty. Maj. Bradford Hancock, Twenty-ninth Wisconsin, was severely wounded while nobly discharging his duty. The true and trusted Majs. L. H. Goodwin, Forty-seventh Indiana, and Edward Wright, Twenty-fourth Iowa, were severely wounded, in the thickest of the fight.
Among the dead of the Second Brigade are the honored names of Capt. Silas D. Johnson, Twenty-fourth Iowa; Capt. William Carbee, Twenty-fourth Iowa; First Lieutenant [Chauncey] Lawrence, Twenty-fourth Iowa; First Lieut. James F. Perry, Forty-seventh Indiana; Second Lieut. George W. Manring, Fifty-sixth Ohio; Second Lieut. A. S. Chute, Fifty-sixth Ohio; Second Lieut. J. J. Legan, and First Lieut. Benjamin F. Kirby, Twenty-eighth Iowa.
Of the First Brigade, Capt. Felix G. Welman fell on the outer edge of the field while being pressed with overwhelming numbers. He rose from the ranks, was gallant and good, and beloved by all who knew him. Second Lieut. Jesse L. Cain, of the same regiment, fell, mortally wounded, at the same time, and died in a few hours afterward. A better man sleeps not upon that bloody field. First Lieut. J. Ferris, Forty-sixth Indiana, died like a true soldier, with his face to the foe. A complete list of the killed and wounded accompanies this report.
The effective force of my division, at the commencement, was as follows: First Brigade, 2,371; Second Brigade, 1,809, making a total of 4,180. Of this number our casualties were 211 killed, 872 wounded, and 119 missing; total, 1,202. When it is considered that this loss, being more than 28.7 per cent., took place in less than four hours, it is believed that few parallels can be found in the history of the present war. The greatest loss per cent. took place in the Twenty-fourth Indiana, being over 40 per cent., 201 being their casualties out of less than 500 engaged in the action.
My division captured in the field over 300 prisoners, under fire, and 400 after the conflict ceased, making a total of 700; besides this, General McGinnis paroled sick and wounded prisoners and nurses amounting to 569, and buried 221 rebel dead. Colonel Slack also paroled 189 wounded rebels and nurses, making a grand total as follows:
Prisoners taken by division 700 Wounded paroled by General McGinnis 455 Nurses (rebel) paroled by General McGinnis 114 Rebels buried by General McGinnis 221 Rebels paroled by Colonel Slack 189 Total 1,679
Eleven guns were captured before we received support from Quinby's division, and two of them brought off the field. The second capture of the remaining five guns was the joint labor of my division and the re-enforcements sent to me from General Quinby's division. Colonel Macauley has the battle flag of Fowler's battery.
By the aid of Dr. Robert B. Jessup, medical director of my division, and the untiring labor of Capt. George W. Jackson, with his famous pioneers, comfortable bowers were made, and the wounded well provided with every necessary and luxury that could be found within their reach.
The medical corps of my division have again distinguished themselves, and deserve special mention. Dr. T. W. C. Williamson, Twenty-fourth Indiana, was severely wounded while fearlessly attending to his duties on the field. Dr. J. W. H. Vest, Twenty-eighth Iowa, rendered most efficient service in rallying the men in his command at a critical moment.
Chaplain Simmons, Twenty-eighth Iowa, and Chaplain Robb, Forty-sixth Indiana, were found where good men should be--among the wounded and dying, rendering all the consolation and aid in their power.
On the 17th, my Second Brigade marched to Edwards Station, the First, under General McGinnis, remaining to care for the dead, wounded, and prisoners.
On the 19th, the First Brigade arrived at Edwards Station, and, with the division, marched to Black River Bridge.
On the 20th, the First Brigade marched to the Vicksburg fortifications, the Second Brigade remaining at Black River to guard the bridge.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
ALVIN P. HOVEY,
HDQRS. TWELFTH DIVISION, THIRTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
June 8, 1863.
Lieut. Col. WALTER B. SCATES,
COLONEL: Inclosed I send you an extract from what purports to be an official report of the battle of Baker's Creek or Champion's Hill. If this be official, or even semi-official, I respectfully request that it be at once corrected. I was not succeeded by Boomer's and Holmes' brigades, or by any other brigade or command, but remained upon the field and helped fight the battle to victory. Those commands were re-enforcements sent to my support. If there be the shadow of a doubt upon this point, let a court of inquiry be at once convened. The truth is, that the final repulse given to the enemy on the brow of the hill is to be attributed almost entirely to the enfilading fire of sixteen pieces of artillery, described in my report.
I herewith send you copies of my report and the reports of General McGinnis and Colonel Slack, with the parts marked which bear upon the question. I feel confident that neither Major-General Grant nor Major-General McClernand would intentionally do me the injustice that this dispatch contains.
Trusting and believing that justice will be done to all, I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
ALVIN P. HOVEY,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Twelfth Division.
Official report of the battles of Baker's Creek and Black River Bridge.
WASHINGTON, May 24.
The following official details of the battle of the Black River Bridge have been received:
IN THE REAR OF VICKSBURG,
May 20--a. m.
E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War:
Grant won a great and momentous victory over the rebels, under Pemberton, on the Jackson and Vicksburg Railroad, at Baker's Creek, on the 16th instant. Pemberton had a most formidable position on the crest of a wooded hill, over which the road passed longitudinally. He had about 25,000 men. The battle began about 11 a.m., and was gained at 4 p.m. The brunt was borne by Hovey's division, of McClernand's corps, and Logan's and Crocker's divisions, of McPherson's corps. Hovey attacked the hill, and held the greater part of it until 2 p.m., when, having lost 1,600 men, he was succeeded by Boomer's and Holmes' brigades, of Crocker's division, by which the conflict was ended in that part of the field. Boomer lost 500 men. Logan operated on the right and cut off the enemy's direct retreat, so that he was compelled to escape by his right flank through the woods. Logan lost 400 killed and wounded. We took about 2,000 prisoners.
On the 17th, advancing to the Big Black, we fought Pemberton again at the bridge, and captured 3,000 more prisoners. He fought in rifle-pits, protected by a difficult bayou full of abatis. Lawler's brigade, of McClernand's corps, charged the rifle-pits magnificently, and took more prisoners than their own number. He lost 500 killed and wounded.
McPherson, who holds the center, lost but little, as did McClernand, who holds the left.
The gunboats kept the enemy alert during the night, and the town will probably be carried to-day. There are from 15,000 to 20,000 of Pemberton's army in it.
[C. A. DANA.]
HEADQUARTERS THIRTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Battle-field, near Vicksburg, June 9, 1863.
Maj. Gen. U.S. GRANT, Commanding:
GENERAL: The inaccuracy of the accompanying newspaper slip leads me to believe it is not official; yet, as it purports to be, I have deemed it proper to refer it, together with the accompanying letter from General Hovey and the reports of his brigade commanders, to you, as affording reliable means for all needful correction in the premises.
That General Hovey's division, of my corps, bore the brunt at Champion's Hill; that both it and the re-enforcement from General McPherson's corps were temporarily forced back; and that General Hovey's artillery, which had been massed for that purpose, aided by Captain Dillon's Wisconsin battery, of General McPherson's corps, retrieved and secured the fortune of the day in that part of the field, is susceptible of the clearest and most conclusive proof.
After the above, I hardly need say that I am not the author of the newspaper slip referred to.
I am, sir, with respect, your obedient servant,
JOHN A. McCLERNAND,
Commanding Thirteenth Army Corps
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