Tour Champion Hill Battlefield
with Sid Champion V
Bring bug spray with you when you come as well as plenty of cold drinks. Wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget your camera.
$50 per person (minimum of 2)
Margaret Elizabeth "Betty" (Gates) Finley
Gordon Doyle Gates, MD
My name is Margaret Elizabeth "Betty" (Gates) Finley and my brother is Gordon Doyle Gates, MD. Our great-grandfather was Thomas Jefferson Gates who was a member of the 15th Mississippi Infantry, Company G, which participated in the battle. His Confederate Civil War records show this likely to be true because he was present for the period of May-June 1863. However, his compiled records do not show where he was between January and May 1863 but the family stories indicate he was present during the battle.
We are very thankful for the work your organization does to provide information concerning the Battle of Champion Hill. Sid's tour was most interesting and informative, We are so grateful to him for taking the time to provide this service.
It was a pleasure meeting you on my husband's birthday tour of Champion Hill this past Sunday, May 5. Discussing his lineage of his grandmother June Champion.
Plus actually walking the battle field where his great-great-great grandfather General Francis Marion Cockrell lead his brigade at the Cross-Roads. But, I think we lost the two youngest Cockrells -- Bryndon and Bailey at the crossroads.
We thoroughly enjoyed the tour, your knowledge of the battle, your time and your kindness. I am requesting 3 medals [presented to descendants of the battle at the May 18th, 150th Anniversary Event] -- Jason Cockrell, Bryndon Cockrell and Bailey Cockrell We will see you soon! And thank you again for your time!
Shannon Cockrell, Owner
Ole Tavern on George Street
416 George St.
Jackson, Ms 39202
My excitement at being able to tour the various battle sites in
Mississippi was at the level of a child being told they were about to go
to the candy store. My gg-grandpa and his 3 brothers were in Pettus’
Flying Artillery and my g-g-grandma’s 1st cousin was the lone survivor in
their family who were members of the Missouri 5th Infantry. There had
originally been six men of the family in that elite fighting group, but
by the time Grand Gulf and subsequent Mississippi battles took place
only one man of the family was left to endure the hardships all the way
through the fall of Vicksburg. It would take two generations before
these two families – one from Missouri and one from Mississippi – to
meet when my grandpa and grandma were married. However, they were both
fighting in Corinth, Port Gibson, Champion Hill, Big Black and the siege
of Vicksburg. So this trip meant so much to me. What I never anticipated is that the
four-hour tour my husband and I
were to take with you of the Champion Hill and battle and Big Black
River sites would surpass the experience at Vicksburg Military Park. The
tour you gave us was emotional, SO educational, relaxed and the most
enjoyable experience we had on our 4-day trip to Vicksburg and
surrounding areas. I so enjoyed hearing the story of how your gg-grandpa
and gg-grandma met, and how their lives were collectively and
individually affected by the war raging around them. The book with their
letters to each other will remain a valued addition to my Civil War
collection for the rest of my life. Thank you for what you are doing. Your foundation’s memorializing of
these hallowed sites, where so many brave men from both sides laid down
their lives, suffered hardships and life-long wounds, and watched their
friends, comrades and family members fall at their side, is so
appreciated. I cannot stress enough how much I URGE others who truly want to learn
of the Civil War battles in Mississippi to make sure they include your
tour in their visit. It is priceless, and an experience they will NEVER
My excitement at being able to tour the various battle sites in Mississippi was at the level of a child being told they were about to go to the candy store. My gg-grandpa and his 3 brothers were in Pettus’ Flying Artillery and my g-g-grandma’s 1st cousin was the lone survivor in their family who were members of the Missouri 5th Infantry. There had originally been six men of the family in that elite fighting group, but by the time Grand Gulf and subsequent Mississippi battles took place only one man of the family was left to endure the hardships all the way through the fall of Vicksburg. It would take two generations before these two families – one from Missouri and one from Mississippi – to meet when my grandpa and grandma were married. However, they were both fighting in Corinth, Port Gibson, Champion Hill, Big Black and the siege of Vicksburg. So this trip meant so much to me.
What I never anticipated is that the four-hour tour my husband and I were to take with you of the Champion Hill and battle and Big Black River sites would surpass the experience at Vicksburg Military Park. The tour you gave us was emotional, SO educational, relaxed and the most enjoyable experience we had on our 4-day trip to Vicksburg and surrounding areas. I so enjoyed hearing the story of how your gg-grandpa and gg-grandma met, and how their lives were collectively and individually affected by the war raging around them. The book with their letters to each other will remain a valued addition to my Civil War collection for the rest of my life.
Thank you for what you are doing. Your foundation’s memorializing of these hallowed sites, where so many brave men from both sides laid down their lives, suffered hardships and life-long wounds, and watched their friends, comrades and family members fall at their side, is so appreciated.
I cannot stress enough how much I URGE others who truly want to learn of the Civil War battles in Mississippi to make sure they include your tour in their visit. It is priceless, and an experience they will NEVER forget!
I wanted to take a moment and send a very genuine THANK YOU your way. My wife, Melissa, and I thoroughly enjoyed the tour you guided us on May 26, 2012. While the tour of the battlefield(s) itself was breathtaking, your amazing knowledge of the history brought it all to life. The story of your family alone is worth the price of admission. My wife has been researching her family's history relative to the war between the states and learned that it collided with your family's history during the battle of Champion Hill.
Being able to walk on the very battlefield her g-g-grandfather fought on was an ephemeral experience made complete by your engaging and hugely insightful oration. I would strongly urge anyone who is interested in the War Between The States to take this tour, you won't be disappointed and you will walk away with more knowledge about the war and the battle of Vicksburg than your history teacher has.
Marty and Chris
Thanks to Sid for a very interesting and informative tour of the
Champion Hill Battlefield in early May 2012. We wanted to visit this
Champion Hill battlefield because my great-grandfather’s regiment, the
26th Missouri volunteer Infantry fought there and Champion Hill is more
and more seen as the decisive battle of the Civil War. Sid really knows
the details of the battle and the terrain and took the time to give us a
very detailed tour. It was three and one-half hours very well spent.
STUDENTS ENJOY TOUR - 10th and 11th grade students from the Oregon Episcopal School, Portland, Oregon tour Champion Hill. This was a pre-Spring Break field trip entitled “Civil Rights, Civil War and the Blues: Mississippi.” The students really enjoyed Sid’s storytelling.
Paul Maslak, Irvine, CA
Sid Champion took my brother, sister, brother-in-law and me on a terrific 3-hour tour of the Champion Hill battlefield. His background as a teacher enabled him to bring alive for us the military incidents as well as his own family lore connected with every historic location.
In our case, we had three forebears under General Grant's command who fought together only one time during the War between the States: at Champion Hill. In the recollections that they handed down, two said that Champion Hill was personally the hardest fought of their military service. The third was killed in action with the 24th Iowa during its push against the Confederate cannonade at the crossroads.
Sid helped us understand what the dreadful experience of the battle had been for our ancestors and for the nation. We highly recommend Sid's tour.
Below are a May 1863 sketch of the battlefield by Lt. Henry Otis of the 20th Ohio and a photo of the same locale in October 2011.
Brett and Machelle Hinton
My mother and I went and took Mr. Champions tour this weekend and I just want to say it was the most in depth Civil War tour I have ever been on. I had Mr. Champion as a music teacher in grade school and most of the time instead of learning music he would be teaching history.
In 2002/2003 he opted to give me a tour of his land but we got rained out. Almost 10 years later I finally took the tour and it was amazing. My great great grandfather and his brother served in the 15th Mississippi Infantry, Company I and was in the Battle of Jackson and was part of General Joe Johnston's army at the time. Johnston was in route to aid Vicksburg and Pemberton but halfway there decided to turn back.
The tour was everything we anticipated, very detailed and met some new friends there too-- Mr. Champions cats Inky and Smudge who love to perch on the tombstones in the Champion family cemetery.
Mr. Champion --
am looking forward to seeing you again and looking forward to another
tour soon. Thank you for the experience.
After learning that my Great Grandfather had been severely injured in the Battle of Champion Hill, my dream was to someday visit this battlefield. My grandson, Nathan contacted Sid Champion and made arrangements for the tour. We were taken to the site of the original Champion Home/Field Hospital, where my great-grandfather was probably treated. We toured the Hill of Death and could imagine the intense fighting that took place there. The hill is now a serene and peaceful, almost spiritual setting. We were directed to many other battle sites along the way as we drove to the Coker house, and finally to the Black River Bridge site. Sid is so enthusiastic about his historic tour that you feel as if you are a "first-hand" witness to the battle.
Thank you Sid (and Nathan) for making an old lady's dream come true.
I took the tour on 7-31-2010 and enjoyed it very much! Mr. Champion was very informative and took me around to the different sites associated with the Champion Hill battle. I would highly recommend the tour. No trip to Vicksburg and surrounding civil war sites would be complete without a walk up the "hill of death".
Thanks for the tour!
My wife and I took Sid's tour earlier this month as part of a Civil War road trip (my agenda, with my wife bearing up as well as she could). We met Sid at a gas station, filled the tank, and followed him to the first stop, the site of his g-g-grandparents' original home during the battle. Sid asked what we were most interested in and my wife quickly said her interest was more in the people, whereas mine was in the battles. Sid accommodated both of us, with descriptions of what happened from the time Grant's forces crossed the Mississippi near Port Gibson through the engagements at Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hill, and Big Black River. He also gave descriptive accounts of what went on during the battle and how it affected his family; e.g., the home being used as a hospital and the dining room table as an operating table. He took us to the home his great-great-grandparents built after the war, now in disrepair and soon to be demolished. He pointed out the family cemetery and the copper kettle in the yard used by the Union cooks during the battle. Sid told us we would be passing an excellent view of the hill itself on a section of road we were traveling, and slowed his truck so we would know to stop for a photo. We then drove to the access point and walked the old Jackson Road to the Hill of Death. Aside from the weather (hot and humid), this stop caused my wife the most consternation. Sid said we had about a quarter mile hike, reached down to pick up a stick, and started talking about the three types of poisonous snakes in the area. My wife, like Sid, was wearing flip-flops. She was highly relieved to see Sid was using the stick to clear spider webs along the trail, not to ward off hordes of ravenous cottonmouths!
Sid also took us to the Coker House, another battle witness now undergoing refurbishment, and to the site of the Big Black River Bridge battle. Although we never saw a snake during the tour, we did see a distant crocodile in the river from this location.
Sid is accommodating, full of information, tells an interesting story, and is enthusiastic about sharing information. I was very happy I took his tour and my wife also enjoyed it. I hope to return with my sons some day.
Thanks so much for the time you took to show us around the battle area. I had no idea that the tour would be so comprehensive. After our tour we got out our Delorme map and traced where we had been so that we could remember it all. I was sorry not to have seen the house built after the war but brother Mark told me that he told you he wanted to go to the Big Black instead. Had I heard that conversation I would have put in my 2 cents. However, I have a friend who also wants to tour with you so she and I will make another trip. Of course, a second tour will not hurt me as there is so much to see and learn. You are an excellent tour guide and, of course as it is family history as well, very committed to your topic. We were well pleased.
I look forward to seeing you again soon.
This tour was especially meaningful to me because my great great grandfather General John E Smith was involved in this action. It is also quite possible that my other great great grandfather, Dr. E D Kittoe was involved as well in treating the wounded.
Your knowledge and ability to present the historical facts of the battle of Champions Hill is outstanding. I've been on other tours and I feel that this gave me a better description of the actions of Logan's Division and John E Smith's brigade during the battle.
Thank you so much for your hospitality in showing Miss Alma and me around your family’s Champion Hill Battlefield. It was inspiring for us to retrace the footsteps of our fore fathers in Mississippi and to feel their presence remaining still from that historic struggle.
Here below is an excerpt from our family hero’s 37th AL Infantry unit records which augment the stories you related about the events surrounding Champion Hill, perhaps the most important battle in the War of Northern Aggression. Grand Pa, Robert L Phipps, Commanding Co A, 37th AL Inf. perhaps met your g grandmother, Matilda Champion, while at her Champion Hill home.
Our chance meeting adds to our family’s acquaintance and the memory of these honorable events. Thank you again for your kindness.
Don and Kay Cornelius
No matter how many historic battle sites you may have visited, you have never seen anything as powerful and moving as The Hill of Death known as Champion or Champion's Hill.
Our tour, on a lovely, sunny. day, began with Sid Champion V, great-great-grandson of the owners of the property on which this battle raged, showing us the huge iron pot which had belonged to Sid and Matilda Champion before the war. After the battle, the house was converted into a Union hospital and the Yankees used Matilda's iron pot to make soup for the wounded soldiers.
We saw the old railroad tracks over which trains carried soldiers and goods. Then, having gone as far on any road as possible, we walked to the crest of the hill itself. In the midst of a mixed hardwood forest, the rolling land is dotted with so many deep ravines that one can easily see why this battle turned into the hand-to-hand, kill or be killed combat that proves that "the hill of death" is an accurate name for the place.
Now, an all-encompassing peace prevails here. It is as if Nature attempts to heal the horror which happened here by offering her best gifts, the soothing wind sighing in the tree tops and the melodious tones of song birds, while underfoot, ancient forest loam covers most of the sacred spots where many men on both sides bled and died.
We are forever grateful to our friends, Jim and Rebecca Drake, and especially to Sidney Champion V, for giving us the absolutely unforgettable experience of touring Champion Hill with them.
Eddie and Felicia Lanham
During the fall of 2005, Felicia and I walked up the sunken Old Jackson Road to The Hill of Death with Sid Champion. Earlier in the year, I had researched the dead and wounded of the Georgia regiments who were engaged in the battle of Champion Hill. I had become familiar with each of the 179 Georgians that were killed and the 375 that were wounded in the hard-fought battle.
Walking northward from The Cross Roads and along the line of battle was a "step back into history" as we traced the footsteps of the Georgia Brigades (Stevenson's Division) that lined Champion Hill and the Old Jackson Road. It was an eerie experience knowing that we were standing on that hallowed ground.
When we arrived at the crest, a Rebel flag was firmly planted on the The Hill of Death overlooking the peaceful landscape. The beautiful fall colors and calm provided a quiet peace to the land where the fierce battle had raged. Leaves on the forest floor covered the sacred grounds where so many bled and died.
Felicia and I enjoyed our trip back into history with Sid Champion. Sid told the story of his great-great grandfather, Sid Champion I, who fought with the 28th Mississippi Cavalry and how he was at Edwards Station with his regiment during the battle - watching the smoke of battle from afar. As he looked toward the distant horizon, he wondering if his plantation had been burned. And, he wondered about his wife, Matilda, whom he later learned was in the cellar of their house clutching her youngest baby in her arms during the fight. Sid is a great story teller of true stories that happened to his family during the war. He is also a gracious host and a super guide.
Rebecca B. Drake
I’ll never forget the first time I toured Champion Hill with Sid Champion. We parked at The Crossroads then proceeded to walk the sunken Old Jackson Road which eventually led to a sharp incline which peaked at "The Hill of Death.” As I stared down to the valley below I suddenly got chill bumps thinking of all the soldiers, blue and gray, who had lost their lives on this hallowed ground.
My dear friend and co-author, Margie Bearss, now deceased, expressed similar sentiments: “As Ed [Bearss] and I climbed the side of the hill, I began to feel uneasy and apprehensive. Too many men had died in the various charges on this hill. It was a solemn place of death. As I reached the top, my hair stood out from the back of my neck and my arms broke out in chill bumps. I could almost feel the menace of the Yankee charge breaking across the field. I have never since felt such unease and apprehension on the hill.”
Later, as Margie and I began to write about Champion Hill, I would enjoy many excursions in the company of Sid. One particular day he showed me a large pasture down by the railroad bridge over Baker’s Creek. Sid said his grandfather, Sid Champion III, had told him that in years gone by, people gathered there to catch the train. I later discover that site was described in the Official Records as being Midway Station. On another visit, we visited other sites such as the hillside on the Old Jackson Road where Sid and Matilda’s first home stood. It was later burned by the Yankees. Daffodils continue to bloom in the spring and mark the house site as well as the overseer’s house site a short distance down the road.
The Champion Hill battlefield is unique because it is pristine. Little has changed since 1863 when blue met gray and, led by Pemberton and Grant, engaged in one of the bloodiest battles of the campaign for Vicksburg.
During my visits with Sid, he would tell me stories of the Champion family and show me all of the sites. Not even the heat of a 100-degree day would deter us from our destination. When talking about his great-great grandmother, Matilda Champion, he would look at her photograph and lovingly and, “Yep, that’s the old gal - that’s Matilda alright.” Of his great-great grandfather Sid Champion I, Sid would comment, “I look just like him, - don’t you think?” And he did.
As I listed to Sid’s stories which he told with a mesmerizing Southern drawl, I found myself being carried back in time and identifying with all of the Champions who at one time called Champion Hill home.
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