Battle of Champion Hill, a Virtual Tour: Contact

  

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          eneral Pemberton awoke that morning with no clear intention of what to do with his army.  Originally, he had planned to try and hit Grant's supply lines to the south, possibly forcing the Union general to abandon his campaign in the Mississippi interior for want of supplies.  But events of the morning of the 16th would drastically alter Pemberton's plans.  First, around seven o'clock, advanced Confederate cavalry patrols spotted and fired upon a Union column bearing down the Raymond Road near the Turkey Creek bridge.  After a brief fire fight, the Union advance halted. Although significant because it was evidence that the Federals were moving westward, toward Vicksburg, Pemberton stayed with his original plan until he received an intercept from his immediate superior, Joseph E. Johnston.  Johnston's telegram outlined a plan for Pemberton to link up with him near Clinton and consolidate their forces for a possible joint maneuver against Grant.  After a brief delay, Pemberton began ordering his army to turn around and proceed to meet Johnston via the Brownsville Road which ran northwest from Edwards to Clinton.  To protect his army during the  retreat, the Confederate commander set up another roadblock, this time to the north along the Middle Road to guard that road's junction with the Jackson Road.  A crucial point, for if there were any Union force bearing westward down the Middle Road, the roadblock could hold it while the Confederate wagons and troops made the critical left-hand turn to access the Brownsville Road.  
          A second Yankee column was discovered around nine that morning by the Confederates manning the roadblock on the Middle Road.  Like the events earlier in the morning, Pemberton's strategy worked and the Yankee's advance was halted there.  If these two columns formed the bulk of the Federal advance, it is possible that Pemberton could escape a fight and unite with Johnston.  However, the realization that a third, much larger Yankee force was on the field changed the entire complexion of the Confederate strategy.  
          Perhaps Pemberton's greatest mistake of the battle of Champion Hill was that he didn't reconnoiter the Jackson Road the main road linking the state capital and Vicksburg to guard against a Union assault from the north.  At about the same time the Yankees were discovered moving along the Middle Road, scouts sent out by Brigadier General Stephen D. Lee returned with the ominous news that a large Federal force was on the Jackson Road.  If Pemberton and the Confederates didn't act to counter this new threat, his army could be attacked in flank while making the left turn at the crossroads.  It was upon hearing that Yankees were converging on him from three avenues of approach that Pemberton decided to ignore Johnston's orders and stay and fight.  The Confederate and Union armies began to deploy for battle.

  

Contact, May 16

 

This view is looking west down the Raymond Road.  The Turkey Creek bridge is in the middle of the picture. Around 7 a.m., the van of the Federal column bearing down this road was fired upon by some of Wirt Adam's dismounted cavalrymen hidden farther ahead.  While a full engagement was still hours away, the contact at this point marked the opening shots of the Battle of Champion Hill   Locate on Map
 
Panorama

 

Turkey Creek bridge looking east toward the Union approach.  Even though the Confederate cavalrymen caught the Federal troops by surprise, they were not very numerous and were quickly dislodged from their position
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During the night of the 15th, Loring ordered a roadblock built on the Raymond Road about one mile east of his and Pemberton's headquarters at the Ellison house.  This photograph is looking west down the Raymond Road toward the approximate location of the Confederate roadblock   Locate on Map

 

This is another shot of the same roadblock area, this time looking east.  After Wirt Adams' troopers were pushed back, the Union forces advanced slowly toward the Confederate roadblock.  A sharp firefight ensued but halted because Union General A.J. Smith did not want to bring on a general engagement before the rest of his army was on the scene   Locate on Map

  
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