Battle of Champion Hill, a Virtual Tour: Counterassault

  

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          n the first segment of the battle of Champion Hill, the Confederate division of Carter Stevenson holding the northern end of the Southern line had been beaten badly. On the Union left, General Hovey had dismantled the Confederate salient on the crest of Champion Hill, taken the valuable guns, and forced them to retreat south of the crossroads. On the right, Logan's troops were able to turn the Confederate left flank and take possession of a section of the Jackson Road, thereby standing in between Pemberton and his escape route. Only in the center did the Confederate line hold. There, along roughly a two-mile stretch just west of the crossroads, Lee's Alabamians and parts of Barton's Georgians prevented the Yankees from controlling the entire Jackson Road. However, their hold was tenuous. Before Hovey's and Logan's troops could get reformed, Pemberton and his Confederates had to try and assault them. The Confederate commander rushed to call up reserves that could break the Union hold on the crossroads. Because General William W. Loring was no where to be found, Pemberton had only to rely on one division consisting of the two Missouri brigades of Francis M. Cockrell and Green to save his army from disaster. Commanded by Brigadier General John S. Bowen, the division marched into battle shortly after 2 o'clock that afternoon. They were able to catch the Federals maintaining the crossroads unaware, and the Confederates quickly regained possession of the vital road junction. The howling Confederates pushed the exhausted Yankee troops back over the earlier battleground, regaining the crest of Champion Hill and the artillery left behind. However, their advance faltered within site of the Champion house and the Union wagon train due to depleted ammunition and a stiffened Federal defense. While Bowen was frantically pleading for reinforcements and ammunition, he ordered his men to retrieve what they could from the dead and wounded scattered along the way. Around 4 o'clock, Bowen realized that he could not press the issue any further without significant reinforcements. The tide of battle was about to change again, this time not in the Confederate's favor.

  

Counterassault, May 16

 

The Ratilff Road (modern D. J. Johnson Road) as it approaches the crossroads.  This photograph was taken near the Isaac Roberts' house site looking to the north.  The crossroads would be near the treeline in the distance. After the initial rout of Confederate forces on Champion Hill, Brigadier General John S. Bowen was called on to deliver a massive counterassault on the Union contingent holding the crossroads.  He deployed the two brigades of Francis M. Cockrell and Martin E. Green to do the work.  The brigades marched up this road, and hit the exhausted and depleted Union soldiers at the crossroads.  Initially successful, Bowen's counterattack briefly removed any Union presence from Pemberton's escape route the crossroads   Locate on Map

 

Site of the wartime Issac Roberts home which served as Pemberton's headquarters during most of the battle. As Bowen's fresh troops passed here, Southern women who had gathered in the front lawn cheered his troops on with verses from "Dixie"   Locate on Map

     
 

The mass of Bowen's troops first came into contact with the Yankees here, at the crossroads. The bewildered Federals, unable to maintain their ground against the overwhelming Confederate forces fell back down the Jackson Road, which is to the left of the picture. Meanwhile, McClernand's divisions facing the Confederate roadblock on up the Middle Road were unavailable for assistance   Locate on Map
 
Panorama

 

Enlarge The Jackson Road trace in between the crossroads and Champion Hill. As Bowen pressed his attack on the retreating Federals, some of the bloodiest fighting of the battle took place on this stretch of ground. Some accounts say that the dried ruts in the road ran red with the blood of both Yankees and Confederates. The view is looking north toward the crest of Champion Hill   Locate on Map

  
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