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Repost: Some Champion Hill Thoughts

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  • Tony Gunter
    My first question was on the 47th Indiana Infantry in Slack s Brigade. The brigade was formed to the east of the Jackson road two regiments deep one hundred
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2004
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      My first question was on the 47th Indiana Infantry in Slack's
      Brigade. The brigade was formed to the east of the Jackson road two
      regiments deep one hundred yards advanced from the Champion House
      facing south towards Champion Hill. The leftmost regiment of
      McGinnis' brigade also formed on the east side of the Jackson Road.

      About one hundred yards south of Slack's Brigade, a creek spilling
      off the western face of Boll's Hill abuts the ridge on which runs the
      Jackson Road, closing to within 200 yards of the road itself before
      turning from due north to east by northeast. This turn in the creek
      is pronounced, with banks that drop as much as 10-40 feet from the
      Champion Ridge down to the sandy creekbed below. South of this
      point, below the actual Champion Hill peak, the creekbed is much less
      pronounced, with banks that drop only about 5-10 feet.

      Hovey's Division made a very deliberate and careful advance upon the
      Confederate lines, creeping up the hill until the entire slope was
      enveloped. However, the 47th Indiana reported seeing the enemy off
      to its left, changing face, and most likely advancing across this
      creek. Smith doesn't attempt to resolve the question about why the
      47th, Slack's rightmost regiment, would have been the regiment that
      engaged the Confederate skirmishers to the federal left.

      Assuming that two companies of skirmishers were deployed in front of
      the regiments, that would mean that 8 companies of men from McGinnis'
      Brigade and 16 companies of men from Slack's Brigade were attempting
      to squeeze through a gap merely 200 yards across. Assuming an
      average company population of 40 men in double line with each man
      occupying a yard, this means that only 10 companies can pass through
      this gap at a time.

      Mississippi terrain, in general, is fairly clear near the ridges and
      becomes gradually more choked with weeds the closer one gets to the
      creeks running along the bottom. In addition, the Champion Hill
      ridge is cut with ravines formed by ditches running off the ridge.
      Traversing these ravines becomes almost impossible at points farther
      away from the road. So Slack's Brigade would have naturally been
      moving at a much slower pace than the leftmost regiment of McGinnis.
      Additionally, the rough terrain would have naturally extended Slack's
      alignment. So by the time the 47th Indiana reached this 200 yard
      gap, it seems safe to assume that the 47th probably occupied 200
      yards by itself.

      This seems key to what happened to Slack's Brigade. McGinnis'
      Brigade advanced more quickly than the 47th Indiana and 24th Iowa,
      who in turn advanced more quickly than the 28th Iowa and 56th
      Indiana. So the brigade lost its formation of


      and became aligned as


      The 47th must have followed McGinnis' men through this gap, then
      attempted to move to the left as it entered the weed-choked
      bottomland on the other side. The 47th reported the presence of
      enemy troops to its left, changed facing, and pursued the enemy
      fruitlessly into the brambles. What it appears had happened was that
      the 47th had chased the skirmishers of Cumming's Brigade who had
      followed the natural path to Champion Hill down the northwestern
      slope of Boll's Hill. This path of movement intersects the path
      marched by the 47th IN at the point where the gap between the Jackson
      Road and the creek begins to open up into the weed-choked bottom land
      between Champion Hill and Boll's Hill 300 yards northeast of the
      angle in the Confederate line.

      This is a bit key to the engagement, because the skirmishers at that
      point appear to have fled to the top of Boll's Hill and formed into
      line of battle facing Osterhaus' advance units. Osterhaus, being
      confused by the fact that he was facing line of battle to both the
      west and north, deployed at least an entire regiment facing towards
      ~300 skirmishers formed on Boll's Hill, and seemed loath to progress
      westward until this position had been cleared, presumably by the 7th

      Smith seems to downplay the distance that the 47th travelled in
      pursuit of the skirmishers, and also seems to me to have misplaced
      them once redirected. The official report of the 47th states that
      after pursuing the elusive enemy for some distance, the regiment was
      marched by the right flank at double quick time, crossed the Jackson
      Road under fire, and reached the top of the hill in time to engage
      the enemy as it held a strong position behind some houses and
      outbuildings. This seems to place the 47th in the fight for the
      Austin Ridge rather than the peak of Champion Hill.

      If true, that would mean that the entire remained of Slack's Brigade
      had time to march past the 47th in similar terrain, reform near the
      cornfield north of the middle road, and assault the 56th and 57th GA
      positioned at the crossroad. That seems to indicate that advance
      elements of the 47th could have been within 600 yards of advance
      elements of the 7th Kentucky on Boll's Hill.

      Any comments?
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