Times-Picayune December 19, 1904

I found the following article in the Louisiana Times-Picayune some time back, and I am finally getting around to writing about it. It concerns Captain William T. Ratliff, a Confederate veteran, giving tours of the Champion Hill battlefield to Union veterans who

Captain Samuel J. Ridley, commander of Company A, 1st Miss. Light Artillery. He was killed at the Battle of Champion Hill.

Captain Samuel J. Ridley, commander of Company A, 1st Miss. Light Artillery. He was killed at the Battle of Champion Hill.

fought there on May 16, 1863. A lieutenant in Company A, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, Ratliff”s unit was in the thickest of the fight, suffering 8 killed, 2 wounded, and 8 captured. Among the dead was the battery commander, Captain Samuel J. Ridley, shot down while trying to serve one of his cannon by himself after its crew was lost.

By a quirk of fate, Ratliff was not with his unit when it made its heroic stand at Champion Hill; 10 days prior to the battle he had been detailed to serve as the temporary commander of Battery C, 1st Mississippi Light Artillery, which was stationed at Snyder’s Bluff north of Vicksburg.

Jackson, Miss., Dec. 18, 1904

Captain W.T. Ratliff, one of Hinds County’s prominent citizens, who served with distinction in the Civil War, has received from two soldiers of the Northern Army letters which breathe the spirit of brotherly love. Captain Ratliff has given these letters to the press. They are as follows:

Cincinnati, Ohio, Nov. 27, 1904

Dear Captain Ratliff: I take the first opportunity following a busy week to thank you for your great courtesy in being my guide over to the left (your right) of the line occupied during the Champion Hill battle of May 16, 1863. It was a visit I have longed to make ever since the war, and it would have been impossible to have seen the ground under more favorable auspices or with better company.

As our three companies of the Eighty-Third Ohio were about all the infantry employed on the left, and as we had it so hot from your batteries all the afternoon, it made it all the more a day to be remembered by me – one of the fortunate ones. I would have liked to have hunted up the old piano at Edwards Station, where Champion says it now is, and seen whether its tone was as good as when we played it that evening, but perhaps another time will come.

The Coker House was as we left it and the surroundings little different, and if our regiment comes to the dedication next May at Vicksburg we shall try to make an expedition to the Coker house, if no further. Again tendering you my thanks and assurances of my appreciation of your kindness, I am, sincerely yours,

1985 photo of the Coker House on the Champion Hill battlefield - Library of Congress

1985 photo of the Coker House on the Champion Hill battlefield – Library of Congress

William M. Davis.

The other letter is from an Indiana man, as is as follows:

Fountain City, Ind., November 29, 1904.

Captain W.T. Ratliff, Raymond, Miss.: My Dear Friend – I am extremely sorry that we found it impossible to accept your kind invitation to visit you at your home, but in the language of the Rooseveltian period, we found our life a very strenuous one while in your state. The Sunday following our Champion Hill visit we visited the Chickasaw battle field, and on Monday we put in the day with Captain Rigby getting some matters in shape on the battle line around Vicksburg, and on Monday night we left for home.

General McGinnis is the Postmaster at Indianapolis, and had a ten-day leave of absence and had to get home or be mustered out as a deserter. Major Hill and myself did not like to let him go home by himself. I am sure that we, not you, were the losers in not visiting you at your home. I know we should have enjoyed it very much. I think I heard General McGinnis tell a dozen times about his trading knives with Captain Ratliff, and each time he showed the knife and said he would not take $50 for it. (Captain Ratliff says he got the best of Major McGinnis in the trade.) The fact is that we all came home completely in love with the people of the South, who each and every one treated us so splendidly. This is not to be wondered at. After all, we are all American citizens, and to the people belongs the whole country, and no class of people understands this so well as the ex-soldiers of both armies. There has been no fight between them and has not been since April 1865. I brought the ‘whole armada’ story home with me, and have had the satisfaction of telling to many times, and it universally brings down the house. I think it the best army story I ever heard, and especially coming from the source it did. With every good wish for you and Mrs. Ratliff and those you love, believe me, sincerely yours,

M.M. Lacey

It has been the policy of this grand old man of Hinds County to pilot quite a number of former Federal soldiers over the old battle field of Champion Hill, and he has quite a number of warm personal friends among those who were formerly arrayed against him in deadly conflict.

A rare photograph taken at the dedication of the General Lloyd Tilghman monument on May 18, 1909, at Champion Hill. Pictured left to right: the two men on the end are thought to be Sid E. Thomas and W.M. Robb from Edwards; unidentified woman florist from Vicksburg; Ike Caston, land owner (standing behind the florist); Frederick Tilghman, son of General Tilghman kneeling; behind Tilghman are Charles Turner and David Butcher, Tilghman’s banker and lawyer from New York City. To the right of the stone are: presumably Oswald Tilghman, relative and Aide-de-Camp to General Tilghman; William T. Rigby, Superintendent of the Vicksburg National Military Park; kneeling beside the stone is Sidell Tilghman, General Tilghman’s son; Captain W. T. Ratliff, standing behind Tilghman; J. W. Ratliff standing beside his brother to the right and Henry Hudson Kitson, sculptor from Boston, to the far right. Photograph courtesy of Mississippi Department Archives and History

A rare photograph taken at the dedication of the General Lloyd Tilghman monument on May 18, 1909, at Champion Hill. Pictured left to right: the two men on the end are thought to be Sid E. Thomas and W.M. Robb from Edwards; unidentified woman florist from Vicksburg; Ike Caston, land owner (standing behind the florist); Frederick Tilghman, son of General Tilghman kneeling; behind Tilghman are Charles Turner and David Butcher, Tilghman’s banker and lawyer from New York City. To the right of the stone are: presumably Oswald Tilghman, relative and Aide-de-Camp to General Tilghman; William T. Rigby, Superintendent of the Vicksburg National Military Park; kneeling beside the stone is Sidell Tilghman, General Tilghman’s son; Captain W. T. Ratliff, standing behind Tilghman; J. W. Ratliff standing beside his brother to the right and Henry Hudson Kitson, sculptor from Boston, to the far right.
Photograph courtesy of Mississippi Department Archives and History

I found a very good write-up about William T. Ratliff on the Mississippi Department of Archives and History website – the man had quite a career after the Civil War:

William Thomas Ratliff was born in Raymond, Mississippi, on September 16, 1835. His parents were William Ratliff of Pike County, Mississippi, and Jane Davis of Belfast, Ireland. Orphaned as a child, Ratliff was raised by his grandmother, Isabella Spencer, of Clinton, Mississippi. He attended Mississippi College at Clinton from 1852 to 1856. While there, he organized the Hermenian Society and served as its first president. Ratliff married Mary Olive Cook of Edwards, Mississippi, on June 18, 1856. The Ratliffs were the parents of William Davis, Alma, Percy Cook, McKinney Cook, Thomas Wilson, Mary, Paul D., Jeannette, Clifton, and Isabella. They settled at Edwards in the western part of Hinds County, where Ratliff studied law and worked as a teacher and farmer from 1859 to 1860.

Ratliff first served in the Confederate infantry in Kentucky during the winter of 1861 and in 1862. He later served in Company A, First Regiment, Mississippi Light Artillery. Ratliff commanded a battery of 360 men in General Louis Hebert’s brigade of Major General William H. Forney’s division during the engagements around Vicksburg, Mississippi, and during the siege of that city in July of 1863. He was promoted to captain after the fall of Vicksburg, and he remained in the Confederate army until his parole in Jackson, Mississippi, on May 12, 1865.

After the Civil War, Ratliff operated a military school at his home in Raymond, Mississippi. Ratliff was elected probate clerk of Hinds County, Mississippi, in 1865, and he remained in office until his removal by Governor Adelbert Ames in 1869. He was also chairman of the Hinds County Democratic Committee during Reconstruction. In 1874, Ratliff was active in the Taxpayers’ League, an organization that hastened the demise of the carpetbaggers in Mississippi. He was elected as Hinds County chancery clerk in 1875, an office he held for twelve years, and afterwards served as Hinds County sheriff for four years. Ratliff served as Hinds County administrator in 1900. He was a member of the board of trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, serving from 1910 to 1916. He was unanimously elected to serve as vice-president of the board in 1913, succeeding board member Stephen D. Lee.

Ratliff served as a deacon of the Raymond Baptist Church. He also served as president of the board of trustees of Mississippi College for forty-five years. Ratliff was president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention in 1906. He was an honored guest at the October 19, 1916, wedding of his grandson and namesake, William T. Ratliff, Jr., to Minnie Money Vardaman, youngest child of James K. Vardaman. Ratliff died on January 20, 1918.

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4 thoughts on “Times-Picayune December 19, 1904

  1. D.Morgan

    Thanks for sharing the sentiments of two former opponents, now friends. It is nice to be reminded how Americans are unique in the fact that they can put away animosities to forge a new beginning.
    Are you involved in the 150th Champion Hill Anniversary commemorations in May 2013? I just wish I could go since my descendant was involved in this engagement with the 26th MS INF REG many years ago. They have put together a wonderful website.

    • Yes, I will be at the 150th Anniversary event at Champion Hill – they will be giving out medals to the descendants of men who fought in the battle, and as my g-g-g grandfather and g-g-g- uncle fought there, I will be receiving one.

      • John Stokes

        Jeff,

        John Stokes here from Austin TX. I am WT Ratliff’s GG Grandson. My mom, Nancy, and I are traveling out to Vicksburg this coming weekend to take in some of the events at the Military Park, as well as visit Ratliff Dorm at MS College in Clinton, the family home in Raymond, and other similar stuff.
        Q1: Will you be attending any of the Park events? We would surely welcome and meet and conversation.
        Q2: How exactly do we find the Tillman Monument @ Champions Hill? Is it obvious or…?

        Send me an reply to my email to connect.

        Greatly appreciate your contribution to our family history. John

      • John,
        Yes, I will be at the Vicksburg National Military Park on Saturday signing copies of my book. I will be at the USS Cairo Museum in the park starting at 9:00 a.m. If you would like to contact me directly, I can give you directions to the Tilghman monument. You can reach me at championhilz@att.net.

        Jeff

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