Yesterday I attended the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill. This event was really special to me, as the Battle of Champion Hill spurred my interest in the Civil War and led to me becoming an historian.
The featured speaker at the Champion Hill commemoration was Bertram Hayes-Davis, G-G grandson of Jefferson Davis. In addition to being the direct descendant of the Confederate president, Hayes- Davis is also the executive director of Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’ post-war home on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
For me, the highlight of the day was the presentation of medals to the descendants of the men who fought at Champion Hill. There were a number of descendants of well-known Civil War soldiers present to accept medals: I saw relatives of General Alvin P. Hovey, General Stephen D. Lee, and General Francis M. Cockrell. I can’t claim kinship to a notable such as these, but I was very proud to accept a medal on behalf of my G-G-G- grandfather, Private Littleton H. Johnson and my G-G-G Uncle, Captain W.A. Harper, both of whom fought in the battle with Company D, “Lowry Rifles,” 6th Mississippi Infantry.
As I sat with the other descendants of the soldiers that fought at Champion Hill waiting for the medal presentation to start, I chatted with the man sitting next to me whose relative fought with an Ohio Infantry regiment in the battle. As I looked around I saw other families, some whose relatives fought for the blue, others that had fought for the gray, all laughing, talking and having a good time. I was reminded of the words written by Sam Watkins who served in the 1st Tennessee Infantry:
America has no north, no south, no east, no west. The sun rises over the hills and sets over the mountains, the compass just points up and down, and we can laugh now at the absurd notion of there being a north and a south. We are one and undivided.