I recently picked up a curious little relic of the Battle of Champion Hill on Ebay; to be honest it doesn’t look like much more than the party invitation that it is. But this party was special; it was held on May 16, 1913, at Newburgh, Indiana, to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill. To the attendees of the party, this date and this battle held a special significance, as most of them had fought for their lives on the “Hill of Death.”
The party was hosted by William A. Warren and his wife Lida, at their home in Newburgh. William was a survivor of the Battle of Champion Hill, having served in Company F, 24th Indiana Infantry. As part of Brigadier General Alvin P. Hovey’s division, the 24th Indiana had fought on Champion Hill itself, and had suffered grievous casualties: 27 killed, 166 wounded, and 8 missing, in a regiment that numbered less than 500 men when the battle started. William A. Warren was one of those casualties in the 24th Indiana; wounded in the right arm during the fighting, he had to have the limb amputated to save his life.
I wanted to find out a little more about the Champion Hill anniversary party, so I went to Genealogybank.com, and got lucky – the Evansville Courier & Press had detailed coverage of the event in the May 17, 1913, edition of the paper:
BOYS IN BLUE AT BATTLE BANQUET
Fiftieth Anniversary of Champion Hill Fight Celebrated at Warren Home
At Newburg Home Veterans Revive Memories of Historic Battle Scenes
The 11 o’clock Evansville suburban Newburg car was loaded with veterans, their families and friends, and received a hearty welcome at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. William Warren. The ladies hired themselves to the house, while the gentlemen gathered in groups about the grounds and enjoyed reminiscences over the time of the Vicksburg campaign until Mrs. Warren announced that dinner was ready.
Three tables in the double dining room were laden with choice viands not generally found on the soldiers bill of fare at least during the Vicksburg campaign. About 60 of the veterans and their families were seated at the tables and did justice to the tempting viands spread before them. At the conclusion of the meal short readings and talks were in order.
The talk of Comrade John Rudolph, of the Twenty-Fourth Indiana, delivered with
simple pathos, brought tears to the eyes of many, as did the remarks of Comrade Christ Wunderlich of the First Indiana battery. Comrade John Gough delivered a fine address. Miss Sadie Hill read some extracts from the last edition of the “Vicksburg Daily Citizen,” printed on wall paper, of date July 4, 1863. This last edition of the “Citizen” was “finished” by a printer of General Grant’s army on July 4, 1863, and contained the following: ‘Two days bring about great changes. The banner of the union floats above Vicksburg. General Grant has caught the rabbit. He has dined in Vicksburg and he did bring his rabbit with him.’
After dinner the guests adjourned to the grounds and formed in social groups, reviewing the incidents of the march, the camp and the battle field.
Warriors Who Were Guests
The following survivors of the battle of Champion Hill were present: C.W. Barenfanger, Eleventh Indiana; Henry Baldwin, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John Behagg, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Ralph Bonnel, First Indiana Cavalry; John F. Crisp, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Robert Day, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John R. Elderfield, Sixtieth Indiana; W.H. Ellison, Forty-Third Tennessee, Confederate; W.P. Graham, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; C.D. Heldt, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Robert Hornbrook, Eleventh Indiana; Thomas Ingle, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; August Leich, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Charles Meissner, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; George Nester, First Indiana Battery; Alexander Oliphant, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John Rudolph, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; John Rohner, Twenty-Second Kentucky; W.H. Redman, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Frank Snurpus, Eleventh Indiana; Thomas Seifritz, Eleventh Indiana; August Sauer, First Indiana Battery; Joshua Seward, First Indiana Cavalry; Julius Tzschhoppe, Twenty-Fourth Indiana; Christ Wunderlich, First Indiana Battery; William Warren, Twenty-Fourth Indiana.
Other veterans present were Edward Gough, One Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Indiana; William Wilson, Thirty-Third Indiana; John R. Weed, Sixty-Fifth Indiana. Invited guests were Charles Hovey, son of Winston Menzies and grandson of General Alvin T. Hovey.
Souvenirs for Guests
Each guest was presented with a minie ball, picked up on the Champion Hill battlefield a few years ago by William Warren, and also with a blue and gray pencil as souvenirs of the day. Mrs. Major Menzies, daughter of General Hovey sent Richmond roses to be given to the survivors of the battle. Mr. Warren presented each survivor with a double photograph of himself, as he appeared in 1863 and at the present time.
A three-course supper was served at 5:30 o’clock. The 6:30 o’clock car brought more friends and members of Farragut Post who came to express their congratulation and good wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Warren. Refreshments were served during the evening to all present.
A pleasant incident of the evening was the presentation to Mr. Warren of a solid silver loving cup by twenty of his friends. The cup was presented by Dr. S.F. Jacobi. It was in the battle of Champion Hill that Mr. Warren lost his arm and John F. Crisp and Robert Day were wounded, and a number of the members of the Eleventh and Twenty-Fourth Indiana regiments were killed and wounded. This interesting semi-centennial celebration was much enjoyed and will be long remembered by all of the participants.
Story of the Battle
The battle of Champion Hill was the hardest fought battle of the Vicksburg campaign, and Hovey’s division bore the brunt of the fighting, losing 1,202 men and 59 officers. The Eleventh Indiana regiment’s loss was 167, and that of the Twenty-Fourth Indiana was 201.
General Grant in his Memoirs, writes: ‘The battle of Champion Hill lasted about four hours. Hard fighting preceded two or three hours of skirmishing, some of which almost rose to the dignity of battle. Every man of Hovey’s division and of McPherson’s two divisions was engaged during the battle. We had in this battle about 15,000 men absolutely engaged. Our loss was 410 killed, 1,844 wounded, and 187 missing. Hovey alone lost 1,200 killed, wounded and missing – more than one-third of his division.’
Another writer in ‘Indiana at Vicksburg’ gives the following account of Hovey’s division at Champion Hill:
‘With the enemy outnumbering him three to one, Hovey fought him with bulldog
tenacity and fierce combativeness. He was ably seconded by his subordinate officers, as they were by the men. Vicksburg, so long striven for, was understood to hang in the balance, as it was the garrison of that citadel which contested the field. Seldom, perhaps never, was a battle more stubbornly fought. Hovey’s veterans, hard pressed, swayed backward and forward, and back again, rising and falling like a sea lashing the rocky shore. Can they hold the ground until the promised help comes? was the war cry. Again and again they rallied to the colors. At last the long-looked for reinforcements arrived. The foe was checked: one more determined charge was made on his lines, and exultant cheers proclaimed the success of that last desperate onset, and the enemy was in full retreat. The pursuit was taken up by fresh troops and Hovey’s tired heroes rested on the bloody field.’
Men that fifty years ago assembled at the call of the bugle, and in obedience to stern orders, faced each other in mortal combat, yesterday again faced each other from opposite sides of the festal board in response to the following summons:
Unfortunately this is where the newspaper article ends – it seems like the end of the article was left off by mistake, as I checked all the remaining pages of the newspaper, but could not find the remainder of the story.
I did however, in my search, find another story which mentioned William
A. Warren. In May 1900, the survivors of Company F, 24th Indiana Infantry held a reunion to remember the anniversary of the Battle of Champion Hill. The Evansville Courier and Press published a story about the reunion in its May 17 edition. In the article it stated that the 24th Indiana
“…lost all told, killed and wounded, 201 men. Company F went into the engagement with forty-six men and came out with twenty-two. William Warren of this city lost his arm in the engagement.”
The reunion was held at the home of John F. Crisp, and the newspaper gave a detailed account of the arrangements:
“The house of Mr. and Mrs. Crisp was beautifully decorated with flags and flowers. On the outside was stretched an army camp and everything had a war like appearance. The old veterans were served with dinner and supper. Mrs. Crisp was assisted at the tables by Mrs. John Bullen, Mrs. Minnie Keller and Al Clark. The women wore red, white and blue aprons and caps. Strains of sweet music were wafted through the house and the old soldiers lived the past over again.”
After William Warren was wounded at Champion Hill, it took more than a month for the folks back home to learn of his fate. On June 23, 1863, the Evansville Journal noted:
“PERSONAL – We were pleased to greet the return of Johnny Wheeler, yesterday, who arrived Sunday morning on the steamer Courier. Johnny was a member of Company F, 24th Indiana, and received two wounds in the battle of Champion Hill. He was captured by the rebels while in the hospital at Champion Hill, and paroled. He brings the glad tidings that some of our boys who were reported dead are alive and doing well – among others, William Warren.”
After Warren recovered from his wound, he was discharged from the army and returned home to Indiana. The loss of an arm did not seem to slow the young man down, and in 1864 he ran for public office. In the election results posted by the Evansville Daily Journal, April 5, 1864, for assessor, the paper noted that there were three posts to fill; the leading candidate was William Warren, Jr., with 769 votes.
The assessor’s position was just the beginning of Warren’s political career; on July 23, 1866, The Evansville Journal wrote that the Deputy Collector for the county had resigned, and that “We also learn that Captain Hornbrook, of this city, and William Warren, Jr., a gallant private soldier, who lost an arm at the bloody battle of Champion Hill, are applicants for the position. Both are competent for the place. Young Warren, since he returned home – being only one of nine survivors of one hundred noble men that constituted one of the companies of the 24th – has learned to write handsomely with his left hand and is otherwise amply qualified to discharge the duties of the office. Either of the gentlemen would be acceptable, we think, to the majority of our citizens.”
William A. Warren went on to have a very prosperous future; he served as
deputy collector of internal revenue for Vanderburgh County, Indiana, from 1866 – 1869, as Vanderburgh County auditor from 1878 – 1882, and by the time he hosted the 1913 reunion he was a bank president. He lived to a ripe old age, dying on January 1, 1937; he was the next to last surviving member of his Grand Army of the Republic Post. Warren is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville, Indiana.