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Reading Book Guide

Champion Hill: Decisive Battle for Vicksburg, by Timothy B. Smith

Timothy B. Smith's study is the first full-length account of the high stakes military chess game that played out across the state of Mississippi in the spring of 1863. The campaign climaxed on May 16 at Champion Hill, where the decisive land engagement of the Vicksburg campaign was fought. Champion Hill is based upon many years of primary research and includes a keen appreciation of the wooded and ravine-strewn terrain upon which the armies fought. We hope these thought-provoking questions lead to some lively book discussions.

  1. Why was Champion Hill the "Decisive Battle for Vicksburg?"
  2. Compare and contrast the leadership abilities of John C. Pemberton and Ulysses S. Grant.
  3. Most of the time, terrain plays a major part in Civil War battles. At Champion Hill the Confederates had all the benefits of terrain and still lost. Why?
  4. As the decisive battle in the Vicksburg campaign, Champion Hill's importance is directly proportional to Vicksburg's importance. How important was Vicksburg in the Civil War?
  5. In many cases, the bigger the battle, the more important it is. Why does the author argue that the relatively small battle of Champion Hill is every bit as important as Gettysburg or any of the other big battles of the war?
  6. Why is the chain of command and obedience to orders so important in military operations? How did the lack of this hamper Confederate efforts?
  7. Many people fault John A. McClernand for being slow at Champion Hill, but the author does not censure him too much. Is this assessment correct?
  8. Was William Loring correct in not rejoining the army retreating to Vicksburg after Champion Hill, or was it a personal choice made out of hatred toward Pemberton?
  9. How can the leadership lessons of Champion Hill relate to everyday life?
  10. If Champion Hill was so important, why was it never preserved as a national military park?