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Article Henry Clay Dean -- Mississippi

Articles were taken verbatim from Crimes of the Civil War, and curse of the funding system (1869)
by Henry Clay Dean.
Author: Dean, Henry Clay
Subject: Sinking-funds -- United States; United States -- History Civil War, 1861-1865 Finance
Publisher: Baltimore, Printed for the publisher, by J.W. Smith & Bro
Possible copyright status: NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT
Language: English
Call number: nrlf_ucb:GLAD-168149912
Digitizing sponsor: MSN
Book contributor: University of California Libraries
Collection: cdl; civilwardocuments; americana

Full catalog record: MARCXML

Pages 108 -- 112

Holly Springs

On the 20th of December, 1862, Gen. Grant was endeavoring to push his army of eighty thousand men through the interior of the State of Mississippi, along the line of the Central Rail Road, with the view of capturing Jackson and assailing Yicksburg from the East. His progress had been slow and tedious, owing to the fact that he was compelled to rebuild every rail road bridge and trestle along the track, while the heavy rains of the season had rendered the ordinary roads almost impassable by army trains and artillery. His advance was within seven miles of Grenada, but the main body of his force was on the banks of the Yockany, eight miles south of Oxford, considerably depleted by the absence of the numerous detachments required to garrison the towns and guard the railroad, from Columbus, Ky., which was his base of supplies, to Oxford, Mississippi, which was the most southerly point to which the road had been repaired. Several weeks had been spent reconstructing the long bridge over the Tallahatchie, seventeen miles south of Holly Springs, and, in the meantime, the immense supplies of every description, required for so large an invading army, had been transported from Columbus to Holly Springs, where they were placed in depot, awaiting the completion of the bridge below. Federal officers estimated the cost of those supplies at seven millions of dollars. A Federal garrison of some two thousand men occupied the town, as a protection to the stores. Grant and his men were confident and boastful, expecting to occupy Vicksburg before the middle of January.

Just before daylight on the morning of the 20th of December, the Confederate General Van Dorn, at the head of a small cavalry force, surprised and captured the garrison of Holly Springs, without the loss of a man on his part. The Federal loss was but one killed and two wounded. Scarcely a score of the garrison contrived to escape. Van Dorn proceeded at once to destroy Grant's supplies, by firing the buildings in which they were stored. He also burnt several thousand bales of cotton, most of which, the planters in the vicinity had been plundered, and which was then awaiting shipment to the North.

A long train of cars, laden with army supplies, which was on the point for starting for Oxford, shared the same fate. By three o'clock, P. M., the work of destruction was completed, and Van Dorn, who was well aware that a largely superior force might be concentrated against him there within a few hours, paroled his prisoners upon the spot and withdrew towards Jackson, Tenn. By this single blow, alone, the entire plan of Grant s campaign was disastrously defeated. He was unable, for want of ammunition, to give battle to Pemberton at Grenada; the country around him, as far as his foraging parties could scour it with safety, was stripped of all supplies; his communications with Columbus and with Memphis were cut off by Van Dorn's operations upon the railroad above, and a hurried retreat upon Memphis was his only resource against actual starvation. This retrograde movement was commenced on the 20th of December, and on the afternoon of the next day, the Federal troops, crest-fallen and exasperated, re-entered Holly Springs. As they marched through the streets, the citizens, gazing upon them through the windows, were admonished, by brick-bats and other missiles hurled at them from the ranks, that they were to be held responsible for the brilliant exploit of Van Dorn. Those ferocious soldiers, who, on their backward march from Oxford, through a thickly-settled region, had burned every house along the road, were at once turned loose to gratify their cu pidity and wreak their malice upon the citizens. The work of indiscriminate pillage was instantly inaugurated. Every dwelling was soon swarming with men in uniform, some of whom wore the shoulder-straps of captains and colonels, who, with oaths and curses, brandishing their weapons, and threatening death to any who should oppose them, ransacked every nook and corner, every drawer, closet, cupboard, workbox, trunk or other receptacle in which money, plate and other valuables might be stored, and confiscated jay-hawked to use their own expressive synonym for robbery whatever of value they were able to carry off with them. Nothing came amiss to these marauders. Provisions, money, silver plate, jewelry, watches, blankets and other covering, parlor ornaments, daguerreotypes, books, china, glass-ware, table cutlery, kitchen utensils, clothing, (and especially rich and costly articles of ladies apparel, with which these brigands afterwards decked the sable damsels who filled their camps,) all such articles, as well as the contents of the numerous stores in the town, were speedily appropriated. Furniture, in some instances, was uninjured by the soldiers, either during or after the process of plunder. In others, such articles as ward robes and bureaus, which were locked, were broken open, the soldiers refusing, even when the keys were presented to them, to use them, or suffer them to be used for unlocking them. In other cases still, all the furniture in the house was smashed, and everything of value, that had not been stolen, wantonly destroyed.

While this work of pillage was proceeding, many of the soldiers announced their purpose of burning the town, and declared that they had been ordered to do so. Within half an hour after the Federal troops had re-entered the town, a dense smoke rising from the residence cf Mrs. John D. Martin, a wealthy widow lady, indicated that the torch of the incendiary had been brought into requisition. The soldiers fired her premises, including the negro houses and all the other buildings on the grounds, and stood by, preventing her servants from removing anything of hers from the dwelling, or of their own from their habitations, until the flames had made such progress that the buildings could no longer be approached. It was avowed that this was a punishment inflicted upon Mrs. Martin for her conduct on the previous day. The crime of which she had been guilty was this: She had a son, a captain of cavalry in the Confederate army. He came to Holly Springs, the day before, with Van Dorn ; and his mother, seeing him at a distance, requested the writer to call him to her. He came and dismounted by her side, and she kissed him in the street. She detained him as he was about to hasten away, to beg him to show any kindness in his power to a Federal officer, naming him, who had that morning been taken prisoner by Van Dorn, and who, said she, has afforded protection to your poor mother and your little brother and sister. Promising to remember the benefactor of his mother, he rode off to rejoin his company. The writer witnessed the entire interview between the mother and the son, and he has set forth, in all its enormity, the particulars of that offense which was visited upon her by the conflagration of her sumptuous home, with all its treasures

Wm. F. Mason, Esq., upwards of sixty years of age, and an invalid, for his presumption in daring to implore some soldiers not to enter the room where his wife lay sick, was knocked down with the buts of their muskets, kicked, trampled on, and left for dead. His dwelling, filled with rich and costly furniture, was then completely gutted.

For two long weeks afterwards, while the Federals continued to occupy the town, and the different divisions, with their long trains, were slowly passing through, did this reign of terror continue. Not a night passed, during that period, that was not lit up by the flames of blazing houses; ---

The Episcopal Church, of which the late Dr. J. H. Ingraham had been rector, was broken open, the seats destroyed, the carpets cut up, the prayer-books mutilated, the organ chopped open with axes and the pipes taken out of it by the soldiers to amuse themselves with, upon the streets, the altar disgustingly defiled, the walls defaced with obscene inscriptions, and the building itself devoted to the vilest of human uses. Nor was this all. Even the beautiful cemetery of the town was not spared from the hand of ruthless violence. The soldiers entered its hallowed precincts with sledge-hammers and axes, broke down the ornamental iron railings around the private lots, made a wreck of the costly monuments that marked the resting-place of the departed, uprooted the shrubbery, and left that spot, which, but the day before, had been so lovely, a scene of ruin and devastation.

Gen. Grant, during the commission of these outrages, had his quarters in the finest house in the town that of Wm. Henry Cox, Esq. He could not have been ignorant of what was going on; and yet if he ever made an effort to prevent these atrocities or to punish the offenders, or if he ever expressed a regret that they had occurred, the citizens of Holly Springs never learned the fact. If a commander, who shrinks from the responsibility of openly ordering the perpetration of such barbarities by his troops, wishes to encourage his men in acts ofvandalism, he has but
to imitate the example of Gen. Grant.

(See also research from the ORs titled Holly Springs in Union and Confederate Orders letters and reports -- GP)


During the summer and autumn of 1862, Gen. Pemberton, at the head of a considerable Confederate force, held a strongly fortified position on the left bank of the Tallahatchie River, thirteen miles north of Oxford, Mississippi, on the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad. Late in the month of November of that year, while Gen. Grant, with a vastly superior army, was pressing him in front, from the north, Gen. Pemberton, learning that his communications with Jackson and Vicksburg were threatened by an expedition which had set out from Helena with the object of capturing Grenada, decided to fall back himself upon Grenada. He withdrew from the river without loss of men or stores, and occupied his new position at his leisure, his rear-guard only having, in the meantime, a few unimportant skirmishes with Grant’s advance. One of these skirmishes occurred a short distance north of Oxford, and was prolonged only until a train of cars laden with army stores, could be safely got away from the railroad station. The Confederates then retired unmolested, completely evacuating the town, and some time elapsed before the Federals entered it. The citizens were aware that Grant s forces were at hand, and that they might be expected at any moment to make their appearance; but being themselves unarmed and defenceless, they apprehended no personal danger and many of them, led by curiosity, remained upon the street. They were destined shortly to be undeceived. The Federaladvance, consisting of Kansas and Wisconsin cavalry, armed with repeating rifles, rushed into the town like a whirlwind, firing indiscriminately upon every one found in the streets. A boy of fourteen, the son of a widowed mother, was shot down while he was chopping wood in the yard. A negro man, belonging to Dr. R. R. Chilton, went to a gate with a couple of his master’s children, to look at the soldiers as they passed. A volley was directed at the group, and the poor negro fell, shot through both thighs. An elderly citizen, quietly walking along the street, was fired on by a squad of cavalry. Drawing a white handkerchief from his pocket, he waved it at them in token of surrender. The murderous wretches replied by another volley. He then endeavored to gain the shelter of a neighboring building, and, as he ran, the soldiers galloped forward and sent a third volley after him, but he escaped unhurt. Doubtless, had the workmanship of the Union soldiers been commensurate with their malignity, at least two score of inoffensive citizens would then have been butchered in cold blood, for more than fifty of them were fired on. It is almost needless to observe that this conduct of the troops was not provoked by any attempted resistance on the part of the citizens.

The cavalry rapidly scoured the different streets of the town, and then, finding that they had no armed enemies to fear, they commenced the work of pillage and destruction. It was late in the afternoon when they entered the town. Before the morning dawned again, the place had been so thoroughly sacked that little remained to tempt the cupidity of the spoiler. Those “jayhawkers" well understood the art of making night “hideous”; to the inhabitants, whose dwellings were overrun by ferocious and brutal ruffians, many of them intoxicated, who searched everywhere for valuables, appropriated all that they coveted, including, in many cases, the personal ornaments and even the dresses of ladies; demanding the surrender of watches and money at the mouth of the pistol, and wantonly destroying what they were unable to remove. Looking-glasses were smashed, pianos broken up, carpets cut to pieces, china demolished, paintings mutilated by thrusting bayonets through them, windows destroyed, feather beds ripped up and their contents given to the winds, and, in many cases, the large stocks of provisions which the families of that region were accustomed to keep in their smoke houses, were rendered unfit for food by knocking in the heads of barrels containing sugar, molasses, flour, vinegar, etc., and mingling all together with salt and ordure from the stable. Many a family who on the morning of the 2nd of December were surrounded with every comfort and supplied with stores sufficient for a twelvemonth, were twenty-four hours thereafter, without a morsel of food upon their premises, or even the means of preparing the most simple meal, for they had been deprived of everything that could serve as a cooking utensil. From time to time, during the 3rd and 4th of December, fresh bodies of Federal troops arrived in the town, and these, in turn, swarmed through every habitation, eagerly seeking to glean something from the wreck that had been left by their comrades, and exasperated against the citizens because they had so little remaining to be plundered. In one instance a negro woman was encouraged to make a personal assault upon her mistress, and armed soldiers stood by, declaring that they would shoot the latter if she resisted. Refined and delicate ladies were compelled to listen to every species of profane and obscene language; to submit to the grossest and most cruel insults, and, too often, even to the only outrages that can be perpetrated against womanhood. Every horse, mule, ox, cow, hog, sheep and fowl belonging to the inhabitants of the town and of the surrounding country, as far as Grant s foraging parties could penetrate, was remorselessly confiscated; all the corn, forage and provisions that could be found were seized, and nothing paid for. Cotton was worth sixty cents a pound. Grant issued an order forbidding sales at a higher price than twenty-five cents. If owners refused to sell at that price, it was taken from them without payment. One man, Mr. Fernandez, preferred to burn his cotton. In revenge, the Federals burned every building on his plantation, with all that they contained.

Gen. Grant was in Oxford when a portion of the outrages above enumerated were committed by his troops, and he made no efforts either to prevent them or to punish the perpetrators.

One of the highest offences known to military law is the violation, by a soldier, of a safe conduct granted by his commander. Gen. Grant however, while at Oxford, suffered his pass to be violated with impunity. The Hon. James M. Howry, of Oxford, obtained a pass from Gen. Grant, requiring all United States troops to permit him to proceed unmolested, with a wagon and certain trunks, to his plantation, some forty miles below. Judge Howry was met, about five miles from town, by a company of Federal cavalry belonging to Quinby’s Division, who compelled him to halt. He produced Gen. Grant s pass, countersigned by Gen. Quinby, but the soldiers, cursing him and Grant and Quinby, refused to respect the pass. They stripped the Judge to the skin, robbed him of all the money found upon his person, broke open and rifled his trunks, stole his mules and saddlehorses, and left him in the wood. He made his way back to Oxford and reported the facts to Gen. Grant, who listened impatiently to his statement and refused to afford him the slightest redress.

Judge Howry was the Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the University of Mississippi, a literary institution of high reputation, located at Oxford. The voluminous archives of the University were deposited in Judge Howry’s office, and the Federal officers were aware of this fact. Such documents elsewhere have ever been regarded, by the custom of all civilized countries, as sacred from the hand of violence in war. But, in Oxford, the Federal soldiers were permitted by their officers in open day, to break open Judge Howry’s office and to scatter the documents found therein, which can never be replaced, in the deep mud of the streets.

The collection of the State Geological Survey, which had been gathered and arranged with vast labor during many years, were contained in the University buildings at Oxford. The Federal soldiery were permitted to despoil that collection of everything they considered curious, leaving what remained an almost undistinguishable
mass of rubbish.”

A most reliable and responsible colonel of the Federal army told the writer that after the new levies were taken to the Western armies, that he travelled from Corinth down through the State of Mississippi by the lurid light of burning houses, plantations and cotton fields ; until the whole heavens were covered with a sheet of flame, night after night, until they reached Holly Spring by the illumination of these infernal bonfires. Every attempt to arrest this work upon the part of the old regulars was at the peril of their lives, which were endangered by the inflammatory harangues of the chaplains and demagogues.