Doc. 55.-advance on Holly Springs, Miss.
camp near Waterford, Miss., November 30, 1862.Day before yesterday morning we took up our line of march from Davis's Mills to Holly Springs. The weather, which up to the time of our departure had been clear and sunny, suddenly turned cold and lowering on Friday morning, and a piercing wind blew all of our first day's march. Toward noon on Friday we passed the place where Lee's cavalry had so successful a skirmish with the enemy a week or so ago. The only relics of the fight were two or three dead horses lying by the roadside, and the remnants of several broken saddles. But these evidences of war are not peculiar to that spot alone. Along the whole line of the road from La Grange to this place, the fences are opened for cavalry charges, and dead horses are to be seen in hundreds of places. Indeed, there is not a mile of the road between this place and La Grange which has not been the scene of some skirmish or chase within the last three weeks. Every house along the road is empty, and with their shattered doors and windows standing open, present a woful picture of the desolation that follows in the track of war. About ten o'clock on Saturday morning, (twenty-ninth,) the advance of the Federal army passed through Holly Springs. No halt was made there, but all day Saturday, and all the fore-part of to-day, regiment after regiment, division close on the heels of division, yesterday General Hamilton's column, and to-day General McPherson's, until the citizens began to think the entire North was emptying itself through their streets. I entered the town with Gen. Ross's division, or rather in advance of it, with two of the General's staff; whom he sent ahead. The main road was so thronged with columns of infantry, cavalry, and artillery that it was almost impossible to force our horses past the dense masses that poured like a living avalanche along the main road. So we took to the fields and across the country. We entered the town by its eastern suburb, and in that quarter found it almost deserted by citizens. The dark masses of McArthur's division were just swarming out of the south side of the town as the head of Ross's entered the north. Holly Springs is the handsomest place we have seen yet on our southward march. It is beautifully laid out, with wide streets, planted on each side with rows of shade-trees. Many of the residences are large and tastefully built. It has half a dozen churches, one of which, the Episcopal Church, is a little architectural gem. The town once had six or seven thousand inhabitants, but now has probably not more than one third of that number. Every store was of course closed; some of the merchants, who had any stock left, carried it out of town as soon as they heard of the approach of the army. One man who had had large contracts for supplying the rebel army, had moved his stock to the woods a few miles south of town, where the goods were discovered secreted. The troops who discovered it supplied themselves well from a large stock of tobacco which he had brought to Holly Springs to supply the rebel army. I was informed on good authority that a large stock of clothing which was discovered in one store in the town, was a branch of the house of Seligman & Brother, of St. Louis. The goods were here to be sold to the rebels, and if, as I have every reason to believe, the goods belong to Seligman & Brother, that firm has been acting traitorously to the Government which is protecting them in selling military goods to the Union army at Memphis, and at various other military points where the army is stationed. Messrs. Seligman & Brother have one branch too many to be loyal men. We only remained in the town about an hour, and were then obliged to hurry out to overtake the division, which scarcely paused in its passage through. Just outside of the town, on the west, we found two fine vineyards, and procured from the proprietor of one of them some splendid Catawba wine. Last evening, just before dark, we marched down a narrow gorge into a deep basin about a mile in width and perhaps two miles in length. On every side it is surrounded with bold bluffs inaccessibly steep. From the centre of this valley or basin where “Dunkin's Mills” stand, one looks up at an angle of forty-five degrees to the summit of the hills that encircle it on every side. Out of these hills gush hundreds of springs, and in the bottom of the valley are half a dozen small lakes, some of  them formed by the dams built to obtain a head of water to run the mills. When we moved in, Quinby's division had passed through, ascended one of the zigzag roads, and were encamped on the eastern hill summits, McArthur's on the south side of the valley. General Ross's command soon commenced winding its way serpent-like up the hills, and bivouacked on the north side of the basin, so that the three divisions of Gen. Hamilton's column surrounded the valley. No more picturesque scene could be imagined than that of yesterday evening — the little lakes, deep set like mirrors in the bosom of the hills, the thousands of soldiers filling their canteens, the thousands of horses led down to drink and splashing in the margin of the water, the smoke of the innumerable camp-fires on the hill-tops, the whole drawn on a background of a few long streaks of fiery cloud that the sun left as he went down, formed a picture that few who saw it will forget. Just before we came to the camping ground yesterday evening, we passed the spot on the road where Colonel Lee, who is in the advance, had four hours previous had a skirmish with the enemy's cavalry. On one side of the road was the newly made grave of one of the Seventh Kansas cavalry, killed in the fight; and on the other side, the baggage of the artillerymen, of the two guns of the Second Iowa battery that are with Lee, was thrown just as they threw it down when the enemy was first seen. The rebels soon retreated with a loss of six killed, and the artillery and cavalry were far ahead of us in pursuit. During the evening, until quite dark, we could occasionally hear the faint report of their guns as they continued to drive the enemy back along the road toward the Tallahatchie River. Colonel Lee, with his brigade of cavalry and two ten-pound Parrott guns, was far in the advance ever since we left Holly Springs, and his advance was one continued skirmish along the whole distance from Holly Springs to where he now is, within two miles of the Tallahatchie. The country through which the road runs to this place is of the same character that it is in Tennessee, long, undulating swells of land, densely wooded, with beech and oak. From the sum mit of each of these swells of land the rebels would stop and fire their one piece of artillery, (the only one they had,) without much effect though, as they only killed one of our men in all their yesterday's firing. This morning firing was heard again in the front, and as we had learned yesterday, while we were at Holly Springs, that Gen. Sherman, with the army from Memphis, was at “Chulahoma,” only eight miles west of us, we were at first in doubt as to whether he had not reached the Tallahatchie and was attacking the enemy at Wyatt's Ford, which is five miles west of Abbeyville. This afternoon, however, when I rode down the road toward the Tallahatchie, I met Lee's cavalry coming back to camp about four miles this side of the river. One of their two guns had been disabled by having the axletree shot in two, but not a man was hurt. The Thirty-ninth and Twenty-seventh Ohio regiments of infantry, which had been sent forward in the forenoon, were also returning, to take up their quarters for the night at the same place, four miles this side of the enemy's lines. They all report the enemy strongly fortified on the Tallahatchie, having two batteries behind heavy breastworks on the north side of the river; one of these, a battery of six guns, three of which are twenty-four pound siege-guns, is just at the bridge which crosses the Tallahatchie. On the south bank of the river they have three small forts, each one of which commands both the railroad and the wagon-road bridges. If we judge by their spirited firing, the rebels are determined upon making a stubborn fight at the Tallahatchie, but let them fight as stubbornly as they will, there can be no result to them but defeat — the armies of Sherman and Grant will overwhelm them. This evening, after Colonel Lee's forces and the two Ohio regiments had withdrawn to camp, some distant firing was heard in the south-west, which must have been Sherman attacking the enemy at Wyatt's Ford. The sky was lowering and the air was thick with mist, and the distant discharges of the guns do not come to us in sharp reports. The sound is like rolls of distant, muttering thunder, premonitions of a storm that will burst against the rebel fortifications very soon, perhaps to-morrow. If the attack is deferred longer than that, it is my humble opinion that the enemy will not wait to receive it.
W. L. F.