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Doc. 79.-surrender of Holly Springs, Miss.

Missouri Democrat account.

Oxford, Miss., December 22, 1862.
from persons just arrived from Holly Springs, we begin at last to get some particulars of the rebel raid into that place on Saturday.

About daybreak in the morning the enemy's advance-guard rode into the east side of that town, and from that time for two hours or more, they continued to pour in until every street and byway of the town was filled by Van Dorn's twenty-two regiments of cavalry.

The railroad depot is on the eastern side of the town, and on the track near it were two trains of cars, one empty and one loaded with cotton, both of which in a few minutes more would have been off, as they were all ready to start, one for the North and the empty train for this place. The rebels began their day's work by setting fire to the two trains, which were soon in a blaze. It seems they came prepared for such business, as all their canteens were filled with turpentine, which they poured over the empty cars, and then touched them off.

The depot-house and platform, on which there was a large amount of commissary stores and cotton, was then fired. A guard of about a hundred infantry who were guarding the Government stores at the depot, made fight even against such great odds, and a sharp little fight ensued, in which several on both sides were killed. The hundred infantry were, however, soon overwhelmed by the thousands of the enemy, and were taken prisoners. The rest of the five hundred infantry were scattered about in the different suburbs of the town on picket-duty, so that they could not act with any concert, and were captured in squads. Six companies of the Second Illinois cavalry were completely surrounded in the town, by at least as many thousands, and were called upon to surrender, to which demand they made reply by dashing upon the enemy's forces, and nobly cutting their way out. Not a more gallant deed has been done during the war. Six hundred against over eight thousand, and still they hewed their way through them and escaped!

Immediately after the cavalry had cut their way out, the “rebs” began their work of pillage, and they went about it systematically. Squads of cavalry were appointed to go around to every citizen's house and inquire how many persons from the North were staying with them. When told, the Northerners were called for and marched off to Van Dorn's headquarters, where they were searched, their money taken from them, and themselves paroled. This part of the business was superintended by Van Dorn himself. Every soldier and citizen of the North was called up before him, and put upon his honor to tell the truth, as to how much money he had, what his business was, and so forth. Every one was searched, his money taken from him and handed over to one of the rebel officers who had been appointed as receiver. The pile of greenbacks on the blanket which was spread out before him, kept increasing until it was estimated that there was over a hundred thousand dollars, all of which had been taken from private individuals.

The pillage and destruction had now reached their climax. The passenger depot, the freight depot, the round house, the foundry, and the great Arsenal, built by the rebels themselves, which was full of arms and ammunition, twenty or thirty buildings on the public square, and the eighteen hundred bales of cotton, were blazing at once. Hundreds of the rebels had found quantities of whisky, (with which beverage their stomachs had not been astonished for months,) and were shouting and yelling about the town, as much intoxicated with their victory as with the whisky. The fire had now crept around to the buildings in the square where large amounts of ammunition had been stored; and in the midst of all this riot and destruction, suddenly there came an explosion that seemed to be the very crack of doom. The solid earth shook as though old “Thor” himself had hit it a whack with his thundering hammer and knocked every thing into universal “pl.” Men were knocked down in the streets by the concussion; the windows of houses five squares away [277] were completely smashed, sash and all; doors were burst off their hinges; locks and bolts were snapped like glass; the brick walls of one or two houses were caved in like bellying sails, and for half a minute after the first great explosion there was a rattling sound of falling bricks and fragments of glass. There were several other explosions during the forenoon, but none so terrific as this first one. A few more such would have shattered every house in the town so as to render it uninhabitable.

Among the ammunition was a great number of shells, and the fragments from the bursting of these whizzed about and fell in every part of the town, killing and wounding many persons.

When the enemy first entered the town, and the handful of infantry were endeavoring to stem the torrent, several of the citizens were observed firing upon our troops from windows and behind fences. Others, however, acted honorably, especially the ladies. Northern cotton-buyers, who had large amounts of money with them, immediately handed their funds over to ladies in the houses where they were boarding, and, as the ladies were respected, their money was saved. One gentleman, who had only arrived in the town on the evening previous to the entrance of the enemy, had forty thousand dollars with him. As soon as he saw how matters were going, that every Northern man was marched up to headquarters and searched, he handed the package containing that amount over to the mistress of the house, whom he had never seen until twelve hours before, who, by the way, was a strong advocate of secession, and the day after received from her hands his package of money. Several other Southern women wore belts that day worth from twenty to fifty thousand dollars, all of which belonged to Northern men. When the enemy marched out of town in the evening, several of our officers who had been captured were taken with them. Among them was Major Fullerton, of the Second Illinois cavalry, and several whose names I have been unable to learn. As the column passed through the streets, several ladies of the best families in the town, though known to be secessionists, came out and requested Van Dorn and his officers to treat the prisoners kindly, because that during their own rule in Holly Springs they had acted like gentlemen. Let it be recorded in honor of the women of Holly Springs, that though their prejudices may be in the wrong side, they have the hearts and sympathies of true womanhood, which overcame even their prejudices! One such woman does more toward ameliorating the horrors of war — does more toward ending it — than fifty of those viragos who spit their venom from windows and doorways at our troops as they pass, trusting to the immunity which is their sex's privilege for safety.

Van Dorn remained in Holly Springs from seven o'clock in the morning until five in the evening, during which time he destroyed about two million dollars' worth of Government property in the shape of ammunition, commissary and quartermasters' stores, etc., besides an immense amount of private property, among which were one thousand eight hundred bales of cotton. Some of the cotton had been seized by the Government and confiscated, but the larger half belonged to individuals in the cotton trade. Forty-two cars, two locomotives, and every one of the depot buildings were destroyed. The track, however, of the road was left uninjured. The rebs made some attempts to burn the bridges just above and below the town, but the timber in the bridges, which had but recently been rebuilt by our army, was too green to burn. They then attempted to destroy them by sawing the braces, but did not succeed in doing much damage.

But all that I can write from hearsay will not give you so good an idea of the scenes that transpired during that day as the graphic letters which a friend (Mr. Wing, of Columbus, Ohio) had written to a friend, relating his own experiences, and from which he has kindly given me the privilege of extracting. He says:

I went to bed on Friday morning with as perfect a feeling of security as I ever did in my own house. Mr. Lough (of St. Louis) was my room-mate and bed-fellow. I waked up about daylight, and soon after heard cheering such as you have heard from our troops on the cars. Lough observed, ‘There is a regiment going up,’ meaning toward Jackson, where there had been some skirmishing for a few days past. Directly I heard shooting — pop, pop, pop, in quick succession, and horsemen galloping up the road toward town. I jumped up and run to the window, and saw the street was full of Texas cavalry — real, wild, butternut-colored fellows, yelling like Indians. Said I to Lough: ‘Get up, the town is full of secesh!’ Lough jumped up, took one glance. ‘Wing, we're gobbled, by Judas!!’ [I never heard him swear before or since.] We commenced washing and dressing. I concluded to try the virtue of a clean shirt with the rascals, and put on a fresh shirt, drawers, and socks. I thought of several things in a very few moments. The financial question was the most troublesome. [Mr. Wing was buying cotton, and had a very large amount of money with him.] ‘What to do with it,’ that was the question. I took my money and made two piles of it, one I divided into two parcels and put in my belt, and put that on next my body, the other I gave to Mrs. Barney, except seventy-five dollars, which I put in my wallet. I arranged my papers, destroying some and putting others away. Lough called to the old darkey woman to bring us some cold meat and bread; we put on our overcoats and awaited results. By this time the secesh cavalry had complete possession of the town, and were driving our men in little squads as prisoners toward the depot. Before our lunch came, there was a violent ringing at the door-bell. I looked out and saw three cavalrymen at the gate and one at the door. The negro answered the bell. ‘Tell your master that we want him, and every other man in the house, quick!’ A Lieutenant [278] Langworthy, from Iowa, was in the house; we heard every word, and having all our arrangements made except breakfast, we went down, Wing ahead. ‘Good morning, gentlemen,’ said I; ‘you favor us with rather an early call this morning.’ ‘Rayther,’ said he, with a grin like a crocodile. ‘Where is the officer of Gen. Grant's staff, who boards here?’ (Col. Hilyer.) ‘He went to Oxford yesterday with his wife and Mrs. Grant.’ He looked at me very sharply and said: ‘Is that true, sir?’ Lough says: ‘Yes, sir, when we tell you lies it will be for ourselves and not for others.’ ‘We'll take your word, gentlemen; fall in! you must go to headquarters.’ We ‘fell in’ at a brisk walk, not exactly knowing whether we should find headquarters at Vicksburgh, Mobile, or Charleston.

They took us out about a mile from town, where we found two long lines of long-haired, long-legged, sallow-looking butternut cavalry, drawn up about ten yards apart, between which we marched and halted. Brisk firing was heard on the other side of town for two hours, when it ceased. Little squads of prisoners kept coming for two or three hours longer; meantime the rebels set fire to the depot, engine-house, government stores, and a train of forty-three cars on the track, Immense piles of hay, corn, oats, barrels of beef, pork, rice, molasses, whisky, boxes of clothing, hospital stores, every thing went up in one grand conflagration. While this was going on, parties of soldiers were rolling cotton together in the public square and putting the torch to that. Every sutler's store was broken into and plundered of every thing in it by the soldiers. What they could not carry off nor destroy they gave to the negroes and secesh citizens. The army post-office was turned inside out, and letters too, and those from the North were opened, and all that were not carried off were put in a pile and burned in the street.

A large brick building on the square had been filled by our people with shot, shell and ammunition. Another building on the next block had been filled with post commissary stores. It was said by citizens that Van Dorn's orders were that these stores should be taken out and burned, but the soldiers having got hold of some whisky, and the carrying out business becoming a little tedious, put fire to the commissary's store, and in half an hour the whole side of the square was in flames. At three o'clock the arsenal was fired, and blew up with a most awful explosion.

While this was going on before our eyes, the rebels commenced at one end of the long line taking the parole of the soldiers. ‘We know,’ said they, ‘that we cannot hold this place. We have accomplished all we came for. We have destroyed your stores and taken your men. We can't take them with us, as we are mounted, therefore we will take your parole not to serve during the war unless exchanged, and let you go.’ The cotton-buyers, traders and citizens were then separated from the soldiers and questioned as to their business, etc., by one of General Van Dorn's staff. The questions asked me will serve as a sample: ‘Where do you live?’ ‘In Newark, Ohio.’ ‘Are you connected with the army?’ ‘No, sir.’ ‘What are you doing here, sir?’ ‘Well, sir, I am at the house of a friend, Mrs. Capt. Barney, who formerly lived at the North, and whose husband is an engineer, and is now with your people in Alabama.’ ‘Are you not a cotton buyer, sir?’ ‘Yes, sir, I (a-hem) have invested all my spare money in cotton, and to-day it has ‘gone up the spout.’’ ‘All right, not a good speculation. I presume, sir, the Southern cavalry do unexpected things sometimes, sir; I advise you to stay at home, sir, where there is less risk, sir. Let me see your money and papers.’ I pulled out my wallet, he took it, counted the money, (some $70 in greenbacks) and returned it to me again. He noticed a gold dollar in it, and said: ‘That little button is worth all the balance.’ I took the pocket-book without remark, not caring to argue with him just then, for fear I should convince him it was very valuable, and he should take a notion to keep it. He then passed on to the next man.

A friend of mine, Mr. Groat, conductor on the railroad, was examined, and had all his money taken, some $700. His papers and letters were all torn up. Every body suspected of being connected with the railroad, was robbed of every thing he had, and many others where the soldiers could get them out a little.

Col. Murphy was in command here. He was at the telegraph office telegraphing to Gen. Grant for reenforcements, when the rebels came upon the town, and took him prisoner the very first. If he had used the men he had, he might have prevented all.

To judge from the results of the rebel raid into Holly Springs, one would naturally suppose it was a surprise; such, however, was not the case. Gen. Grant knew the whereabouts of Van Dorn's force, during every day of the three days previous to the attack upon Holly Springs, and had taken what seemed to be all the necessary precautions to prevent so great a disaster as occurred there. To explain this, I must go back and relate what I had already related in my last letter, in relation to the movements of our own cavalry under Col. Dickey, but which letter, I have every reason to suppose, was lost with the mail at Holly Springs.

On Tuesday, the sixteenth, Col. Dickey, with about twenty-five hundred cavalry, arrived at Pontotoc, a small town about twelve miles southeast of this place, and learned that it was occupied by the enemy in great force, but that they were moving out of it toward the north. Col. Dickey immediately sent couriers back to Gen. Grant, and from that time until they entered Holly Springs, scouts were kept upon Van Dorn's track, and informed Gen. Grant every day of his whereabouts. So well had Gen. Grant divined Van Dorn's purpose, and so well had he timed his march, that on the evening before the attack he telegraphed from Oxford to Col. Murphy at Holly Springs that the enemy would attack him about seven next morning, but that he had sent him sufficient reenforcements to drive them off [279]

The reenforcements were indeed sent from here, to the number of three or four thousand; but, owing to some obstruction in the road near Waterford, they arrived nearly two hours too late, so that the rebel rear-guard had been gone out of the town about an hour when the cavalry advance of our forces rode into it.

At Pontotoc, Col. Dickey, seeing the great inequality of numbers between his own force and that of the enemy, waited to let them pass through, which they did, without knowing that he was watching them. After Van Dorn had passed through toward the north, Colonel Dickey passed through toward the east, and kept on over to the Mobile and Ohio road, striking it at Saltillo; from that place northward he tore up the track and burned the bridges for thirty miles, making a terrible gap in that great line of communication between the South and the rebel stronghold at Chattanooga.

But to return to the Holly Springs affair:

There were enough troops in Holly Springs to have held it against the enemy if any man of courage or judgment had had command. Gen. Grant's despatch reached Col. Murphy on the evening previous to the enemy's appearance near the town. There were between five and six hundred infantry, and seven companies of the Second Illinois cavalry, as brave fellows as ever trod shoe-leather or mounted a horse, as the fighting of the infantry-guard at the depot, and the gallant dash of the Illinois cavalry through the rebel forces proves. There were also cotton-bales enough in the public square and at the depot to have barricaded every street in the town, so that the enemy's cavalry could not have charged through as they did; but the infantry had received no information of the threatened attack, and the cavalry had only very indefinite information of it. I am credibly informed that the only precautions Colonel Murphy took were to telegraph next morning to Gen. Grant for reenforcements, in the very act of which he was captured by the enemy. The troops fought literally without commanders, except their company commanders, and the Majors of the Second cavalry. I am also told that the cavalry were ordered by their own Colonel to surrender, he threatening to arrest those who were firing. This command, the cavalry refused to obey, and charged through the enemy's ranks. In their charge they lost seven men, and killed thirty of the enemy.

The movements of so large an army as this are soon known all over the country, and I have no doubt that long before this letter will reach you, you will have learned, by hook or crook, in spite of the rebels cutting off our communication with the North, that this army began falling back from its position, fifteen miles south of this place, on the day before yesterday, (Saturday.)

We, who had been endeavoring to keep ourselves thoroughly posted about the movements of the enemy, and of our own army, were surprised at the rebel raid toward Jackson. Still more surprised at their entrance into Holly Springs, but when this army, with no enemy threatening it with superior forces, in the front or on the flanks, and as it seemed then for nothing but a cavalry dash into Holly Springs. I say when, as it then seemed, for no other cause, the army began to fall back, and our own troops began passing through Oxford toward the north, we were at first worse puzzled than ever. The cause is apparent now. An army of men is none the less relieved from the necessity of eating than the individual man is, and as there is not much left that is eatable in this country, Gen. Pope's plan of subsisting on the enemy could not be put into practice here, and the supplies can come from no direction but the North. Three or four days rations are not sufficient to push on to Grenada and open the road from there to Memphis. Those who know Gen. Grant best, know, that if it could be done he would do it. The army will now probably fall back until the road to Columbus is rendered secure. With the supplies it will then get, it will be able to push on and open new lines of communication with the North.

On Saturday, the nineteenth, Gen. McArthur's division passed through town on their way southward, and on yesterday passed through again on their return. Day before yesterday every thing looked as though we should continue advancing steadily, as we have done since leaving La Grange, but yesterday the face of affairs changed. Cotton, which had begun to come in in large quantities, suddenly got a “very black eye,” as they say on 'change; sutlers began to pack up, and to-day every thing looks like taking the back-track. A very ridiculous rumor got afloat among outsiders that a tremendous army was marching up from Grenada, and a few of the cotton-buyers, who had heard of the bad fortunes of the brethren at Holly Springs became very nervous. The troubles of one nervous pair have already become a subject of fun for hundreds. They were lodging together at the hotel, and like cats slept with one eye and both ears open. They had gone to bed early with the intention of getting up in good season and leaving the town with the first division of the army. They had just dozed off in uneasy slumbers when a drum was beaten at rather an unusual hour, in some one of our distant camps. “O my Lord!” says H----, “there's the long roll! the enemy are coming sure enough! There's going to be a battle right here! What shall we do?” Both were now up on end, listening to the sound. The drum continued to roll, and as the wind carried the sound about, it came now near and loud, now faint and far, like the sound of some ghostly drum beaten by spirits in the air. Presently a stronger gust of wind brought the sound, apparently right under their window. This was too much. In an instant they were on their feet hunting distractedly in the dark for boots, pantaloons, coats, etc. H----was so “clean daft,” as the Scotch say, that he could find nothing but his coat (which contained his money) and his spurs. Some fun-loving acquaintance, or the boot-black of the hotel, if the hotel was guilty of that institution, had carried off his boots. [280] After a vain search for them, he drew on the coat, clapped the spurs on his stocking feet, and started down-stairs for his horse. “But,” says W----, “won't the guard arrest us if we are out after night without the countersign?” “Eh?” “countersign!” “guard!” and H----paused for an instant on the stairs. Just then another puff of wind brought the sound of the drum from the distant hills; that decided the matter, down-stairs they went, out to the stable, clapped on saddles and bridles, mounted horse and away, and for three miles out from the north side of Oxford, their flight from the sound of that drum was equal to Tam O'Shanter's race with the witches across the bridge.

Toward breakfast-time, not finding the road full of crowds, running away like themselves, and the woods around looking rather guerrillaish, they concluded that it would be better to show their pluck by coming back to town. Last night one of the pair, H----, determined to have more courageous company, and changed his lodging-place. On going to bed, he inquired of his room-mate if the enemy would be likely to search a man's stockings for money, in case he was captured? On being told that they probably would not think to look in them, he stowed away six thousand dollars in one of the stockings, which he took the precaution to wear on his feet during the night. In the morning he had forgotten where he had put the money, and went to a mutual friend of himself, his room-mate, with a grievous story of his room-mate having robbed him. Half an hour after his room-mate heard of it, and told him that his money was in his own stockings.

Ridiculous as the foregoing story may appear, it is all true, to which there are numbers here can attest.

W. L. F.

General Grant's order on the surrender.

headquarters Thirteenth army corps, Department of the Tennessee, Holly Springs, Miss., December 24, 1862.
special field orders, No. 23.

It is with pain and mortification that the General Commanding reflects upon the disgraceful surrender of the place, with all the valuable stores it contained, on the twentieth instant, and that without any resistance, except by a few men, who form an honorable exception; and this, too, after warning had been given of the enemy northward, the evening previous. With all the cotton, public stores and substantial buildings about the depot, it would have been perfectly practicable to have made, in a few hours, a defence sufficient to resist, with a small garrison, all the cavalry force brought against them until the reenforcements which the commanding officer was notified were marching to his relief, could have reached him.

The conduct of officers and men in accepting paroles under the circumstances is highly reprehensible, and to say the least, thoughtless. By the terms of the Dix-Hill cartel, each party is bound to take care of their prisoners and send them to Vicksburgh, or a point on the James River, for exchange, on parole, unless some other point is mutually agreed upon by the generals commanding the opposing armies.

By a refusal to be paroled, the enemy, from his inability to take care of the prisoners, would have been compelled either to have released them unconditionally, or to have abandoned further aggressive movements for the time being, which would have made their recapture, and the discomfiture of the enemy, almost certain.

The prisoners paroled at this place will be collected in camp at once by the post commander, and held under close guard until their case can be reported to Washington for further instructions.

Commanders throughout the department are directed to arrest and hold as above, all men of their commands, and all stragglers who may have accepted their paroles upon like terms.

The General Commanding is satisfied that a majority of the troops who accepted a parole did so thoughtlessly, and from want of knowledge of the cartel referred to, and that in future they will not be caught in the same way.

Surgeon Wirtz's report.

Medical Director's office, Holly Springs, Miss., Tuesday, Dec. 30, 1862.
sir: I have the honor to report that I remain ed behind the advance of the army for the purpose of establishing a large general hospital at Holly Springs. I took a building that had been built for an armory by the confederates, consisting of six large rooms, each two hundred and fifty feet long and numerous out-houses, and after three weeks of incessant labor, in which I was greatly assisted by Surgeon Powers of the Seventh Missouri infantry, I had every thing prepared for two thousand.

The Acting Medical Purveyor of the Southern portion of the department had been ordered to bring all his supplies to this hospital, which he did, and on the morning of the twentieth of December one of the most completely finished and extensive hospitals in the army was ready to receive its sick.

On that morning the town of Holly Springs was taken by the confederate forces under Gen. Van Dorn.

As soon as I discovered the enemy were in possession of the place, I repaired to the headquarters of the rebel General, near the town, and made a formal request that the armory hospital should not be burned, entering my solemn protest on the subject, as the confederates had al ready set fire to the railroad depot and a commissary store-house, and had declared their intentions to destroy all houses occupied by our troops.

I received the assurance by Gen. Van Dorn's Adjutant that the armory hospital should not be burned, but that it would be protected by a guard. Satisfied with this, I returned to my quarters, but had not been there an hour when I was informed that the building was in flames; [281] and thus this fine structure, with two thousand bunks, an immense lot of drugs and surgical apparatus, thousands of blankets, sheets and bed-sacks, was soon in ashes.

This proceeding, in violation of an express promise and of all rules of civilized warfare, is an evidence of the barbarity and want of principle in the confederate officers. But this is not all, an attempt was made to destroy the general hospital located in the main square, and which at the time contained over five hundred sick.

A quantity of ordnance stores had been deposited in a building on the next block to the hospital, and by the order of Gen. Van Dorn, as stated by the officer who had charge of the matter, the barrels of powder and boxes containing shell and cartridges, were taken out and piled up nearly in front of the hospital and set fire to.

Two medical officers protested against this wanton act, but their requests were treated with contempt, and before there was time to remove the sick the walls and windows of the hospital were riddled with flying balls and shell, and finally a terrific explosion took place, which shook the entire building, destroying almost every window and door in the establishment, wounding about twenty men, and creating a scene of the wildest confusion.

A large number of buildings on the public square took fire from the explosion, and it was only by the utmost efforts that the hospital was preserved as a shelter for the men in the night air.

Together with the medical officers who assisted me in caring for the sick and wounded on that trying day, I thought that the rebels had now done us all the harm in their power; but to injury insult was to be added, in a manner, I hope, never to witness again. A rebel cavalry officer named Brewster, who stated he had been detailed by General Van Dorn to “march off every sick man that had not been paroled,” collected together, pistol in hand, about one hundred and fifty sick soldiers, forced them to rise from their beds and fall in line, threatening to shoot the medical officer, who expostulated with him, and actually made the poor fellows, suffering from typhoid fever, pneumonia and diarrhoea, start with him on the road.

The men fell down in the street, and had to rise again for fear of being shot, when they were so weak that the slightest motion was agony. On being importuned if there was any thing in the name of humanity that could be done to induce him to stop his brutal proceedings, he finally consented to let them alone on receiving a paper signed by all the surgeons present, stating that the men were too sick to walk, and their removal was an impossibility.

I cannot speak too highly of the conduct of Dr. E. M. Powers, of the Seventh Missouri infantry, after the capture of Holly Springs. The efforts of this able and accomplished officer for the care of the sick were untiring, and from morning till night he was engaged in doing any thing that lay in his power to preserve hospital property, and make the helpless beings who were driven from their beds and shelter as comfortable as circumstances would allow. Dr. Reilly, Assistant Surgeon of the Forty-eighth Illinois infantry, also rendered great assistance by his well-directed and efficient endeavors.

H. R. Wirtz, Surgeon U. S.A., Medical Director Thirteenth Army Corps. Lieut.-Col. Jno. A. Rawlings, A. A. Gen., Gen. Grant's Headquarters.

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