1862 November 6: “All the troops in Bolivar started for Holly Springs, Miss.”
Edwin Levings describes a small skirmish that took place on November 6, 1862, at La Grange, Tennessee, between Confederate General Earl Van Dorn’s pickets and Union General William T. Sherman’s advancing column. Sherman’s forces reoccupied La Grange on November 7, while Van Dorn deemed it advisable to withdraw from Holly Springs, Mississippi.¹
The original letter is in the Edwin D. Levings Papers (River Falls Mss BO), in the University Archives and Area Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
Lagrange [sic] Tenn. Nov 6th 1862
You perceive we have moved and I avail myself of the first opportunity to write you for I know you find it hard to wait long. We wrote you Sunday and said we had marching orders. At half past eight o’clock Monday morning all the troops in Bolivar started for Holly Springs, Miss. The boys were in exhuberant [sic] spirits and felt confident of a decisive victory over the rebels. Our force is about 20,000, Sherman with 20,000 more has joined us on the right, and 30,000 more from Corinth have come, swelling our numbers to 70,000. This is the current report here and probably not far from the truth, for Grant’s [Ulysses S. Grant] whole available force is along, comprising quite a number of new Regiments. We took 3 days rations in our haversacks and 2 in the wagons, not our blankets. We are on Wolf Creek in the bottoms, waiting till provisions arrive and the completion of a R. R. bridge so that the cars can come through. We are south of town ½ mile and 3 miles north west of Grand Junction. Lagrange is a beautiful little place, but it is desolate of men — the women, when we marched through the place, kept themselves for the most part out of sight — occasionally you would see them looking through the blinds or peeking at you round the corners of the houses. Our Cavalry met the rebel advance guard, and drove them off. 15 rebel pickets were at the bridge near our camp and fired nine rounds at the cavalry, but they shot clear over their heads, every time. The Cavalry wounded one of them severely and captured 4. The 2nd Ark. rebel Regt was encamped then only 2 miles ahead, but skedaddled immediately—they did not know we were coming, till then. [paragraph break added]
We have killed ever so many hogs and fat cows running about the woods and of sweet potatoes there are thousands of bushels which the rebels had dug and put in large piles intending to carry them off. Corn in large quantities is piled up. Talk about the rebels starving! I do not believe it. I never saw so much corn in my life as I have seen in Tenn. There are exceptions it is true, where every thing is stripped, but this locality can hardly be classed as one. I went out yesterday with Homer & other boys and we got a whole beeve² just for killing and dressing. Cheap isn’t it? So did many others. [paragraph break added]
The roads are dusty, but the weather is as fine as could be desired for a campaign. The water here is the best we have had in the State. Price [Sterling Price] is at Holly Springs 25 miles south. We shall move forward to attack him as soon as supplies reach us—that propitious day, Sunday, will probably be the day of attack. There is a great scarcity of water for the next 20 miles and we expect we shall have to contest every inch to get to it. We have got some big siege guns along and a large number of field pieces, so he will not find us unprepared, but we hear he has 70,000 men and is strongly intrenched. Well this does not scare us. If God wills, we shall thrash the rebels this time so that they can not recover and I trust He will so grant, but no man knows future events. We can only speculate calculate and trust at most. A big battle awaits us that is certain or else I greatly mistake the signs of the time. [paragraph break added]
Tuesday, the day of Wis. elections, the boys cast their votes. The scene was an interesting one and I thought very significant—the soldiers voting as they were just ready to fall into line to march to the place of the coming conflict, voting, as I know the majority did, for the prosecution of the war till rebellion is at an end, for their homes and fire-sides and for the Union, and its flag. Hanchett received every vote in our Company, that is of all that were present, 50. C. B. Cox, A. Gibson, Winn, A. H. Young & Brown received the a
majority of votes also . I do not know as I voted as I should had I been at home. I voted for Hanchett, Cox, Winn, Young, Gibson, and Short, only Short got two votes, Cox 19, Gibson 17, I think. The vote withal was a shabby one for A Company.³ [paragraph break added]
Well, Dear Parents, I have told you all the news, so I must close. Homer is out after sweet potatoes. We are in Col. Johnson’s4 (of the 28 Ill.) Brigade. You must not worry about us. I do not know what to say to you. We are in God’s hands and I know of no other consolation but Him. To Him we must go and lay our pleas before Him. May He prepare us for all that awaits us and save us unworthy and sinful as we are in His Kingdom above. This may be our last letter, but I hope not. May His blessing rest upon you is my prayer, and we all be enabled to say “thy will be done.” Direct Via Cairo and Bolivar.
Edwin D. Levings
Co A, 12th Regt.
1. La Grange, Tennessee, is situated on the bluffs overlooking the Wolf River 23 miles north of Holly Springs, Mississippi. The Memphis and Charleston Railroad ran through La Grange, continuing to Grand Junction three miles to the east, where it turned sharply south towards Corinth, Mississippi. For more details on La Grange in the Civil War, see Alethea D. Sayers’ “La Grange, Tennessee: A Chronology of Civil War Events.”
2. Beeve is plural for beef.
3. Vote totals for Company A of the 12th Wisconsin Infantry will be published in next week’s Prescott Journal.
4. Amory K. Johnson was the colonel of the 28th Illinois Infantry and commander of the 3rd Brigade.