1863 January 3: Raid at Holly Springs
Confederate General Earl Van Dorn thwarted Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s first attempt to capture Vicksburg, Mississippi, by attacking Grant’s supplies at Holly Springs, Mississippi, back on December 20, 1862. Colonel Robert C. Murphy—who was living in Saint Croix Falls, in Polk County, before the Civil War—was in charge of the supply depot.
This article is from the January 3, 1863, issue of The Polk County Press.
Capture of Holly Springs.
The capture of Holly Springs, Miss. by a sudden rebel dash, is another of those disgraceful surprised of which we have had quite too many since this war commenced. It appears that our soldiers were quietly asleep in their camps, and the enemy managed to evade the discovery of the pickets, and suddenly pounced upon the town, killing and wounding over two hundred of our men, and capturing some two thousand.
Col. Murphy, of the 8th Wisconsin, was in command of the post at Holly Springs, and his force consisted of the 28th, 101st and 100th Illinois regiments. The 2nd Illinois cavalry, and no artillery. Col. Murphy was tried by court martial some weeks ago, for evacuating Iuka and abandoning public stores. The court acquitted him, but Gen. Rosecrans [William S. Rosecrans], then in command in that vicinity, in reviewing the report of the court, took exceptions to its verdict, and censured the Colonel severely for his conduct.
At Coldwater, five miles this side of Holly Springs, the 90th (Col. O’Meara’s1 Irish regiment) has been on duty, and fears are entertained that the enemy have also captured them. At Waterford, eight miles south of Holly Springs two other new Illinois regiments were stationed, but we don’t know their names.
Gen. McArthur,2 with his division, was at Abbeville, 22 miles sonth [sic] of Holly Springs, and probably, on hearing of the rebel raid, immediately marched to the relief of Holly Springs.
At Grand Junction, 25 miles north of Holly Springs, Lieut. Col. McDermott,3 of the Michigan 15th, was in command of two regiments, one from Illinois and his own.
At Jackson, Tenn., Gen. Jerry Sullivan4 of Ind., was in command. At Corinth, Gen. Dodge,5 of Iowa, is commandant, and that place is now deemed stronger against an attack from the enemy than ever before.
We get these facts of the position of troops, &c., from one who has recently been there and is well posted.
1. Chicago’s 90th Illinois Infantry was organized by its commander, Colonel Timothy O’Meara. He will die the following morning from wounds received at the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25,1863.
2. John McArthur (1826-1906) was one of the ablest Union commanders in the Western Theater. At the outbreak of the Civil War, McArthur was appointed colonel of an Illinois volunteer regiment. Shortly after, he was elevated to command the 1st Brigade in Brigadier General Charles F. Smith’s division. Following Fort Donelson McArthur was promoted to brigadier general and led his brigade at the Battle of Shiloh, the siege of Corinth, and the siege of Vicksburg. His troops played a significant role in breaking the Confederate lines the second day of the Battle of Nashville, and he received a brevet promotion to major general of volunteers for his actions in that battle.
3. John McDermott was the lieutenant colonel of the 15th Michigan Infantry.
4. Jeremiah Cutler Sullivan (1830-1890) was a lawyer in Indiana, who served as a justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. Sullivan coined the name “Indianapolis” for the new state capital. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1848-1854 and was among a handful of former Navy officers who later served as infantry generals during the war.
5. Grenville Mellen Dodge (1831-1916) was a civil engineer and railroad surveyor. At the beginning of the Civil War he was appointed colonel of the 4th Iowa Infantry in July 1861. He commanded the 1st Brigade, 4th Division at the Battle of Pea Ridge, where he was wounded. He was then appointed brigadier general of volunteers and placed in command of the District of Mississippi. As the Civil War was ending in 1865, Dodge ordered the Powder River Expedition to quell Indian raids on the Bozeman Trail. After the War he became the Union Pacific Railroad’s chief engineer.