1863 January 12: “Holly Springs will be known hereafter only in History.—It is in ruins”
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.
Moscow, Tennessee, Monday
Jan. 12th, 1863
We rec’d yours of the 22nd ult on the 9th inst at Holly Springs and were right glad to hear from you once more. You say you have had no letters from us except one dated the 3rd ult. We have written you since that time 4 or 5, but it is probably some of them were destroyed when the rebels cut off our communications; and, possibly, some of yours. [paragraph break added]
You will be glad to know we are back in Tennessee. We left Lumpkins Mills in the afternoon of the 8th in a rain storm and camped at Holly Springs that night. Lay still next day till morning and the day following, till morning, when we went on to the Coldwater, 5 miles distant. The roads were perfectly awful – wagons stuck fast in the mud and some were upset, and we soldiers had as much as we could do to pick our way, — sometimes finding ourselves knee deep in mud, or down into holes or gullies. Staid [sic] one night at Coldwater,—left there yesterday morning at daylight and took the Moscow road, which was in good condition, and at here last at dark, traveling 16 miles. Our Div. only came, the other troops going on to Lagrange [sic]. Today our Regt. is on picket & R. R. guard. I and the other boys of our mess are guarding the R. R. 2½ miles west of town and I am writing to you now—I say town, but there is no town, only a few old shells and depot buildings. It is 39 miles by R. R. to Memphis. Some of the troops that were here are now marching to that place, and our Div. commanded by Lauman,¹ expects to follow ere long. We shall get full rations now, —have had but half gov. rations for 3 weeks—here come the cars loaded with supplies, so I guess we shall not want for them longer, and, by the way, I’ll say the boys have just killed a nice porker.
Holly Springs will be known here after [sic] only in History.—It is in ruins. The rebels burned the extensive depot buildings and foundry, all the public buildings & those containing supplies & our troops destroyed all the splendid mansions and together we made a “clean sweep.” One night there was a provost guard of 4 Regts, but a fire would break out every few minutes. Our own Regt. had a hand in, also we enjoyed the conflagration and consider we had a perfect right so to do. We found almost every thing in the buildings and we laid in a supply. O you should have witnessed what a rush the boys made for the tobacco, in particular. I did not feel disposed to get any of that, but I wish you had the spirits, oils & varnishes I saw in a cellar. It was common to see half cooked vituals [sic] in the houses, pianos, and other furniture, left. I think this is the way to serve these big places.
The country where our army has been is perfectly desolate. I do not see what this campaign has amounted to except carrying off the cotton & the niggers & making the country a wilderness. Some blame Grant and others approve. I approve, but I expected more. The next move , it is thought, will be on Vicksburgh [sic]. Well Rosecrans [William S. Rosecrans] has used up Bragg [Braxton Bragg] and is doing well. I wish we had some other man than Grant [Ulysses S. Grant], but he may be all right, as it is. It is said he did just what has been done, purposely, —went as far as intended, but if that is the way, the right way, so whi_ I should much rather fight. I have and read the paper of the 8th inst. and learned what is going on. There is some talk of Hurlburt’s [sic: Stephen A. Hurlbut] assuming command of the 4th Div. but I am not I am not aware there is any certainty about it. [paragraph break added]
Where is Homer Loomis² & where is Ellsworth Burnett,² & where is Uncle Edwin?
Jan. 15th. I will now try to finish this. We carried a lot of fresh beef into camp yesterday. We had not eaten our dinner when marching orders came & we were soon on our way to Lafayette, 9 miles on the Memphis road. On arriving there we received orders to countermarch. It was near dark & we camped one mile back. It rained very hard that night & all day yesterday & this morning there is 3 inches of snow. I never saw such roads as I saw yesterday. In many places the mud was knee deep & very slippery in other places. The water ran like a torrent through the gullies & hollows, & wagons were frequently upset & broken and mules were up to their backs nearly in water. Our own wagon was tipped over into the water & twice it had to be unloaded. It rained hard all the time. It was the worst day I was ever out. Every thing was soaked with water. You know now what we were doing—drying our clothes. I do not know what we went down there for. Some say Logan’s Div. [John A. Logan] was at that place & received marching orders to Memphis & started & came back again, consequently we went to take their place till further orders. Logan coming back, we had to go back too. There were as many troops at Memphis as could be shipped in ten days & they did not want us there just yet. Another story is somebody felled a free on the telegraph wire & broke it & danger was apprehended. Another is that the telegraphic operator was drunk. We were all day getting back. It will use up a good many I fear. I have no fears for ourselves. If as our name seems to indicate, we have any French blood in us, & as I am inclined to think, we have & as our name indicates, then we are all right for I know we can stand as much as any body most. I don’t mean to brag; nor am I, but there are many who will break down under such usage. We are 1 mile west of Moscow now, & I guess they won’t cat haul us about any more for sometime at least. I hope so. The officers did not like the march any more than the privates, I noticed—all got __wed alike.
Night before last we received two letters, one from our Ill. cousins, & yours of the 22nd having been received as I told you. There is no news except that Rosecrans has whipped out Bragg again. How is the winter. How many cows do you milk & have you plenty of fodder for them. I think we shall have to go to Vickburgh [sic], if so, we shall get all we shall want of fight. We can’t do much here that is certain. It is still snowing very hard & it is very disagreeable. I guess I’ll stop. Excuse this miserably written & miserably composed letter for I am in a hurry & am cold & must get warm. So good by for to day. Write us soon.
Co A, 12 R. W. V.
3rd Brig. 4th Div
1. Jacob Gartner Lauman (1813-1867) was a businessman in Burlington, Iowa, before the Civil War. He helped raise several companies and was commissioned as the colonel of the 7th Iowa Infantry. He was severely wounded at the Battle of Belmont (November 7, 1861). He was then appointed to lead the 4th Brigade of the 2nd Division at the attack on Fort Donelson. General Grant promoted him to brigadier general in March 1862 and he subsequently lead a brigade in General Hurlbut’s division. In 1863 Lauman led the 4th Division of the 17th Corps during the Vicksburg campaign, but was relieved of duty by General William T. Sherman shortly after the capture of Jackson, Mississippi. He returned home for the rest of the war without being given a subsequent command.
2. Homer Loomis (from Hustisford) was in Company I of the 7th Wisconsin Infantry and had been taken prisoner on August 8, 1862. Ellsworth Burnett (from River Falls) was in Company A of the new 30th Wisconsin Infantry, still in training in Madison at this time.