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150 Years Ago: Thursday, November 13, 1862


Chaplain John Eaton
Source: Library of Congress

John Eaton had attended theological school shortly before the war, had enlisted as a Chaplain in the 27th Ohio Infantry and is currently camped at Grand Junction, Tennessee. Eaton learns that he is being put in charge of black slave refugees from Western Tennessee and Northern Mississippi and seeks out U.S. Major General Ulysses S. Grant, hoping to be excused from the assignment. Grant explains that part of his plan is to satisfy the demands of military necessity and the dictates of mere humanity. But Grant also believes that many whites believe that blacks will not work of their own free will; Grant’s experience has led him to believe otherwise. He believes the best way to counter racist stereotypes is to provide concrete examples of how freed blacks would respond to the opportunity. Eaton will later write of the experience:

“No language can describe the effect of this order upon me. Never in the entire army service, through the whole war, during imprisonment or in the midst of battles with the roar of cannon in my ears, amid the horrors of the hospital or in facing my own exposure to assassination, do I recall such a shock of surprise, amounting to consternation, as I experienced when reading this brief summons to undertake what seemed to me an enterprise beyond the possibility of human achievement. I retired to my cot and drew the blankets round me, – not to sleep, but to think it out alone. It was useless to question what I meant or what my future was to be.”

Eaton’s first priority is to organize camps and put the refugees to work, starting with the harvesting of corn and cotton that was left on nearby deserted plantations. While the refugees will not be paid directly, the money obtained from their labor efforts will be allocated and spent on them for their benefit when it comes to housing, clothing, food and education.

Twenty-five miles southwest in the small railroad town of Holly Springs, Mississippi, C.S.A. Lieutenant General John C. Pemberton comes to the conclusion that his 30,000 men cannot continue to defend their position against the amount of troops (50,000+) that Grant is gathering nearby. Pemberton decides to move 20 miles south to Abbeville, located along the Tallahatchie River. He leaves behind a regiment of cavalry to guard his rear.

As luck would have it, U.S. Colonel Albert Lee of the 7th Kansas Cavalry arrives at Holly Springs at daylight. Lee and his men are met with enemy fire, though most of the Confederates flee through the streets of town rather than engaging them in a battle. Lee takes the town along with 100 prisoners, though most are sick and wounded Confederates that are left behind at a hospital. Lee sends some of his men south in pursuit but finds the Rebels regrouped seven miles south with five regiments and artillery; Lee doesn’t engage them.

Holly Springs, Mississippi
Source: Harpers Weekly

It’s a minor affair but it does provide Grant with valuable information: that the Confederate army is behind the Tallahatchie River and that the railroad tracks from Grand Junction to Holly Springs are in working condition. Unfortunately Holly Springs is further south than Grant wants to be at the moment and orders Lee to withdraw closer to his position. Grant has his sights set on taking the strategic Mississippi River town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, but will wait until he has all of his men together before moving towards his destination. He finally has permission from Major General Henry Halleck to proceed with moving forces for this purpose.

Forty miles southwest of Washington City, U.S. Corporal Elisha Hunt Rhodes has been on the move with his fellow men from Company D of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteer Infantry under the direction of General Ambrose Burnside. Today they settle in New Baltimore, Virginia, a “lonesome little village at the foot of the hill” of which they are camped. Rhodes notes the abandoned rebel forts in the distance.

In Memphis, Tennessee, U.S. Major General William T. Sherman has receives orders from Grant that he is to move just south across the border into Mississippi. He issues orders to his men on the command structure and on the incorporation of fresh troops into five brigades. He closes by stating:

“The commanding general expects all officers now to vie with each other in the display of soldierly zeal, for all have now had most valuable experience under all the circumstances to which soldiers are usually exposed. Let all marches and military movements be conducted in compact, good order, in cheerfulness and silence, and honor and fame will be our certain reward.”

The Governor of Texas, Francis Lubbock, has been a very strong supporter of the conscription laws that draft men into service for the Confederate cause. This also includes enlisting the services of slaves, who serve as cooks and laborers. The State of Texas has over fifty regiments in service consisting of approximately 50,000 men, most of which are in locations outside of the state. Most of the men took their own arms with them, as the Confederacy had few to provide. With a population of 421,000 free men/women and 182,000 slaves, Lubbock feels challenged to provide an additional 2,000 troops that C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis requested back in September. He writes to Davis, asking him to let his men stay in Texas until Spring:

“We have an immense frontier and sea country to look after both of which, is now seriously threatened with invasion. May I hope under the circumstances that you will for the present suspend the enforcement of the new conscript law within our state. The Commanding Genl has called upon me for for 2000 state troops for the defense of the state and if the new for a short period I am busily engaged raising them, should the new laws be imposed I do not believe I can get them. There is a feverish anxiety pervading the Public Mind as to what may happen here this winter. We appear to the allegedly being assaulted on the coast by the enemies Gun Boats and marauding parties; if nothing more formidable invasion is expected on our Northern Border When recently great outrages here have been committed by Indians and Jay Hawkes, as also the discovery of many from Territory. Many believe that we will be invaded from the West; under these circumstances our People are really uneasy. They all will leave home poorly provided with arms and ammunition; hence the great reluctance to see any more men leave the state at this time. I have at all times and on all occasions assisted in sending men out of the State to scenes of war action and I dislike now to admit that we should send no more.I am however of the opinion that the men in Texas should be permitted to remain here until next Spring, and if by that time necessity should require Texas to furnish an additional number I feel safe in saying that her people will be ready to respond. The permitting of so many new organizations since the passage of the Conscription law has done much harm and I assure you that unless Regts are consolidated the old ones can never be filled up.”

Lubbock closes with a plea for arms, even if it’s the return of arms that were “taken off his men”, so they can better defend the state.

About thecivilwarproject

Like many others, I have a passion for the Civil War era, and for decades have chosen to spend my much of free time researching this topic - particularly the people, as the human component is what I find most fascinating. The site is not a source of revenue for me, nor is it tied in with a company or individual behind the scenes. It is my own personal venture. It is because of this genuine bond of respect and affection I feel towards this period in our history that I created "The Civil War Project." If this is your first time visiting the site, I welcome you and thank you for your interest. If you have any feedback or questions, please feel free to contact me at thecivilwarproject@yahoo.com.

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