Edwin Squires – March to Holly Springs, Mississippi, December 1862

At the river, St. Louis, MO

When Company E left Cairo, Illinois for Memphis it was on the  packet White Cloud. This is a picture of the river at St. Louis with all the timberclads, steamships and packets loading and unloading troops and supplies. Most of the port cities on the Mississippi looked like this with movement of soldiers and supplies during the Civil War. In 1849 a fire erupted at the port in St. Louis and most of the ships including the original White Cloud and about 4 blocks of businesses and home were destroyed. Cost of the destruction was $5,000,000.

The second White Cloud was a 345 ton sidewheeler built in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In 1857 the homeport for the White Cloud was St. Louis. After service in the Civil War the White Cloud was destroyed in an ice squeeze at St. Louis.

Enfield Rifle

The Enfield Rifle

The 33rd Regiment of Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers were fitted with the Enfield Rifle. It was a musket, with ramrod and bayonet. The writings of Arthur Robinson talk about using either the bayonet or the ramrod to cook their bacon or hold their cup of coffee over the fire to cook.

Bell Tent

This is an example of a bell tent. Arthur Robinson describes the men of Company E  “divided into twelve messes of eight men to a tent and paired off in two’s as bunkmates.”

In the words of Arthur Robinson from his Memorandum and Anecdotes of the Civil War  here is what the men of Company E faced after the skirmish at Coldwater and on the march to Holly Springs in 1862. Holly Springs, Mississippi was the camp where Union supplies were stored in Major General Ulysses S. Grants strategic plan to take over Vicksburg.

“On December 2d we were ordered to strike camp and be ready to march by 7 A.M.; were issued two days’ rations and cartridges to fill our cartridge box, 40 rounds, with 20 rounds extra, and at 7 o’clock we were on the road, leading south-east toward Holly Springs, Miss. We marched probably fifteen miles that day and camped that night at Pleasant Valley, a large Baptist school on the Tallahatchie river. We had barely gone into camp when the long roll was beat and we hustled to our guns, when the rebel cavalry came dashing in on us, and run right through our camp, but with no great damage to us, only upsetting a few cans of coffee that had been placed on our fires, “one of Forest’s daredevil raids.” We gave them a parting volley as they passed. We had not stationed our pickets when they made their charge, but we gave them a warm reception. This was the first time we had met with such a surprise, and we were a lot of excited boys for a short time, a feeling that is hard to describe, “something like an ague shake.” We soon got down to business again, preparing our evening meal and eating it with as much relish as if nothing occurred to disturb us out of the ordinary. On the morning of December 3d we were on the march by 4 o’clock for Holly Springs. During the night there had been a dispatch by courier that Forest had captured the place and burned the army stores there, and was tearing up the railroad tracks. We were put through on a forced march and arrived at about 4 P.M., to find the place evacuated. They had plundered the camp and torn up about two miles of railroad between Holly Springs and Grand Junction. They had gone in the direction of Grand Junction. Pap Thomas’ cavalry was in hot pursuit. We camped at Holly Springs and repaired the railroad and garrisoned the place. I was detailed for picket duty that night and nearly froze while on my post. It had turned cold, with rain. Our rations were about exhausted and the track torn up. Forest had burned all the supplies at Holly Springs, and the country had been stripped of everything for miles by both the rebels and our army.

We were put on quarter rations until supplies could be brought from Memphis. The morning of the 4th there was a forage train sent out to procure feed for the mules. Stafford was on the detail from our mess. They were sent to the south of Holly Springs to a large plantation on the Tallahatchie. A negro had reported that the old planter had an abundance of corn and provender secreted, and had described the place as to finding everything, but would not go with the boys for fear of his life. There were 200 men detailed to guard the train, and they soon found everything as the negro had reported and came back to camp with a full load and plenty. Stanford was a good forager and our mess was well supplied with chicken, goose, yellow yams and corn cakes.We had gone into an old, deserted camp, and it was only a few days until our boys were infested with vermin and disease, which took five of our company in a very short time. Rafe Stafford, my bunk mate, was the first. Poor boy, he was taken with dysentary and died within a week after our arrival at Holly Springs. Charles Smith, Nat Goodwin and two of our Norwegian boys were all buried within twenty days. Brother Hiram was very sick and I feared that he would be next, but he pulled through, by my careful nursing. We were barely over with dysentery when the smallpox broke out. Joe Hall, of our company, was the first to come down with it. Very fortunately it did not spread in the regiment. His tent was left under quarantine and our camp was moved some distance and only one other of our company had been exposed. Brainard Rider, who remained and nursed Hall through his sickness. The rainy season had set in and the red clay hills of Mississippi were a perfect bog. There were many of the boys sick with chills and fever, dysentery or the jaundice, and there was not a day passed while we remained at Holly Springs that there was not some poor boy of our regiment buried and it cast a gloom over the whole camp.”

The 33rd Regiment lost a total of 202 men during the Civil War. 3 Officers and 30 enlisted were killed; 2 officers and 167 enlisted – died from disease.

More later on their march to Vicksburg.

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