Thursday, February 17, 2005

Markers expected in place for Pilgrimage
Staff Writer

The set of eight interpretive markers that will comprise a walking tour relative to Confederate Gen. Earl Van Dorn’s Raid on Grant’s troops in Holly Springs will be dedicated during the annual Pilgrimage in April, according to tourism director Jimmy Thomas.

The markers were designed with the help of the Blue and Gray Educational Society out of Danville, Virginia, he said. Donations from local patrons and Civil War buffs living in New York, Texas, Tennessee, and New Jersey paid for the project, Thomas said.

Research and authentication of the historical accuracy of the facts on the markers were provided by historian, Gen. Parker Hills, a retired brigadier general and authority on the Union’s famous Vicksburg Campaign.

Thomas said some of the names of individuals who donated money for the plaques will be on the markers and others will not.

“The idea behind the project is that there is only one historic marker here in town - the one on the courthouse square - that says anything at all about Van Dorn’s Raid,” said Thomas. “Most people don’t realize the importance of Van Dorn’s Raid; it delayed the falling of Vicksburg by over a year.

“Hopefully, next year when they put out the official state tourism guide, these will be included as a part of the Civil War Trail beginning with the raid of Corinth in October and the raid of Holly Springs in December 1862.”

The eight markers will provide both text descriptions of Van Dorn’s Raid as well as art work depicting Union and Confederate generals involved in the fray and drawings of important sites.

“The interesting thing is we have a photo of Gen. Robert Murphy with the Union forces,” Thomas said.

He said many legends exist telling similar or differing versions of the Van Dorn Raid.

“The information on these plaques are all accurate facts,” he said. “When the Blue and Gray Education Society puts their logo on it, they’ve done the research and can back up what is on the marker.

The walking tour consists of eight stops:

  • Stop 1 tells the struggle to control the Mississippi River. Confederate troops attempted to disrupt Gen. U.S. Grant’s planned two-pronged offensive on Vicksburg—one via the Mississippi River and Memphis approach; the other over land to control the railroads by pushing down out of Tennessee into north Mississippi beginning at Corinth. Union troops were staging material supplies for the over-land push to Vicksburg in Holly Springs.
  • Stop 2 relates the details of Van Dorn’s Raid. Markers 1 and 2 will be installed side-by-side on the courthouse lawn at the southwest corner of the square.
  • Stop 3 will be installed at Airliewood, a home used as a headquarters by Grant and his troops briefly during the winter of 1862. The story of cavalry engagements north of Airliewood near the present day site of Holy Family School will be included in this marker.
  • Stop 4 will be located at Salem Avenue bridge, the area of the approach Van Dorn and his troops made to Holly Springs from that area.
  • Stop 5 is located at the Railroad Depot and contains the history of the train yard and site of material warehousing by Union troops.
  • Stop 6 is at Tyson’s Corner where Confederate troops coming west on Van Dorn engaged Union troops at that corner of the square. The corner post at Tyson’s Drugs is said to have been hit by gunfire.
  • Stop 7 is at the Hugh Craft House, headquarters to Union Col. Robert Murphy.
  • Stop 8 is located at Walter Place, one of the residences of the U.S. Grant family while he was in Holly Springs.

Parker Hill has been invited to speak at the dedication of the walking tour and markers set for April 16, Thomas said. Also expected to be present are some Civil War re-enactors and a group performing music played during the period.

The site for the dedication ceremonies has not been selected, Thomas said.

In May, the Blue and Gray Educational Society will return for the second year to Holly Springs as a part of a new tour of Nathan B. Forrest’s raid on West Tennessee and of Gen. Van Dorn’s raid on Holly Springs and various other small battle sites in Oxford, Coffeeville and Grenada.

The program will be headquartered at Hampton Inn in Holly Springs this year.

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