Thursday, June 4, 2009
Wars we have had
Since I missed writing about Memorial Day this is a post script of remembrance of all our veterans that Holly Springs and Marshall County have furnished down through the last 17 decades. We have had soldier boys for at least 10 wars.
It all began before Holly Springs and Marshall County were formed. In 1835 there was the Alamo in Texas. A man named Micajah Autry was a fallen hero there. He was from North Carolina and to this day, his hometown in North Carolina celebrates Micajah Autry Day! His son moved from North Carolina in 1837 to Holly Springs and brought his mother with him. They lived on Van Dorn Avenue across from the Catholic Church and are buried in Hill Crest at the west gate by the dead tree. They have an imposing tombstone that stands close to the dead ghost tree and I hope the tree doesn’t fall on the beautiful tombstone. Micajah’s son, James Autry joined the Confederacy and was in line to become a general. On the day his commission arrived he was killed in the Battle of Atlanta.
In 1845 when the Mexican War began, there was a huge contingent of volunteers from here. “The Holly Springs Gazette” announced in about an inch of space on the second page about the war beginning. They formed a volunteer company, called “The Marshall Guards.” They drilled up and down the streets of Holly Springs, with the whole town cheering them on. The unit named their rifles after their ladies. I don’t know how many were killed, died of sickness or were wounded. When they returned home in 1847, the men laid down their arms for a fourteen-year intermission while the stage was being set for the “War Between the States.” It was during this creative time that Holly Springs really built and grew and developed.
The War Between the States began in January of 1861. Several units of soldiers were formed here in Holly Springs including Bill Clinton’s ancestors, recruits Baum and Blythe, I think they were from Ripley. They are buried here also. The account says of the young boys signing up that they were a joyous, jolly set of boys joining the 90-Day War to whip the Yankees. They were all volunteers. They, too, marched through the same streets of Holly Springs with crowds cheering them on. The most famous unit was the 17th Mississippi Infantry which was organized here and was sent to Pensacola to train for war for two weeks, then sent to Virginia where they thought all the war would be fought. The 17th was in nearly every battle in Northern Virginia from 1st Manassas or Bull Run, as the Confederates called it, until Appomattox, the end of the war in April 1865. Only 35 fragmented men were left of the 17th at the end of the war out of hundreds. Today in Canada, there is a re-enactment group who call themselves “The Immortal 17th Mississippi Infantry.”
Holly Springs and Marshall County were famous for furnishing 11 bonafide generals for the war (Mississippi only produced twenty-eight), plus seven adjutant generals in the state militia, plus nine members of the Confederate Congress were from this little bitty town. Sixty-two skirmishes were fought here. Sixty-four thousand men from Grant’s army were here. General U.S. Grant chose Holly Springs for his headquarters. He couldn’t get the Mississippi River but Holly Springs had a railroad and he was after it. During Van Dorn’s Raid on the town, December 20, 1862, the troops again marched through these streets. Early that morning ladies were hanging out windows, or standing on porches in their gowns, with their long hair flowing in the breeze cheering the Confederates on. One of Van Dorn’s men wrote about it saying it was the most beautiful vision he had ever seen and it stayed with him forever. All the men went to war except one, who stayed behind to guard the ladies and all the ladies were Southern spies.
In the war of 1898 Teddy Roosevelt charged up that hill in San Juan Hill in Cuba. That war only lasted eight months. I only knew one veteran from that war and that was Edgar William Custer, father of Lawrence, Edward, Hazel, Ethyl and others. Custer was on a troop train going through here, got off, met Lena Vandingburg and was shot in the heart by cupid. He came back here and married Lena and lived with her happily for the next six or seven decades.
Then there was World War I which lasted from 1914 until 1918. It was the war to end all wars! (ha). The United States didn’t enter until the last year of the war. John Lester from here (remember the Lester children?) was the first American prisoner of war of the Germans and they paraded John through the streets of Germany as a captured prize. They didn’t have much food and they fed him chocolate (that may be my kind of diet!)
On December 7, 1941, the world changed. It was a calm, mundane. Undescript Sunday. My father came home that Sunday afternoon and announced, “The Japanese have attacked us at Pearl Harbor!” I remember asking, “Where is Pearl Harbor?” This war included women in the service and touched the whole world. Someone local was in here last week and said he watched Mussolini and his woman being hanged upside down in Italy. There should be a whole book about World War II from here. Now the veterans are dying every day by the dozens. This war homogenized the world. Again the streets of Holly Springs were parading World War II soldiers on bivouac from Camp McCain. They would come here to get onto the troop trains to be shipped off to war. There was no air conditioning and the soldiers would hang out the windows. It was so sad but I remember it vividly. John Dabney Brown is a living hero because he was captured by the Germans and we didn’t know what had happened to him. The whole town prayed hard for him and he came home safe and sound and is still living. Southern people moved north for employment in defense plants. Rationing changed our way of life as sugar, meat, coffee were rationed, as well as gasoline. There were no new tires as rubber was imported from somewhere else so it was patch and re-patch; there were no rubber balls for the baby. Ten gallons of gas a month was about it for most people.
The local USO for entertainment was in a room over Levy’s Store. Food was donated and so was a piano. Local belles provided entertainment. That was fun. Oleo margarine was invented to replace butter.
Then there was the Korean War following swiftly on the end of World War II. We furnished another generation of soldiers for it. Then the Vietnam War followed. Bill Moore was in that one and we are thankful he got home again. Desert Storm followed. Next and now is the war with Iraq. At the museum we have artifacts from ten wars but none from the last. The oldest thing we have in the museum is a uniform from the War of 1812 where that grandpa fought in the Battle of New Orleans with Andrew Jackson, after the war was over because communication was so slow.
We need volunteers for the move to the old magnificent building as we are beginning to move this week.
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