Thursday, August 25, 2011
Important Civil War documents found
By SUE WATSON
Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs Inc. has purchased a historic Civil War document to add to its collection of artifacts related to historic events and sites in Holly Springs and Marshall County, according to Chelius H. Carter.
The document is an order from Union General Hurlibut, commander of the garrison at Fort Pickering in Memphis, Tenn., ordering the arrest of one of his own men, Col. Robert C. Murphy, for his alleged failure to protect the Union supply depot in Holly Springs. The depot was torched by a group of Confederate cavalry under the leadership of General Earl Van Dorn and has become known as the “Van Dorn Raid” on Holly Springs.
The following information was provided by Carter using the Q. & A. format.
Q. So preserve MC&HS purchased the document from whom?
A. It was purchased from Tim Lurz, a dealer/collector in historic ephemera. With the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of the Civil War now in progress, we wanted a feature on this important Civil War document that recently surfaced. Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc. arranged for its private purchase and it is now in Holly Springs. This is the original 4 January 1863 arrest warrant issued for Col. Robert C. Murphy at Fort Pickering in Memphis, Tennessee. This is directly linked to Van Dorn’s 20 December 1862 raid on Holly Springs, Mississippi, as Murphy was faulted by General U.S. Grant for failing to adequately provide protection for his vital supply depot, here in Holly Springs.
Q. Where will it be on display?
A. As there is no Sesquicentennial Committee for Holly Springs, there are no immediate plans to display this. It was more important to obtain it now and, hopefully, a public exhibit noting the 150th anniversary of Van Dorn’s Raid will be planned.
Q. To which regiment of the Union Army was Murphy attached?
A. Col. Robert C. Murphy was the original commander of the U.S. 8th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, “Old Abe Regt.” On detached service under Gen. U.S. Grant he was assigned as commandant of the Holly Springs garrison, charged with protecting Grant’s supply depot here for his planned investment of Mississippi.
Q. Where was Murphy from?
A. He was originally from St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.
Q. Was Col. Murphy in charge of protecting the Union supplies at the railroad depot in Holly Springs – in fact – or is this supposition?
A. Col. Murphy was the commandant of Holly Springs’ Union garrison, which was charged with protecting Grant’s supply depot here in Holly Springs. His headquarters were set up in the Hugh Craft House. (The Hugh Craft House is currently owned by Chelius Carter.)
Q. Was Murphy, in fact, arrested?
A. Col. Murphy was indeed arrested when his train from Holly Springs reached Memphis, on his way home to Wisconsin (at Grant’s urging) for a period of rest.
Q. Where was Murphy taken to court to answer these charges?
A. This is a question that others such as Dan Kennerly of Texas or Tom Parsons of Corinth can better answer. I know that Murphy was held under house arrest within the confines of Fort Pickering for around two weeks. I do not think he was allowed to engage a lawyer. (We get into Military Tribunals here, which I know little of their legal system. There is a similar problem in the current news.)
From this document, Murphy was arrested on 5 January 1863 and Grant cashiered (dismissed) him from military service on 10 January 1863 with an order that nullified any actions by Col. Murphy – backdated to 20 December 1862, thus ending his military career.
During the war, President Abraham Lincoln made an effort to rehabilitate Murphy’s military record but Grant refused to allow the reopening of the inquiry. I have documents of some of his (Murphy’s) veterans writing to clear their former commanding officer's record as late as the 1880s. Grant refused all efforts until his death in 1883.
Q. What was Murphy’s final fate? Did he survive the Civil War and go home?
A. He returned to Wisconsin for a time and moved to the East Coast and died in Washington, D.C., a broken man, years after the war. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. I attach a link to a nice, but brief, article about “Old Abe” and the 8th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment.
The Capt. Dawes cited in that article is the same “Major Dawes” who was captured on the front hall steps of the Hugh Craft House by some of Gen. Van Dorn's Confederates, an event well-described by Helen Craft, a young teenage girl at the time.
Q. Does Preserve MC&HS have any other memorabilia in its collection that is noteworthy of mention? Does Preserve MC&HS look for similar artifacts?
A. PMC&HS is actively looking for any local memorabilia that is directly associated with Van Dorn’s Raid. And, we are particularly interested in locating any memorabilia that is directly related to Chalmers Institute – artifacts, letters, records, photographs of former students and/or faculty, original diplomas or any records that may exist from Chalmers Institute’s tenure from 1843-1879 or from its predecessor institution, the University of Holly Springs, 1837-1843.
We have other documents relating to Holly Springs, during the Civil War – such as the evacuation of the C.S. Armory (Confederate States Armory) in Holly Springs the day after Memphis fell to Union forces.
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