Thursday, February 28, 2013
Civil War parapets near old bridge not in danger
By SUE WATSON
Eight parapets, once used for Union cannons near the Tallahatchie River on Highway 7 South, will not be endangered by the construction of a new bridge.
Archeologist John Underwood, with the Mississippi Department of Transportation, recently visited the site of the eight parapets that are located off Old Oxford Road. He assured local Civil War buffs the historic structures will not be harmed.
A Federal Highway Administration project, the new bridge will be built and the old one with its truss will be taken down.
Completion of the environmental work for the new bridge will begin in 2013, to be followed by the design of the project, right-of-way acquisition and, finally, construction. The highway and old bridge will remain open until the new bridge and highway approaches are completed.
The new highway will be built to the 500-year flood stage and parallel the current one. The railroad and railroad bridge will not be affected. The bridge will be located just west of the current one built in 1953 and part of the approach to the boat ramp will be taken up for the approach which will begin near Abbeville.
Lois Swaney Shipp, curator of the Marshall County Historical Museum, said she was interested in preserving the hand-built parapets, not in the acquisition of the historic bridge and truss which MDOT offered to relocate, since the bridge is considered a historic landmark.
Underwood said the National Preservation Laws of 1969 require the state to take into consideration the significance of any bridge built 50 years ago or earlier. If there are no takers, the old three-span bridge will be taken down.
National Register accounts
The Civil War Earthworks at the Tallahatchie Crossing were described in June 1973 as in excellent condition. The Union army built the artillery parapets in 1862 for seven guns and infantry trenches flanked these. A two-gun position about 150 yards to the north completed the Union artillery positions.
Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson had headquarters and a main camp in an open field north of the two-gun battery position. It is thought that only nine pieces of artillery cannon were mounted behind the parapets. Others may have been mounted with cotton bale fortifications. The road from Holly Springs to Oxford was moved east when Highway 7 was built, leaving the old roadbed (Old Oxford Road) in its original state.
In December 1862, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant launched an offensive against Vicksburg after a naval assault on the city had failed. Grant established a supply depot for his movements over land toward Vicksburg in Holly Springs, stockpiling over a million dollars in war material,
On December 2, 1862, Gen. William Sherman was moving forces down the Mississippi River toward Vicksburg while Grant launched a Federal offensive inland toward Vicksburg from Holly Springs to Oxford. Grant attempted to use the Mississippi Central Railroad to block Confederate war material from reaching Vicksburg.
McPherson was to secure the 30-mile stretch from Holly Springs to Oxford. He had secured his headquarters on the north bank of the Tallahatchie. He was to protect engineers with his forces while they rebuilt the river bridge. He had 20 field pieces of artillery and four heavy pieces of artillery.
Union Brig. Gen. John A. Loglan with 9,575 men were encamped on the north bank of the Tallahatchie.
On December 20, 1862, Confederate cavalry led by Maj. Gen. Earl Van Dorn stormed the Union stockpile in Holly Springs, capturing the garrison and burning all Grant’s supplies. Grant abandoned his hold on the Tallahatchie because it was no longer useful.
Action did not come at the crossing until 1863 when Brig. Gen. James R. Chalmers led Confederate and State troops across the Tallahatchie in an unsuccessful attempt to rout Federal troops from northwest Mississippi. Final action came on August 7, 1864, when Federal troops clashed with Confederates on the north side of the Tallahatchie. A three-day skirmish ended with final resolution on the south side of Hurricane Creek, four miles south of Abbeville, when Confederate troops pulled back to Oxford.
The property at the site is owned by the U.S. Corp of Engineers as part of the Sardis Reservoir.
Other sites of interest
When Gen. Grant was pushed back due to the Van Dorn Raid, he met with Sherman at College Hill and Sherman was ordered to push down the Mississippi River to Vicksburg, according to Jimmy Thomas, a Civil War buff in Holly Springs. He said Sherman found himself without land support at Chickasaw Bayou in Vicksburg, attacked the Confederate defenses at Vicksburg in early December 1862, and was defeated.
Sherman also came through Hudsonville, and took over Josephine McGowan Cox’s house. The Federals began burning and pillaging in 1864 and 1865, and Sherman won a reputation for burning out Southern towns.
Federal troops lived in Lumpkin’s Mill, a seven-story mill near present day Wall Doxey State Park, according to Shipp. Lumpkin was building Moro Castle, which was to be a three-story castle built about three miles south of Holly Springs.
“The Federals burned his house and tore up what they could of Moro Castle,” she said. “The Lumpkins lived in the kitchen part that was saved. They were building along the railroad track.”
Lumpkin never completed his castle.
Shipp said her trip to meet with Underwood was not to discuss the bridge, per se, but to make sure the parapets were not destroyed.
“This is what I want saved,” she said.
Thomas also led the group to a site which he believes could have been an entrenchment for troops – possibly a stream bed that was below a ridge that could have been built higher to provide cover for troops. He said the entrenchment, which appears to be about 15 feet deep and to flank the river, goes all the way up to near the artillery parapets.
Underwood said the area was a nice feature but that he is not 100 percent sure it is an entrenchment.
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