We had converted these buildings into hospitals, and were fitting them up with suitable accommodations for a large number of sick and wounded.
After ordering our surgeons to remove their patients, the Rebels set fire to the hospitals while the yellow flag was floating over them. General Grant subsequently denounced this act as contrary to the usages of war.
The Rebels remained in Holly Springs until five o’clock in the afternoon of the day of their arrival. At their departure they moved in a northerly direction, evidently designing to visit Grand Junction. At Davis’s Mill, about half-way between Holly Springs and Grand Junction, they found a small stockade, garrisoned by two companies of infantry, protecting the railway bridge. They sent forward a flag-of-truce, and demanded the instant surrender of the stockade.
Their demand was not complied with. That garrison, of less than two hundred men, fought Van Dorn’s entire command four hours, repulsed three successive charges, and finally compelled the Rebels to retreat. Van Dorn’s northward movement was checked, and our stores at Grand Junction and Lagrange were saved, by the gallantry of this little force. General Grant subsequently gave special compliment to the bravery of these soldiers and their officers, in an order which was read to every regiment in the Army of the Tennessee.
Our plans were completely deranged by this movement of the enemy. The supplies and ammunition we had relied upon were destroyed, and our communications severed. It was impossible to push further into Mississippi, and preparations were made for immediate retreat. The railway was repaired and the heavy baggage sent to the rear as speedily as possible. When this was accomplished the army began to fall back. Oxford, Abbeville, and Holly Springs were abandoned, and returned to the protection of the Rebel flag. Northern Mississippi again became the field for guerrilla warfare, and a source of supply to the Rebels in the field. The campaign for the capture of Vicksburg took a new shape from the day our lines were severed.
A few days before the surrender of Vicksburg, General Grant, in conversation with some friends, referred to his position in Mississippi, six months before. Had he pressed forward beyond Grenada, he would have been caught in midwinter in a sea of mud, where the safety of his army might have been endangered. Van Dorn’s raid compelled him to retreat, saved him from a possible heavier reverse, and prepared the way for the campaign in which Vicksburg finally capitulated. A present disaster, it proved the beginning of ultimate success.
THE BATTLE OF CHICKASAW BAYOU.
Leaving Memphis.—Down the Great River.—Landing in the Yazoo.— Description of the Ground..—A Night in Bivouac.—Plan of Attack.— Moving toward the Hills.—Assaulting the Bluff.—Our Repulse.—New Plans.—Withdrawal from the Yazoo.