Holly Springs, in northern Mississippi, was an important railroad depot, and a natural place to assemble troops. Here Sherman informs Major Rawlins, Grant’s adjutant, that all the Confederate troops in the area are being gathered there.
HEADQUARTERS DIVISION OF MEMPHIS,
Memphis, October 18, 1862.
Major JOHN A. RAWLINS,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Jackson, Miss.:
DEAR SIR: I am this moment in receipt of the general’s letter of the 11th. From some cause there is unusual delay in the letters to and from. I have had several messengers in from the interior of late. Holly Springs is occupied in force, with camps at Davis’ Mill, 9 miles south of Grand Junction; at Coldwater, and the Chewalla Creek, east of Holly Springs. Van Dorn and Price were both at Holly Springs yesterday, expecting Pemberton, who is to command all. This is from Ex-Brigadier General Ed. Price, son of the rebel general, who has resigned, and whom I have permitted, on certain letters of General Schofield and Governor Gamble, to return to Missouri. He came in this morning. He came through Oxford a day or two since. There was nothing said of General Joe Johnston being there with 40,000 from the Virginia army. I have heard from many that Ruggles has joined from below with some 4,000 men, supposed to be reorganized regiments of the returned prisoners sent to Vicksburg by us so opportunely for them.
I have no doubt that in and around Holly Springs is now assembled all the forces they can collect together, and it behooves General Grant to keep his men near enough for concentration.
General Curtis, on the supposition that Missouri was in danger, has taken one-half of the Helena force back to Saint Louis to be sent to the Iron Mountain; the fact is that there is no considerable force in Arkansas threatening Missouri. General Carr has the other half, say 9,000 men, and expects help from me. I will write him to strengthen his defenses, and no force will attempt to storm his fort where he has heavy ordnance. He has a larger force than I have, and I have a much more important place to defend than Helena is. The boats navigating the river are now assailed above and below. I have sent a force above to Island 21, and now comes a call to send some to a post below. We will have to do something more than merely repel these attacks. We must make the people feel that every attack on a road here will be resented by the destruction of some one of their towns or plantations elsewhere. All adherents of their cause must suffer for these cowardly acts.
I propose to expel ten secession families for every boat fired on, thereby lessening the necessity for fighting boats for their benefit, and will visit on the neighborhood summary punishment. It may sometimes fall on the wrong head, but it would be folly to send parties of infantry to chase these wanton guerrillas.
So far as the city of Memphis and neighborhood is concerned all is well. Guerrilla bands are being called into Holly Springs, where the enemy is doubtless concentrating for some effort. We are ready for them here.
I rather fear for Bolivar and Jackson. Pemberton’s command, though, is confined to Mississippi and Louisiana, and to assume the offensive he would have to enter Tennessee.
Your obedient servant,
W. T. SHERMAN,