December 20, 1862: Battle of Holly Springs, Mississippi – Behind Grant’s advance at Oxford, Mississippi, was his advance supply base at Holly Springs. A small Federal force, about a brigade, is there guarding it, commanded by Col. Robert C. Murphy. Murphy has received reports of a Confederate raiding force in the vicinity, and promptly ignores the warnings. Maj. Gen Earl Van Dorn, with 3,500 Rebel cavalry in a special forced raised for the purpose, has been criss-crossing the countryside and throwing off the scent of Union patrols, and is now closing in on Holly Springs in an attempt to cut Grant’s line of supply. The Union garrison were apparently involved only in planning a ball for the evening. Just before dawn, Van Dorn’s raiders roared into town, scattering the feeble Yankee attempts at forming a defense. The Missouri regiment of Rebels smashed into the Federal infantry, and the Mississippi regiment gave chase to the disorganized Union cavalry troopers. Van Dorn even captures Gen. Grant’s wife Julia, but takes care to place a guard on her house for safety. The Rebels also capture Col. Murphy, still in his night-shirt. Van Dorn’s men capture a number of Federal troops hiding out, and a large amount of supplies. They parole all 1,500 Union prisoners and destroy 1.5 million dollars-worth of supplies.
---Sergeant Alexander G. Downing of the 11th Iowa Infantry writes in his journal:
Saturday, 20th—We struck our tents early this morning and marched twenty-one miles back toward Holly Springs. It is a disappointment to have to retrace our steps and the boys are not as jolly as they were when going south. Holly Springs is said to have been taken and our supplies cut off. We have been put on half rations.
---Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman leaves Memphis with 20,000 men on steamers, and head downriver to officially begin the river campaign against Vicksburg.
---Oliver Willcox Norton, of the 83rd Pennsylvania Infantry, writes to his sister, giving her his rather heartfelt reaction to the battle at Fredericksburg, and the subsequent political firestorm:
We have had a terrible fight, but you have heard of that, and I need not give particulars. I don’t feel like it, for it was nothing but humiliating defeat. I suppose the radicals have got enough of Burnside now and will want another change. I have nothing to say—of course it makes no difference to the country how many of her sons are offered on the altar of this incapacity. Oh, no. If it was Little Mac, thunders would be hurled against him, but no. We have got a man now who will move, no matter what reason he has for standing still. You may think I am talking bitterly. Well, I feel so. I’m sick of such useless slaughter. McClellan never made an attack and failed, and never showed stupidity as Burnside has.
—The Richmond Daily Dispatch fairly chortles in an editorial about the victory at Fredericksburg, and the ineptitude of Yankee generals:
The inhabitants of Yankeedom, having had their fill of glory over the occupation of Fredericksburg, are now doubtless prepared to felicitate themselves upon its evacuation. Next to an “onward movement,” nothing exalts them so much as a “change of base.” The first illustrates their superhuman valor; the last, their unapproachable generalship. Burnside has gratified them in both particulars. He came thundering down upon Fredericksburg like a thousand locomotives; he departed like a dog with his tail cut off. A dog with his tail cut off affords a literal exemplification of that famous Yankee operation, a change of base. The creature’s base is changed, but not his baseness. . . . We are curious to see what will now be the fate of Burnside. The Fredericksburg route to Richmond was his pet scheme, and in this he had the emphatic approval of the Yankee Commander in Chief, Gen. Halleck. His career has been a short one; brief and inglorious as that of the robber, Pope. . . . The manes [sic] of McClellan are now avenged. He was decapitated for not moving; Burnside avoided that error, and behold the result. The unfortunate Yankee Generals are between Seylla and Charybdis. If they stand still their own Government destroys them; if they don’t stand still, they are destroyed by the Confederates. . . .