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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jackson Burning

One-hundred and fifty years ago today, May 14, 1863, the city of Jackson, MS was captured in the First Battle of Jackson. Upon learning that Union soldiers were advancing on the capital city, the Confederate leader General Johnston evacuated the city while Brigadier General Gregg held off the enemy.

On May 14, 1863, General Sherman began the bombardment of the city of Jackson... I recall the terror-stricken flight of thousands of women and children as we streamed along the roads that hot day, with everything we could carry. I had two suits of clothes on, and mother was wearing her furs-for we did not know whether we would ever come back to the house or whether the house would escape the fire. We camped in tents on the Pearl River for several weeks.
--Thomas Frank Gailor, six-year-old child, future Episcopal Bishop of Tennessee

Over 1,000 soldiers died, the majority of them Confederates. Majors General U.S. Grant, William Sherman, and James McPherson held a celebration in the Bowman House, the only hotel in town. The town was looted and burned and the Union troops continued on toward Vicksburg.

Jackson was a beautiful town before we visited it but now it is a desolate looking place. I was very much apposed to burning when we first came in the service but I don't care now if everything in the Southern Confederacy is burnt.
--Sergeant Asahel Mann, Co. A, 4th Regiment, Iowa Cavalry, letter home dated May 31, 1863
House, furniture, and fine library of three thousand volumes,
were committed to the flames. -Benson J. Lossing, The Civil War in America

Jackson was occupied by Union forces four times during The War Between the States. It was burned three times and eventually earned the nickname of Chimneyville. Why? The only things left standing after the town was torched were the chimneys of once majestic homes and businesses. Check out Grady Howell's book Chimneyville for more information about Jackson before, during, and after the Civil War.

Howell, Jr., H. Grady. Chimneyville: "Likenesses" of Early Days in Jackson, Mississippi. Chickasaw Bayou Press, 2007.

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