Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Body of Cavalrymen Coming up the Road

In April 1863, my people who were slaves on various plantations between Hazlehurst, Union Church, Caseyville, and Brookhaven, Mississippi, were busy hoeing, plowing, bedding corn fields when they would come face to face with Grierson's Raiders.

Colonel Benjamin Grierson's cavalry brigade consisted of the 6th and 7th Illinois, and 2nd Iowa Cavalry Regiments. Grierson Raiders were used as a diversion to distract Confederate leaders as thousands of Northern troops moved into position for a major assault on Vicksburg. Grierson and his 1,700 horse troopers rode over six hundred miles through hostile territory, over routes no Union soldier had traveled.

Grierson's Cavalry Raid: Knocking the Heart out of MS

The raiders tore up railroads and burned cross ties, freed slaves, burned Confederate storehouses, destroyed rail cars and commissary stores, ripped up bridges and trestles, and burned buildings; raided plantations for needed supplies, food and horses.

Union Troops destroy railroad tracks.
Courtesy of Library of Congress

Colonel Benjamin Henry Grierson
Courtesy of Library of Congress

They arrived in small town Hazlehurst on day eleven of their mission, April 27, 1863. After considerable damage had been accomplished and the men and horses had a hearty meal, they headed west. Caseyville and Union Church were farming villages, best known for a church, Union Church Presbyterian Church, and for the Scotch Presbyterians who settle the area. Grierson's raiders arrived in the community April 28 1863.

Union Church Presbyterian Church

Testimonies of Family Members from Union Church and Caseyville, MS

Levi Adams reside upon the plantation of Mr. Sterling Cato...and am by occupation a farmer. I resided upon the plantation of Mr. Cato all through the war, and one morning in the spring of the year during one of the years of the war I do not now recollect the year — Genl Grierson came thro here—I had been down to the horse lot and had just fed the stock and was on the point of returning when my attention was called to a body of cavalrymen who were coming up the road. They rode up to where I was and on by. Some of them in the mean time stopped and went into the horse pasture they opened the big gate as they went in, they caught the two mules that were in the lot and a blaze-faced sorrel horse changed their saddle and bridles from some worn out mules that they were riding to Mr. Cato’s and immediately rode out and joined the main body...Came in the house and took the plates off from the table and toted off what there was upon the plates and took all down to where their horses were eating and they they got through they left the plates lying upon the side of the road. Mr. Grierson took off the grey horse and the sorrel horse and the two mules...I recollect everything that happened very well—it was not often such sights were to be seen.

Milly McLean's Testimony; I am 56 years of age reside about 2 miles from Union Church town upon the Millsaps Plantation and am engaged in making a crop. During the war I lived with Mrs. McLean. I was a slave and owned at the time by Mr. McLean. I was raised in the family and lived with them during the entire continuance of the war -- In the spring time, about the time for hoeing corn the first time, I do not recollect the year, a large lot of the Yankee soldiers who were riding horses and mules came to Mrs. McLean’s place and some of them rode through our front yard and there into the side gate of the pasture where we kept our horses and mules, and took them off with them. I was on the edge of the woods - and had a plain view of the pasture where I first heard that the Yankees were coming. I went out towards the woods - I was afraid that they would harm me - and I watched them I stopped in the woods all night - some of them stopped at the place and in the house all night - and some of them down to Union Church. When they left the next day they took off the mules - they left one broken down horse he died shortly afterwards we never worked him - I was the cook - there was a good deal of meat taken I can not tell now how much

Alex Roundtree testifies: Age 38 years; Reside in Lincoln County, Miss., upon the Buie place near Caseyville. I was born and raised upon it - I was sick the morning that Grierson and his soldiers came to the place. I had been very sick but was able to be in the crib shelling corn - and when his soldiers came along I looked upon them and saw our mules. There was eight of them and our roam horse the soldiers were riding them - One of our mules came that same night - then the soldiers road by the house between 10 and 11 o’clock - they were driving a large lot of horses and mules with them. They got our stock out of the field where they were ploughing. The mules were all in good order...They took the majority of our stock and had mighty little left after they went away. I saw them take old master’s saddle. It was newly covered and take it off...All of these things were taken spring during the war while we were preparing land for corn.

Charles Roundtree testifies: Age 59; reside on the Buie place in Lincoln County, Miss. Lived on the place doing the last 45 years. Was a slave before the war; owned by the Buie family, and was a field hand...in the spring of the year while the war was going on Mr. Grierson and a large lot of Yankee soldiers came to our place and stopped in the road and a lot of the soldiers went into the field where the hands were ploughing and bedding up land for corn and told them to stop their work and get the mules out - they did so and they put their saddles upon them, that they took off from the horses and mules that they were riding. They rode them off and led off the stock that they took the saddles off from...I was not ploughing myself but I was right with those who were - I was cleaning up the ground.

Confederate cavalry units pursued Grierson vigorously across the state, all they gained was mass confusion. Grierson raiders continue their successful raid through Mississippi to Union occupied Baton Rogue, Louisiana.

Levi Adams was born about 1832 in MS. He married Amanda Gaines. She was born about 1835 in Kentucky, died Dec 30 1934 in Crystal Springs, Copiah County, MS. Levi's descendants married into my maternal family.

Charles Roundtree was born about 1815 in MS. He married Caroline. She was born about 1825, and died 28 May 1924 in Vaughn, Lincoln County, MS.

Alexander Roundtree was born about 1835 in MS, died 04 Aug 1913 in Caseyville, Lincoln County, MS. He married Matilda Ensley, daughter of Joe Ensley and Lucinda? She was born about 1844 in MS, and died 09 May 1924 in Brookhaven, Lincoln County, MS.

Charles and Alexander may be father and son. Alexander named a son Charles. The Roundtree men were slaves on the plantation of the same slave owing family as my Markham family in Caseyville, Copiah County, MS.

Milly McLean was born about 1810 in Virginia. Milly's slave owner's daughter married a member of my family's slave owning family.

In remembrance of the 150 anniversary of the Civil War, year 1863, I submit this post to the West in New England's THIRD AMERICAN CIVIL WAR BLOG CHALLENGE

Daily Mississippian (Jackson, Miss. : 1861)
Dates: 04/28/1863 : 05/02/1863 Roll number: 20594
Library of Congress
Southern Claims Cases of Maria Catherine McLean Buie, Mary Lemons Buie and Sterling Cato


  1. The testimonies really help me get a better understanding of the day-to-day difficulties and hardships (loss of livestock, saddles taken, etc.) that people faced during the Civil War.

    1. It took the south a long time to recover from the destruction of the War. Some would argue we are still in the recovering stage.

  2. Nice with the map - I had to look and see how close they got to Simpson County. And the eye witness accounts. Were any of them related to you?

    1. The eye witnesses are not directly related to me. Lewis Adams and the Roundtree's descendants married my cousins. The Roundtree's and my Markham family shared the same slave owning family. Milly McLean's slave owner married a member of my slave owning family.

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