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Monday, August 23, 2010

Beautiful, Historic Holly Springs

As Mike and I travel to and from the lake, we drive through the charming town of Holly Springs, MS. Each time, we admire the abundance of antebellum structures – homes, churches, and commercial buildings as well. Exiting the city limits, we are always grateful that so much history survived. And we always wonder why -- when the Federal army practiced such a slash and burn approach to its occupation of the South.

Naturally, I did a bit of research and found that Mike’s assumption was true. Here’s how it went.

Before the Civil War, Holly Springs was a flourishing community and a leader in agriculture and commerce. Plantations in the area led the state in cotton production. Schools, businesses and churches abounded.

Then came the war. Because Holly Springs was located at the intersection of two railroads, it was highly desired by both the Yanks and Rebs. They fought over the prize, and the bluecoats won.

When Union General U.S. Grant captured the little town, his army camped on the lawns of the grand mansions while he moved his wife, son and slave into the Walter Place estate (pictured above). The General made headquarters at Airliewood estate.

Yes, according to several sources, Grant owned slaves. His wife was the daughter of a slave owner and most likely brought them into her marriage with the General and future president. I was surprised to learn that 12 U.S. presidents had owned slaves and eight had owned slaves during their presidency.

Because the Union army headquartered in Holly Springs, it survived the war. What the bluecoats didn’t do, a mosquito did, however. The town was devastated in 1878 by the yellow fever epidemic that claimed the lives of most town residents.

Over time, Holly Springs came back to life and evolved into the lovely town it is today with good places to eat, live and do business.

Restoration of many graceful mansions and buildings preserve the glory of pre-Civil War Holly Springs. Tours are available daily at some structures, and the pilgrimage occurs in April with more than 64 houses, churches and other buildings open for viewing.

Other Holly Springs facts -

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