The Christmas War in Calhoun County

While no battles of any importance occurred in Calhoun County, Mississippi, Leon Burgess, in his M.D.L. Stevens and Calhoun County, Mississippi offers Stevens’ account of a December skirmish in the north of the county. The original story appeared in The Calhoun County Monitor on June 4, 1903.

In December, 1862, Gen. Grant’s army pressed back the Confederate army from Holly Springs to Coffeeville where after a sharp engagement Grant fell back to Water Valley, threw out a strong cordon of cavalry and encamped for the winter.

About Christmas a strong company of Kansas Jayhawkers invaded Calhoun County north of Schoona River, spending their fury in and about the village of Banner. They captured the few horses and mules remaining in the county, robbed every chicken roost and hen nest, stole turkeys, geese and ducks, and now and then they took a fat hog. In their rounds they confiscated a barrel of moonshine whiskey near the big rock at the head of Cowpen Creek. They drank freely, filled their canteens and came to Banner, where they took and destroyed everything in sight. In the afternoon they set out for Water Valley. Each marauder had his canteen full of “wild cat” and, tied in front and behind his saddle, a good lot of turkeys, geese, ducks and chickens, and a haversack full of eggs. They left Banner yelling like a mob of Hottentots, all full of wild cat whiskey; more than a hundred strong, the Federals insulted every old man they met and drove women and children from their homes.

A small squad of Willis’ Texas Cavalry was hanging around Grant’s army, watching every movement. They learned of the contemplated raid on Banner, followed in the of the Federal cavalry and kept a close eye on their movements. The Texans received into their ranks a few of the Calhoun boys at home on furloughs, armed with double-barreled shot guns and mounted on mules and horses. The company numbered about 20 of the battalion and 12 or 15 of the local boys. They saw from a distance the devastation of Banner and the surrounding country and saw that the Jayhawkers were tanking up on the “bust skull” whiskey and were preparing to leave for Water Valley. Willis, under the guidance of a friend, hosted his small band of braves in a narrow valley were the horses were tied and the boys were concealed on the crest of a narrow ridge about 60 yards from the road that ran up a narrow hollow west of Gore’s Branch 5 or 6 miles from Banner.

On came the drunken Federal mob, more than a hundred strong, singing, cursing and looting, all bent on reaching Water Valley with their booty. They crossed Gore’s Branch, the headwaters of Long Persimmon Creek, and moved up the road running parallel with the long ridge. When the Federal cavalry had filled the road at the foot of the ridge, Willis gave the command to fire. Sheet of flames leapt from 30 guns; volley after volley was poured into the panic-stricken Federal ranks. Horses and riders were piled promiscuously on the road.

The Rebel boys rushed down the hill and captured men, horses, turkeys, ducks, chickens and canteens half full of mountain dew. They mounted and followed in hot pursuit of the fleeing Federals. Down by Trusty’s and Tatum’s they charged the retreating Jayhawkers, killing and capturing men and horses; their charge to Tuckalofa Creek was a race for life. The next day a regiment of Federal cavalry came out and buried the dead and cared for the wounded. No estimate on killed or wounded.

33 Replies to “The Christmas War in Calhoun County”

  1. This is very interesting! I live just East of Bruce, off of hwy 32, maybe 1-1/2 miles, and during the past 10 or so years I have found 3 Civil War cannon balls in my yard! I have searched the internet, written to newspapers and talked to many people, but have yet to learn anything that would explain the presence of these cannon balls!! I am pretty sure they are Confederate due to the “seam” that each one has that encircles the entire ball. But I have wanted to learn of any possible skirmishes that might have taken place here and recorded somewhere. I would really like to learn more if there are any websites, books, etc that would have that information.

      1. I was born just North of yancy’s store (about 3 miles n. Of Bruce. Harry and Bessie Houston were my grandparents. Wondering if you are kin to the owner of that store. Seemed like his name was Jesse Yancy.

    1. My Great Great Grabdfather fought in the 31’st inf conpany C Thaddus Warsaw Russell is Buried in Crossroads cemetery In Calhoun County and was one of the founding members of the cemetery I joined the SCV on his record he was captured in the Battle of Atlanta Ga

    2. There is a Calhoun Historical Book put out and it has the above information, verbatim. Tommy Hellums would know if there are more available.

  2. Good story. Is this the same MDL Stephens that was with the 17th and then LC of the 31ms? If so, do you know if his middle initial stood for De or Dennis?

  3. Do you have any information regarding Thomas Wilson Young, a Confederate officer from Calhoun County around Elzey / Youngs Chaple? Ancestor of mine.

  4. I live just yards from persimmon creek. Never heard this story! Wish I knew exactly where this took place. would love to scope it out

  5. I was raised in Calhoun County and I’ve NEVER heart this story before! I’m definitely into county history and would love any stories anyone has to share..THANKS FOR SHARING!!!

  6. Very interesting read. I grew up on Persimmon Creek. My great……grandfather was taken captive in skirmish in Panola Co. He lived in Yalobusha Co. Near Calhoun line. He was taken to Grenada and shipped to Illinois, then to Delaware, died there and was buried in mass grave there.

  7. My grandfather, JimEasley, lived in a home we were told that was built prior to the civil war. There was story that because of its location on a steep hill that it was a confederate outpost. It was on Bullard St. in Pittsboro. It was dismantle after his death and bought by a doctor in Oxford to be used in a house he was building. My twin brother and I were born in this house in 1949. Do you know anything about the history?

    1. No, Rickey, but ask somebody in the Calhoun County Historical Society. Those people know a LOT of stuff, much more than me. Let me know what you find out!

  8. Never heard this story. My Calhoun County Family were Williams, Evans and Barton’s. This skirmish would have taken place close to where my Williams relations lived if I’m not mistaken.

  9. Not sure my comment posted. My Calhoun County Family were Williams, Evans and Barton’s. This skirmish would have occurred near where my Williams family lived.

  10. Is there any information on names of the Rebel boys. Most of my family is from Calhoun County, and would like to know any involvement by them in this skirmish.

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