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In Context:

Hassell Hopper’s Service History Preceding the Diaries - Aug 9, 1862 - June 30, 1863


The 101st Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Infantry, was organ­ized at Camp Duncan, Jacksonville, Illinois in August 1862. The Company Muster Roll states that Hassell Hopper “joined for duty and enrolled” on August 9, 1862. On September 2, 1862 this troop was formally mustered into the United States service by Captain Charles Ewing of the 13th Infantry. If a particular community was not accepting enlistments at the time, men from that community who wished to enlist could attach themselves to communities which were. Hassel1 Hopper was a member of Co. E. which mustered men from the nearby communities of Arcadia and Bethe1. The other Companies of the regiment were: Co. A. Meredosia; B, Concord and Arcadia; C and D, Jacksonville; F, Murrayville; G, Waverly; H, Franklin; I and K, Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Daily Journal,

Aug. 20, 1862: “A full regiment, consisting of ten companies, all raised in Morgan, is now in camp at the Fair Grounds”.


Sept. 12, 1862:  “The air at the camp is resonant with the fumes of frying bacon, while the camp fires are flanked by piles of that delightful condiment known as ‘hard biscuit’”.


Sept 24, 1962:  “The Morgan County Regiment is now fully uniformed, armed and equipped for the field.  The Regiment paraded on the pub1ic square on Friday and made a fine appearance. As a body of able, serviceable men, they will certainly compare well with any regiment in the service. They are progressing rapid1y in the pro­ficiency of drill”.


About a month was spent at Camp Duncan in drilling and equipping for the field.  On October 6, 1862 they received their marching orders, embarking on “the cars” (the Wabash Railway). They reached Cairo, Illinois at sunset on October 7, 1862 and re­mained there for a month on garrison duty and drilling, becoming so proficient “as to win a very fair name”. The weather was exceedingly rainy resulting in much sickness. Many were discharged; many died.

Jacksonville Daily Journal,

Oct. 21, 1862: “We learn that the 101st regiment of this place, under command of Col. Fox, is still at Cairo performing camp duty and waiting marching orders. A detachment of the regiment a few days since crossed into Missouri and captured a lot of rebel prisoners. Private letters give assurance that the boys are all well - none in the hospital”.


Nov. 19, 1862: “The Morgan County regiment is still at Cairo, engaged in performing guard and garrison duty. It has been especially retained there for that purpose”.


While the 101st Regiment was thus occupied at Cairo, the Con­federate general Pemberton was fortified at the Tallahatchie River and occupied Holly Springs, Miss., and Vicksburg was still in Confederate hands. By this time General Grant, commanding the Army of the Tennessee, had begun to plan the campaign against Vicksburg. So long as that city and its environs were in Confederate hands free navigation on the Mississippi River was impossible. Reinforcements had been coming in from the North since early November 1862. Grant advanced on Ho1ly Springs, Miss. and forced Pemberton back to his entrenchments on the Tallahatchie. Union forces had taken Holly Springs on November 12, 1862 and set up a depot there for supplies and munitions. From there a force was sent against the Con­federate position on the Tallahatchie.


On November 25, 1862 the 101st Regiment left Cairo and went to Columbus, Ky., then by rail to Davis’ Mills, Miss. where they were assigned to Grant’s Army of the Tennessee (Loomis’ brigade and Ross’ Division).

Jacksonville Daily Journal,

Dec. 3, 1862: “We learn that the Morgan County Regiment of Col. Fox has left Cairo under marching orders. The Regiment will probably form part of the force under Gen. McClernand for opening the Mississippi. Private letters state that the men are in fine health. The Sergeant Major of the Regiment is under arrest on charges preferred against him”.


Two days later on November 23, 1862 they started their first march passing through Holly Springs and on to Lumpkin’s Mills six mi1es south. For the first time they heard the “clash of contending arms” from the Tallahatchie further on where Union forces succeeded in pushing the Confederates from their position. The 101st remained at Lumpkin’s Mills three days.

About December 2, 1862 they were ordered to return to Ho1ly Springs for provost and garrison duty.  On December 13, 1862 the Captain of Co. A was sent to Cairo, Ill, with Confederate prisoners taken at the Tallahatchie. The sick of Co. A remained in Holly Springs while the rest of that company together with Co. D, G, H and K were stationed along the railroad. Co. B, C, E (Hopper’s company), F and I remained at Holly Springs.

The Confederate Pemberton did not give up easily.  On December 20, l862 he sent Genera1 Van Dorn with a large force to Holly Springs which he overran, capturing the entire garrison of 1,500 men. Co. B, C, E, F and I along with the sick of Co. A were taken prisoner and paroled to Benton Barracks, Mo. (Note: to be paroled, in the military sense, meant the promise of a prisoner of war to refrain from trying to escape or to forebear taking up arms against his captors. At such time as paro1ed prisoners were exchanged, this promise no longer prevailed.)

Jacksonville Daily Journal,

Jan. 2, 1863: “Several of the soldiers of the Morgan County Regiment returned home on Christmas Day. They report that on Friday last Holly Springs, where their regiment was posted., was surrounded by an overwhelming rebel force, and with the exception of three companies, which were off on detailed service, the entire regiment were taken prisoners. Co1. Fox was ill and was captured in bed. Capt. Lightfoot’s company made fight and killed a few of the rebels”.


Jan. 8, 1863: “It is now understood that all but four companies of the l0lst regiment were captured at Holly Springs with the Col., Lieut. Col., Major and staff officers. The companies taken were Samples’, Brown’s, Lightfoot’s and May’s. The other companies are saved”.


Jan. 12, 1863: “The five companies of the 101st regiment were captured with the regimental officers at Holly Springs and paroled and have been ordered to report themselves at St. Louis”.


When Holly Springs fell, the companies stationed along the railroad were able to fall back to Cold River, Miss, where they joined the 90th Illinois (Irish Legion). It would not be until the latter part of August 1863 that all Companies of the 101st would be reunited.

I quote from the history of the 101st concerning this engagement at Holly Springs (Jacksonville Daily Journal, May 30, 1909):

“At the Holly Springs disaster the men of this regiment, on duty, did all they could have done, under the circumstances. Another regiment was doing the picket duty while the One Hundred and First was in the town, doing provost duty, and divided about the town, in squads too small  to make successfu1 resistance to the overpowering numbers that surrounded them. Wherever the blame for this disaster shall rest it surely should not attach itself to the One Hundred and First Illinois”.

This point of view was also reflected in General Grant’s account in Volume I of his Personal Memoirs:

“The capture was a disgraceful one to the officer commanding [Col. Murphy of the 8th Wisconsin Regiment] but not to the troops under him”. (p. 432)


General Grant also notes that Union forces throughout that area had been warned of Van Dorn’s approach. Col. Murphy had also been warned, but he made no preparations to meet Van Dorn nor did he even notify his command. As a resu1t Holly Springs was the only garrison taken. Unfortunately it was larger than all the others put together and resulted in the destruction of all food, forage, and munitions there. Grant further noted that Col. Murphy had retreated at the approach of the Confederates at another battle site a few weeks earlier. Grant continued:

“The surrender of Holly Springs was most reprehensible and showed either the disloyalty of Colonel Murphy to the cause which he professed to serve, or gross cowardice”. (p. 434)


Three days later Holly Springs was regained by Union forces and Grant again made it his headquarters. In all, Holly Springs was the site of 61raids during the war.

The capture of Holly Springs had occurred on December 20, 1863 but the prisoners did not arrive at Benton Barracks, Mo. until January 10, 1865, the date which Hassell Hopper’s Prisoner of War Record states that he entered Benton Barracks. It is not known where the men were held from December 20, 1862 to January 10, 1863.

The Company Muster Roll for January-February 1863 lists Hassell Hopper as absent without leave on January 31 and again on February 28. The Roll for March-April 1863 lists him absent without leave from March 17-25 and again on March 31, but it also states that he was “appointed and acting Sergeant since April 20, 1863”. In the Descriptive List of Deserters under the date of May 31, 1863 it is stated that “Hassell Hopper, a paroled prisoner acting Sergeant, age 22 yrs., eyes lit, hair dk., where born Scarborough, England, occupation farmer” deserted on May 1, 1863 at Benton Barracks, Mo.  However, the Company Muster Rol1 for  May-June 1863 notes he was promoted from Corpora1 to Sergeant on May 1, 1863. Did this notation come about because there now was no longer a “Corporal Hopper” to answer roll? He may have gone home to see his family and, if so, I wonder if those in charge of the Company Muster Roll even bothered to note his return.  Any absence for whatever reason while still on parole (that is, before any prisoner exchange had taken place) carried the implication of desertion.  The fact that his absences were not permanent is attested by his “perfect attendance” on subsequent Roll reports where for June 1863 and from Ju1y-Aug. 1863 to March-April 1865 each Roll simply lists Hassell Hopper as “present”.

It is interesting to note that on the May-June 1863 Roll it was noted that there was a “stoppage of 8 days pay by President’s proclamation”. The diary entry on July 4, 1863 also notes this.

The first diary begins June 30, 1863 with his exchange and subsequent release from Benton Barracks, Mo.

Jacksonville Daily Journal,

May 20, 1863: “We learn that the officers of the l0lst regiment captured at Holly Springs  have been exchanged. An exchange of the privates will doubtless soon be announced”.



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