THE CLAY HILLS 367 THE CLAY HILLS 367 PHOTO COURTESY OF SOUTHERN IONICS SOUTHERN IONICS Southern Ionics Incorporated (SII) is an innovator and leading manufacturer of specialty and intermediate inorganic chemicals. SII’s products are based on aluminum, sulfur, ammonium, magnesium, and zirconium chemicals. Southern Ionics was founded in 1980 by founder and president, Milton O. Sundbeck, to serve its first customer, United Cement, in Artesia. In 1982, Southern Ionics established the corporate headquarters in an 8,000-square-foot building in downtown West Point. The first plant location was also built in West Point in 1980 with only ten employees. Over the years, Southern Ionics expanded its operations to include plants in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Maryland. After thirty-six years in business, Southern Ionics now has twelve facilities and employs more than 308 employees with annual sales revenue of approximately $225 million. Grant planned to capture Grenada, the town on the Yalobusha River where the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad from Memphis joined the Mississippi Central. troops southwestward from Tennessee and establish a base of operations in Holly Springs. He would then march along the Mississippi Central Railroad, destroying its tracks along the way, southward through the Clay Hills towns of Water Valley and Grenada. Grant planned to capture Grenada, the town on the Yalobusha River where the Mississippi and Tennessee Railroad from Memphis joined the Mississippi Central. Then, he would move south to Jackson, taking that important railroad hub. Finally, he would head west to Vicksburg.Yet Grant’s strategy did not go according plan. To be sure, he established a supply depot at Holly Springs and began to move south much to the chagrin of the local civilian population who “seemed ‘depressed and destitute,’ with a ‘general air of gloom’all around.” But then his advance stalled at theYalobusha River, just outside Grenada, in December. Two daring raids staged by Confederate cavalry that winter thwarted Grant’s progress. The first of these raids, led by Nathan Bedford Forrest, targeted the Union supply and communication lines between Corinth and Memphis. The second and more important raid for the Clay Hills was the one staged by the Mississippian general, Earl Van Dorn, and his three cavalry brigades. Van Dorn and his men set off from Grenada in December 1862. Their aim was the destruction of Grant’s supply base at Holly Springs. Van Dorn’s Raid, as it is now called, was a successful and important one for the Confederacy. When the Union commander at Holly Springs surrendered, Van Dorn and his men captured more than 1,000 Union soldiers and destroyed a huge cache of Union supplies. Van Dorn thus redeemed his reputation after suffering earlier defeats at Pea Ridge and Corinth. More important for the war, these raids led Grant to abandon his plans, retreat to Memphis, and rethink his Vicksburg strategy. Grant did not give up on Vicksburg, but his subsequent strategies to capture the town did not involve marches through the Clay Hills. Rather, he finally won Vicksburg in the summer of 1863 by staging a counter-intuitive march from the south with support from the Union Navy. Still, Grant’s revised strategy did not mean that all was quiet in the Clay Hills or elsewhere in northern Mississippi. Morale was low in the region, and people remained intensely fearful of new Union raids and slave uprisings. Significant internal divisions also came to the fore when the Confederate Army began impressing slaves to do much of the dirty work of digging and constructing fortifications in preparation for defending Vicksburg. Slave owners, always vigilant in protecting their property, resisted these efforts, sometimes forcefully. According to author and Mississippi historian