368 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI 368 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI MOSSY OAK Mossy Oak, a camouflage brand with a focus on conservation and living the outdoors lifestyle, started with a fist full of dirt in 1986 in West Point. Mississippi native, Toxey Haas, started Mossy Oak more than thirty years ago out of a commitment to hunting and the outdoors lifestyle. The Mississippi-based company is the official camouflage for two prominent conservation organizations: National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited. Through other branches of the brand such as Mossy Oak Properties, BioLogic, Mossy Oak Productions, Mossy Oak Golf, MOOSE Media, GameKeepers, GameKeeper Kennels, Nativ Living, and Nativ Nurseries, Mossy Oak strives to simply encourage people to spend time outdoors. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MOSSY OAK Dennis Mitchell, in Holmes County, armed mobs of angry slave owners greeted Confederate Army officials who came to collect slaves for wartime service. Then came the devastating cavalry raids staged by Union Colonel Benjamin Grierson, which broughtYankee invaders directly into the heart of the Clay Hills for several weeks during the spring of 1863. Grant sent Grierson and his 1,700 cavalrymen to raid the eastern Mississippi countryside as a tactic to confuse Confederates and deflect their attention away from Vicksburg, a daring strategy that worked. For the people of eastern Mississippi who experienced these raids, however, there was no confusion. Grierson’s raids brought a visceral terror to their communities. As Grierson and his men moved south from LaGrange, Tennessee, cutting a swath roughly parallel to the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, they cut communication lines and destroyed railroad tracks. They undermined the region’s industrial capacity, which had been expanding, by torching cloth and shoe factories, machine shops, tanneries, and any quartermaster stores they could get their hands on. And they aimed to cripple the local cotton economy by destroying cotton gins, sawmills, and gristmills. On various plantations and farms, they confiscated supplies and carried off all kinds of equipment, tools, and property, including slaves. The result was panic and confusion among the white civilian populace, even as many African Americans welcomed the “Blue Coats” who raided plantation smokehouses and distributed meat and various personal items to slaves. Towns were largely unprotected and easy targets for Union raiders. Grierson’s troops hit Houston, Starkville, and Louisville. In Starkville, Grierson’s men destroyed Confederate supplies and confiscated livestock. In defiance of the Southern racial order, they commandeered a wagonload of hats and distributed them to local slaves. In keeping with the patterns they followed elsewhere, Grierson’s men burned a nearby tanyard and mill. Memories of these raids persisted for many decades. As local historian Thomas Carroll of Starkville recalled during the 1920s, his family still possessed a mahogany bureau that some of Grierson’s raiders had broken open in their search for valuables. Union raids into the Clay Hills resumed again in 1864, even though the state was by then on the war’s periphery. Vicksburg and Jackson had fallen the year before, but in an effort to finally bring the war to a close, the Union Army continued to target Confederate transportation and supply centers. In Mississippi, this brought new attention to the crossroads towns of Meridian and Tupelo and to the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, the dominant north-south line in the state since the 1850s. Union General William Tecumseh Sherman raided Meridian in February 1864, before being transferred to Tennessee where he then launched his march on Georgia.