THE CLAY HILLS 369 In addition, Union Army officials were eager to knock out Confederate leader Nathan Bedford Forrest, whose cavalry raids had first undermined Grant’s efforts to take Vicksburg in 1862. Forrest had then destroyed Union supply and communications networks and attacked Union outposts in Mississippi and Tennessee during the following year. In 1864, with the most important fights in Mississippi successfully concluded, the Union finally responded by launching additional cavalry raids to “smash things” in northeastern Mississippi and put a final halt to Forrest. With Union confidence and their frustration over Forrest’s activities running high, these raids were especially brutal for the region’s civilian populations. Using pillaging, burning, and destruction as their tools, Union cavalrymen sought to remind Mississippi’s civilian population that any place Forrest and his men paused or took refuge in would meet with ruin and destruction. West Point, a stop along the Mobile and Ohio, was one of the places targeted in these raids. One local recounting tells of how two young boys watched from the sidelines as a body of “Yankee cavalry” ensconced on the hills overlooking Sakatonchee Creek outside West Point were confronted by Forrest and his men. Union guns fired for hours against the Confederates who were hidden in the swamp lands below. The shells, the men recalled decades later did “little damage to the Confederates, but splintered the great oaks, cypress, and elms under which they were sheltered.” The Union cavalrymen moved on. Forrest pursued them, but then fell back to his camp just north of Starkville. The Union forces never caught Forrest until he surrendered only after hearing of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Then came one last brutal Union drive through the Clay Hills in late 1864 and early 1865 by Benjamin Grierson and his men. Grierson’s so-called “winter raid,” the last campaign of any consequence in the state, was what historian Michael Ballard terms a 450-mile “foray” from Memphis through much of the central and eastern portions of Mississippi to Vicksburg. Moving south from Tupelo, they destroyed train tracks near Verona and downed telegraph lines. They occupied Okolona and then demolished much public property there when they left. After the Battle of Egypt Station, just south of Aberdeen, they took 500 Confederate prisoners. In Choctaw County, they moved through Houston and destroyed cotton mills in Bankston (now a ghost town). Near Winona and Grenada, two regiments were told to destroy all the public property they found between the two towns. They stole from locals, and rumors of approaching raids prompted some to flee and take shelter with family or friends in nearby communities. Some drove their livestock away as well and buried or hid valuables.Yet not everything could be protected, and thus the Union’s take was considerable. By the time Grierson and his men reached Vicksburg in early January 1865, they had taken some 600 Confederate prisoners, freed more than 1,000 enslaved African Americans, and confiscated nearly 800 horses and 700 hogs. But these raids generally occurred late in the war. In the earlier stages, many in the state had perceived the region as a mostly protected haven from more war-torn venues. State leaders of the time, including Governor John J. Pettus, agreed. Confident that the eastern portion of the state would remain safe in Confederate hands after Jackson’s fall in 1863, Pettus and members of the state legislature temporarily relocated the state capital to the east. The state legislature met in both Macon and then Columbus at the town’s courthouse and the Baptist Church after 1863. Such choices to take refuge in the region made sense. Despite Union raids, fears of slave uprisings, and many economic hardships, people in the eastern Clay Hills lived mostly quietly and simply during the war; they did not suffer as intensely as other regions did. To sustain their communities, they grew corn and vegetables, and they raised hogs that they smoked into meat. They spun and wove cloth and they bartered for goods. There were exceptions, though, to such simple wartime living. Some of the region’s wealthiest planter families, such as Colonel George HamptonYoung’s family at Waverly Mansion, managed to maintain comfortable, even lavish, lifestyles throughout the war. As Belle Edmondson of Holly Springs described, she and a traveling companion spent a delightful day in 1864 in “the country” at Waverly, “a real Southern Mansion” that was owned by “a very wealthy family.” While there, they swam in the pond. They listened to “delightful Music” performed by one ofYoung’s accomplished daughters, and they ate “an elegant dinner” that included peaches and milk. By her recollections, one would never guess that a war was still raging. As Edmondson’s diaries remind us, in the heart of Mississippi wartime experiences were highly variable. Many families and individuals in the Clay Hills suffered intensely as loved ones died in the war, as shortages and hardships deeply affected their daily routines, and as the threat of slave insurrections and the Union raiders kept them in a near-constant state of fear. But not all suffered equally. Privileged families like theYoung’s at Waverly Union guns fired for hours against the Confederates who were hidden in the swamp lands below.