440 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI Slavery The rapid expansion of the Cotton Kingdom into the counties of the Chickasaw Cession created a seemingly insatiable demand for slave labor. August B. Longstreet wrote his son-in-law L. Q. C. Lamar, “This is a magnificent country for planters, there are men here who left Newton County [GA] poor and in debt 10 years ago, who now have a good plantation and 15 to 20 hands, and are buying more every year.” The federal and state census returns demonstrate the spectacular rise in the African American slave population, HOLLY SPRINGS Once a trading post for the Chickasaw Nation and other traders, the town of Holly Springs became a bustling railroad town before the Civil War. In 1878, years after the war had ended, Holly Springs was hit by a deadly outbreak of Yellow Fever, which killed thousands of residents. Now Holly Springs is a flourishing town with multiple museums and historic places, including the birth place of Imda B. Wells. Holly Springs also hosts beloved annual events known throughout Mississippi, such as the Audubon Hummingbird Migration Celebration and the Annual Pilgrimage, a tour of historic homes and churches in the area. PHOTO BY GREG CAMPBELL leading by the 1850s to African American majorities in Marshall, DeSoto, and Panola counties. In 1837, Marshall already had a slave population of 5,224. By 1860, the enslaved population had almost tripled to 15,448, 54 percent of the county’s inhabitants. In Panola County, the enslaved population in 1837 was a meager 901. In just three years, it had more than doubled to 2,415. By 1850, the slave population stood at 6,420, and by 1860, it had increased to 8,857, an almost tenfold increase in twenty-three years. In 1857, De Soto County had 11,725 taxable slaves. By 1860, slaves composed 59 percent of De Soto’s inhabitants. Lafayette County also experienced a healthy growth in the enslaved population but maintained a white majority. The 1840 federal census showed 2,842 slaves, growing to 5,719 in 1850 and increasing to 7,129 on the eve of the Civil War, 44 percent of the county’s population. According to one historian, only a small percentage of this growth was due to natural births; the vast majority of slaves in North Mississippi were born elsewhere. They came from the older eastern slave states either through migration along with white families or through the domestic slave trade. Bancroft estimates that two-thirds of all the slaves arriving in Mississippi were brought in by slave traders. Nathan Bedford Forrest, the future Confederate hero, was a resident of Hernando as a young man and Memphis’s most successful slave trader. Memphis, a day’s ride from much of Marshall and DeSoto counties, supplied planters throughout North Mississippi. Forrest sent business associates throughout northern Mississippi and advertised in Eastern newspapers. In the January 1860 Charleston Courier of South Carolina, Forrest placed an ad: “500 Negroes Wanted. I will pay more than any other person for No. 1 Negroes.” Secession The decade of the 1850s saw escalating tensions between the North and the South over slavery. The storm center of the conflict was whether or not slavery would be allowed to expand into the Western territories. The rise of a Northern antislavery party, the Republicans, dedicated to preserving the West for “Free-Soil” settlers alarmed white Southerners. The Mississippi States’Rights Democrats publicly declared that the election of a Republican as president would be just cause for secession. When Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, Oxford community leaders called for a mass meeting at the square on November 24 of that year “to give expression of the people of the county to the recent election.” Crowds gathered, with bands playing and church bells ringing. The