Report of Surg. Horace R. Wirtz, U. S. Army, of the capture of Holly Springs, December 20.
MEDICAL DIRECTOR'S OFFICE, Holly Springs, Miss., December 23, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to report that I remained behind the advance of the army for the purpose of establishing a large general hospital at Holly Springs. I took a building that had been built for an armory by the Confederates, consisting of six large rooms, each 250 feet long, and numerous outhouses, and after two weeks of incessant labor, in which I was greatly assisted by Surgeon Powers, of the Seventh Missouri Infantry, I had everything prepared for 2,000 patients. The acting medical purveyor of the southern portion of the department had been ordered to bring all his supplies to this hospital, which he did, and on the morning of December 20 one of the most completely furnished and extensive hospitals in the army was just ready to receive its sick.
On that morning the town of Holly Springs was taken by the Confederate forces under General Van Dorn. As soon as I discovered the enemy were in possession of the place I repaired to the headquarters of the rebel general, near town, and made a formal request that the armory hospital should not be burned, entering an earnest protest on the subject, as the Confederates had already set fire to the railroad depot and commissary storehouse and had declared their intention to destroy all houses occupied by our troops. I received the assurance of General Van Dorn's adjutant that the armory hospital should not be burned, but that it would be protected by a guard. Satisfied with this I returned to my quarters, but had not been there an hour when I was informed the building was on fire, and thus this fine structure, with two thousand bunks, and immense lot of drugs and surgical apparatus, thousands of blankets, sheets, and bed-sacks was soon in ashes.
This proceeding, in violation of an express promise, and of all the rules of civilized warfare, is an evidence of the barbarity and want of principle of Confederate officers. But this is not all; an attempt was also made to destroy the general hospital, located on the main square, and which at the time contained over 500 sick.
A quantity of ordnance stores had been deposited in a building on the next block to the hospital, and by order of General Van Dorn, as stated by the Confederate officer who had charge of the matter, the barrels of powder and boxes, containing shells and cartridges, were taken out and piled up nearly in front of the hospital and sent fire to. Two medical officers protested against this wanton act, but their requests were treated with contempt, and before there was time to remove the sick the walls and windows of the hospital were riddled with flying balls and shells, and finally a terrific explosion took place which shook the entire building, destroying almost every window and door in the establishment, wounding about 20 men and creating a scene of the wildest confusion. A large number of buildings on the public square took fire from the explosion, and it was only by the utmost efforts that the hospital was preserved as a shelter for the men from the night air, together with the medical officers, who assisted me in caring for the sick and wounded on that trying day.
I thought that the rebels had now done us all the harm in their power; but to injury insult was yet to be added in a manner I hope never to witness again.