Six months after the Confederate Soldier Monument was dedicated on the Ole Miss campus, to the gallant men who had fought in the Civil War, another monument was purposed for the Square in downtown Oxford. J. L. Shinault, who was the Commander of Lafayette County Camp #752 of the United Confederate Veterans, wrote a letter to the people of the county. This letter was published in the local Lafayette County Press on Nov. 7, 1906. The veterans felt that the men from Lafayette County that had fought in the Civil War should have a monument placed on the Courthouse grounds in memorial and to honor the fallen.
Shinault stated in his letter, “This is indeed a worthy and noble enterprise and the Camp has expressed the desire that the people of Lafayette County be given the opportunity to contribute as generously as their circumstance will permit to this cause”. The cost of the monument would be $3,000 and a site on the south side of the Courthouse was chosen. He also stated in his letter, “the names and amounts contributed by each will be published in the county papers from week to week until the full amount is raised”.
In late April of 1907, Camp #752 decided to have two fundraisers for the purposed monument. On April 26, 1907, they had what was billed as an “Old Folks Ball”. It would be at the Opera House and consisted of an old time square dance, cotillion, and Virginia Reel. Also the camp members planned to have a sham battle on April 27th. The plan of battle was to follow as near as possible one of the great battles of the Civil War.
In a letter from Shinault and R. L. Stephens, the Camp Adjutant, published in the Oxford Eagle, they issued a “cordial invitation to all comrades and citizens generally in our adjoining counties to attend and be one of us on that occasion, and hope to have many visiting delegations from camps of veterans within a radius of 100 miles. All visiting veterans are requested to come prepared to take part in the sham battle, as it is desired to have as many as possible in line.”
These two fundraisers brought in the needed cash to finish out the contributions for the monument. The sham battle must have been a sight to see. It was held in a field to the west of the University. A reporter for the Oxford Eagle described it: “The battle opened with a cannon shot from the Southern forces, then the sharp shooters were sent out by both sides and they had quite a realistic skirmish, the Southerners being driven back until reinforced. This was followed up by quite a big fight by most of the contending armies in the middle of the field. The roar of the cannon and musketry and the movements of the two armies were real exciting to the spectators. After a considerable battle in mid-field the Southern line reorganized and then drove the Northern line over the hill into the cover of the woods, and after a considerable struggle the Southern forces came out victorious.” The final result of the sham battle could not have been entirely unexpected.
In September of 1907, the new monument was in place on the south side on the Courthouse and ready to be dedicated. Governor James K. Vardaman was to deliver the dedication address, but he was unable to appear so State Superintendent of Education J. N. Powers, who would later become Chancellor of Ole Miss, gave the address. For more than an hour he spoke of Southern virtues. The Lafayette County Press reported, “he entertained the large audience with an able and eloquent address. Very pathetic was his pictures of war times and the reconstruction; and his tribute to the Confederate Soldier and the women of the South was one of the most beautiful we have ever listened to.”
After Powers address a volley of three salutes was fired by the veterans, and then Miss Ada Pettis pulled the cord and revealed the monument. The Confederate soldier was standing with his hands on his musket and his back to the North. At 3 p.m., the veterans formed a line and marched to the field west of the University. They again had a sham battle, this time representing the Battle of Chickamauga. The veterans broke into two armies representing the Southern and Union forces. The commanders were J. F. Brown, J. C. Gates, and J. L. Shinault. This sham battle was like that of the Battle of Chickamauga; it was won by the Confederacy.
In February 1908, the “Confederate Veterans” magazine reported on the second monument to be placed in Lafayette County to memorialize the Confederate dead, but made no mention of the other monument. The article also stated the Lafayette County had sent more men to fight for the Southern Cause than any other county in the State of Mississippi. This maybe the reason for two monuments, or is it?
Jack Lamar Mayfield is a fifth generation Oxonian, whose family came to Oxford shortly after the Chickasaw Cession of 1832, and he is the third generation of his family to graduate from the University of Mississippi. He is a former insurance company executive and history instructor at Marshall Academy in Holly Springs, South Panola High School in Batesvile and the Oxford campus of Northwest Community College.
In addition to his weekly blog in HottyToddy.com Oxford’s Olden Days, Mayfield is also the author of an Images of America series book titled Oxford and Ole Miss published in 2008 for the Oxford-Lafayette County Heritage Foundation. The Foundation is responsible for restoring the post-Civil War home of famed Mississippi statesman, L.Q.C. Lamar and is now restoring the Burns Belfry, the first African American Church in Oxford.