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Letter to the Editor: The Truth About the Confederate Monument

By Starke Miller

This is all taken from my 29 years of research on the University of Mississippi in the Civil War and from my forthcoming book on the monument. I have given this information to UM history professor Dr. John Neff, along with the majority of the sources. UM history professors General James Cook and Dr. David Sansing told me, and other people, many times that I am the expert on the University of Mississippi in the Civil War. I hope their opinion on me is good enough for you to believe me.

1. The monument was dedicated to the Confederate Civil War dead of Lafayette County in 1906, not to the glory of the Confederacy or to any Confederate General. It was not placed for any racist purpose. If you do not believe this, all you have to do is read the monument itself. All the primary sources show it was only done to remember the boys who died in the War and for no other reason.

2. Lafayette County lost at least 432 men killed in the War. That is 25% of all the men sent from this county to fight for the CSA. I am sure the numbers are higher, but I cannot prove that due to incomplete Confederate service records. Imagine what we would do, if in four years time from today, if 25% of the young males in Lafayette County, including University students, from age 18 to 35, were killed. We would probably put up several monuments to them. This is what those boys’ Mamma’s, sisters, daughters, nieces, and other family members, and the University family did, in 1906.

3. Generally, if you sent a family member to the war, he died of disease—or he was killed— and you did not get his body back. Most Confederate soldiers after battles were buried in unmarked graves, were not buried at all, or they were placed in burial trenches like the largest one at Shiloh being over 700 Confederates stacked up to seven deep on top of each other. Union Soldiers nationally were removed individually to nice national cemeteries with federal tax money. Confederates were left to rot. Southern families generally knew these facts. That monument on campus is the only marker many of the 432-plus Lafayette County dead ever got.

4. There were 10 University Greys from Lafayette County who died in the War and who are represented by that monument.

5. There were 10 University students or alumni from Lafayette County who died in the war who are represented by that monument.

6. The monument was placed on campus to be between two cemeteries – St. Peter’s in Oxford and the University Hospital Confederate Cemetery on campus. St. Peter’s Oxford Cemetery included two University Greys and several UM alumni, all from Lafayette County, who died during the war. The University Hospital Cemetery on campus contains over 700 Southerners, including one University Grey and two UM Alumni who died at their University after the battle of Shiloh. All the University Hospital dead died within sight of the monument’s location. The primary source material clearly explains the placement of the monument on campus.

7. The monument was envisioned by a UM Professor of Chemistry, R. W. Jones in 1892, and the funds were raised by a group of 45 Lafayette County women including University wives, UM trustees wives, Delta Gammas, and Lafayette County women, most of whom had lost one or more family members in the war. There were never more than 32 of these women present and working in any one of the 14 years it took to fund the monument.

8. In the group of 45 women who got the monument done were:

a. Nine UM professors wives (including Vice-Chancellor Hume’s wife and the law school dean G. D. Shand’s wife)
b. One female teacher of stenography at UM, who was herself a member of the group.
c. Three UM trustees wives: Falkner, Price, and Porter
d. At least eight Delta Gamma women
e. William Faulkner’s grandmother and aunt
f. An Oxford mayor’s wife, Mrs. John F. Brown
g. Two of the women were married to UM Alumni and two others had sons at the University.
h. 12 of the 45 women were between age 7, and 21, with 10 of them living in Oxford and two living in Lafayette County at the time the war ended. Most of those 12 would have cut bedsheets into bandages, scraped lint to pack wounds, and/or helped to cook food for the University Hospital, or they would have nursed at the Hospital. When they erected that monument they could not forget the University Hospital dead who they had tried so hard to keep alive.

9. Two UM professors helped with the wording on the monument – Professor R. W. Jones and Law School Dead Garvin D. Shands.

10. From 1866 to 1906 there were at least eight attempts to raise some kind of monument to the University Greys, the University Hospital dead, or the Lafayette County dead. Only two of those attempts were successful. One was the University Greys Memorial window in the new Library building, placed in 1890, and the other was a cast-iron fence placed around the campus Confederate Cemetery in 1899.

The University Confederate Monument was not put up for any racist purpose. The primary source material bears that out. It was put up to remember the over 432 dead from the County including University Greys and UM students and alumni. It also provided a bit of comfort and closure to family and friends who had lived through an era of loss that it is not possible for modern Americans to fully understand. The University community, including two UM Professors, constituted over half the people who got that monument done. May God bless them for that.

I am sorry nobody ever told you any of this before now. I am sorry no one ever told you the truth about this monument. Current and former Ole Miss faculty, administration and Alumni have neglected the University’s history. The truth got lost over the years. It now needs to be widely told and known.

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