Ceremony to honor 22 Confederate dead

Published 6:00 am Friday, February 22, 2008

After church on Sunday, a crowd of dignitaries and descendantswill gather on the grass at Rose Hill Cemetery to honor the dead ofmore than 150 years ago.

The Brookhaven Light Artillery, Camp 235, Sons of ConfederateVeterans, will dedicate a new historical marker and 22 graniteheadstones for the 22 unknown Confederate soldiers who died at atemporary hospital station on the campus of Whitworth Collegeduring the Civil War. The ceremony, which will feature aperformance of “Dixie,” “Taps,” an honor guard and a 21-gun salute,will commence at 2 p.m.

“It will be, I think, an awesome event,” said Michael Harris,former commander of the Brookhaven Light Artillery. “On a scale ofone to 10, it will be an 11. This provides a link from the presentto the past. A lot of the descendants from Civil War soldiers stilllive in Brookhaven, and this will be a tie-in to our past.”

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The 22 soldiers have not rested entirely in peace. When theydied, no one came to Brookhaven to claim them and no recordsexisted to identify them.

Their bodies, originally buried at Whitworth, were exhumed in1896 and carried a half-mile down Monticello Street to their finalinterment in a mass grave at Rose Hill Cemetery.

The grave site was honored 30 years later, on Dec. 19, 1926,with a marker placed by the United Confederate Veterans, UnitedDaughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans.The marker was donated by George Bowsky, a Jewish merchant in thecity.

The original marker guarded the dead for 79 years withoutinterruption, until it was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Itwas slowly sinking into the ground and in danger of tipping over,until it was repaired by Brookhaven Monument Co. owner DavePace.

The site was re-dedicated in 2007. The re-dedication ceremonygot the Brookhaven Light Artillery to thinking.

“Once we restored the monument, we got to digging becausethey’re seemed to be some confusion as to where the bodies wereburied at Whitworth,” Harris said. “In the end, we decided that weshould erect a historical marker for the soldiers’ final restingplace.”

The artillery contacted the Mississippi Department of Archivesand History, got approval on the marker’s text and had the orderplaced with Sewah Studios in Marietta, Ohio. The finished aluminummarker, green with gold leaf lettering, was delivered to theMississippi Department of Transportation in McComb in November andwas placed at the grave site on Jan. 15.

The marker cost $1,620 and the 22 granite headstones, which willflank the marker with 11 on each side, were donated by the VeteransAdministration. On Sunday, the new markers on the old site will bededicated by the Brookhaven Light Artillery, the Capt. James AlbertBass Chapter 275 Military Order of the Stars and Bars and theVarina Howell Davis Chapter 11 Order of the Confederate Rose.

Six wreathes will be laid at the grave site by the Sons ofConfederate Veterans, Military Order of the Stars and Bars, Orderof the Confederate Rose, United Daughters of the Confederacy,American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the City ofBrookhaven.

And every major religion represented in Brookhaven at the timeof the war will be present. The Rev. Dr. Gene Bennett of theEpiscopal Church of the Redeemer, the Rev. Edwin Wolff of FirstPresbyterian Church, Father Matthew Simmons of St. Francis ofAssisi Catholic Church, the Rev. Hampton Sims of Easthaven BaptistChurch, and Rabbi Batsheva Appel of the Goldring/WoldenbergInstitute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson will all be on hand atthe ceremony.

“It’s our way of honoring our ancestors and giving these 22unknown soldiers some kind of closure,” Harris said. “You know,they had mothers, sisters, wives and sweethearts back home,wherever home was.”

The historical marker will be the third such monument erected bythe Brookhaven Light Artillery, which also helped raise theJefferson Davis monument at the intersection of Highway 51 Northand the artillery’s own marker in Railroad Park in downtown.