Two University Greys Confederate Soldiers Receive New Tombstones in Oxford, Mississippi – Photographs by Newt Rayburn
On May 6, 2018, a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Oxford, Mississippi, the local Camp 1803 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans held a memorial service and dedication of new tombstones for two Confederate soldiers of the famous University Greys regiment.
The event featured Civil War era music by Alan Sibley & The Magnolia Ramblers, plus speeches by SCV Camp Commander Larry Mardis, historian Starke Miller, and Jefferson Davis (played by Wes Teel). Confederate Reenactors, women in period dresses, and a color guard ushered in the laying of wreaths, while 56 Confederate battle flags marked the graves of Confederate veterans in the cemetery.
“History is neither good or bad,” spoke Wes Teel, who was portraying Confederate President Jefferson Davis. “It is just history.”
“No matter how you seek to forget or ignore history, no matter how you seek to twist history to serve your political or social point of view, history will surface. No matter how you try to erase, history will reappear for those who value it to study it and to learn by history.”
The new tombstones were needed at the graves of two members of the University Greys, Company A in the 11th Mississippi Infantry during the Civil War. Almost all of the Greys were students at the University of Mississippi. Nearly the entire student body (135 men) enlisted in May of 1861; only four students reported for classes in fall 1861, so few that the university closed temporarily.
The most famous engagement of the University Greys was at Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg, when the Confederates made a frontal assault on the Union entrenchments atop Cemetery Ridge. The Greys penetrated further into the Union position than any other unit, but at the terrible cost of sustaining 100% casualties—every soldier was either killed or wounded. Other battles in which the Greys fought included Sharpsburg, First and Second Manasses, Gaines Farm, Seven Pines, and others.
The two Confederate soldiers receiving new tombstones were William J. Burkhead and Mitchell Adrian Reynolds.
Local farmer William Burkhead, 24, enlisted with the University Greys in April of 1861. He returned to Oxford in September 1861 and died soon after from an unknown disability. Mitchell Reynolds, 19, was a student at the University of Mississippi and enlisted the same day of Burkhead. He died of typhoid fever in Lynchburg, Virginia in August 1861 and his body was brought home to Oxford.
Both are buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Oxford, Mississippi and their original tombstones were damaged and broken.
Newt Rayburn Newt Rayburn founded THE LOCAL VOICE in 2006.
Previously, Newt was Editor of PROFANE EXISTENCE in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Art Director for Ole Miss' LIVING BLUES magazine. Newt won a National Magazine Award in 1999 for his SOUTHERN MUSIC ISSUE with THE OXFORD AMERICAN.
A seventh-generation Lafayette County, Mississippian, Newt is perhaps best known as the leader of the Mississippi RocknRoll band THE COOTERS, but he also has the Country & Southern Rock group, HAWGWASH.
Newt is a Photographer, Writer, and Civil War Enthusiast.