Mississippi College

Remembering Clinton’s Role in the Civil War

April 19, 2013

Mississippi College students, professors and members of the Clinton community formed a unit that fought in major Civil War battles in places like Northern Virginia and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Beginning with 65 members, including 32 students, in the unit called the Mississippi College Rifles in April 1861, the group expanded to attract 104 people marching off to war. Only eight of these valiant men returned home by war’s end in 1865.

At a program at Provine Chapel Friday night on the MC campus, local historian Walter G. Howell and singer Lester Senter Wilson will remember Clinton’s role in the Civil War dating back 150 years ago.

The program on April 19 will begin at 7 p.m. It is free and open to the public. The 90-minute presentation will include a vocal performance by Wilson. Members of the audience will also witness the play “Captain Lewis’ Lost Cause,” written by Dr. Howell that spotlights the role of the leader of the Mississippi College Rifles.

MC was involved in the American Civil War in other ways. Opened in 1860, Provine Chapel was used as a hospital for the wounded troops of Northern U.S. General Ulysses S. Grant. In addition, people say he used the chapel as a stable for his horses.

Provine Chapel is the oldest building at the Christian university and perhaps the most beautiful structure on campus. It houses the Department of Christian Studies and Philosophy classrooms, faculty offices, and remains a popular spot for weddings.

The Civil War program focusing on Clinton continues Saturday morning at Provine Chapel starting at 9 a.m.

There will be tours of the historic chapel, a visit to the children’s Civil War boot camp at the Clinton Lions Club Park, and a visit at the antebellum home Tanglewood on Jefferson Street. There will also be Civil War era vendors, food and craft demonstrations along Jefferson Street in Olde Towne Clinton.

A stone monument erected on the Clinton campus tells the story of the Mississippi College Rifles. The soldiers spent six weeks training on campus before leaving for Corinth and traveling to Northern Virginia battles in places like Manassas, Richmond, and Leesburg and onto Pennsylvania to engage in fierce battles. In April 1862, Clinton resident W.H. Lewis was elected captain of the Mississippi College Rifles.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the monument to preserve the memory of the original Mississippi College Rifles. It is entitled “Love Is Immortal.”

The Mississippi College Rifles and the Mississippi College Invincibles became drill units on the Clinton campus in the 1880s.

Participation was voluntary with students supplying their uniforms and the state providing arms. By the early 20th Century, growing MC athletic programs took over most of the functions of the military units and the units disbanded, says the book “Mississippi College With Pride” written by the late Charles E. Martin, a former administrator at his alma mater.

For more information, visit the Facebook page www.facebook.com/clintonsplaceinhistory or contact Tara Lytal with Main Street Clinton at tlytal@clintonms.org.

Photo: Provine Chapel

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