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University Greys at First Manassas

Various information on the University Greys
Photographs of University Greys and other 11th Mississippians
Photographs of other early war Mississippians
Uniform summary for the University Greys and the state of Mississippi
Impression guidelines for University Greys at Manassas
Check to see who is falling in with the University Greys at Manassas

On August 3 - 5, 2001, the 140th anniversery of First Manassas will take place in Leesburg, Virginia. This website is for those who will be portraying the University Greys, Company A of the 11th Mississippi Infantry. The University Greys will be a part of the Liberty Rifles, who will be portraying the 2nd Mississippi Infantry. The Greys, along with the Liberty Rifles, will be part of a larger Brigade that will be made up of all campaigners. Within this Brigade there should be close to 150 men in early war Mississippi attire, and almost 400 campaigners in the enitre Brigade! The Univesity Greys will be one of the best companies not only at the event, but within the Brigade! Join us now, and be one of the lucky few who get to be a part of the toughest company at Manassas.

To be a member of the University Greys, register as follows: Co. A, 11th Miss., Liberty Rifles, Cumming's Regiment, Seay's Brigade, Jesse's Division


The University Greys, of which organization Mrs. Calvin S. Brown writes, was Compnay A of the Eleventh Mississippi Infantry of the Confederate Army.

The Eleventh Mississippi, one of the first regiments formed in Mississippi as part of the Confederate Army, was composed of volunteers from the older and more developed counties in North Mississippi.

The Greys were students in the University and therefore were rather widely drawn from the State. Since the personnel was not limited to Lafayette County men, that county claimed the right to contribute another company to the regiment. This company was the Lamar Rifles.

At that period of the war to contribute a company to a glamourous regiment such as the Eleventh was considered a privilege.

The other companies came from Noxubee, Lowndes, Monroe, Chickasaw, Coahoma, Carroll, and Neshoba counties.

Since the Crawford Settlement sat astride the line between Noxubee and Lowndes and since Macon and Columbus each supplied a company, both Noxubee and Lowndes counties boasted that they had fared as well as Lafeyette since the honour of supplying the University Gryes was shared between Lafeyette and the State at large.

The companies of the Eleventh were formed in the first outburst of the military spirit with which the Confederacy was launched.

In general the spirit of the boys who enlisted in the Eleventh Mississippi in the spring of 1861 was that of the boys shown in the Twelve Oaks section of the picture "Gone With the Wind". Let us brief it by calling it the Twelve Oaks spirit.

It is this spirit which threw the University Greys into action as it did the Cadet Corps of Virginia Military Institute and all other cadet corps.

Rietti says: "This regiment one of the oldest in the service was noted for the character and ability of its officers and the high order of material which composed its rank and file. Perhaps no regiment entered the service with a larger number of such. This writer can supplement Rietti's list with many others.

And why? The regiment was animated by impulse - the impulse of valor. Feeling ran high and this impelled men to enlist to fight, regardless. Maybe they might fit in better somewhere else. Maybe by scheming and planning they might secure better positions. They did not want to reckon or to plan. Their impulse was to fight. They were soldiers of impulse.

McFarland wrote: "The Eleventh was made up in large measure from the choices spirits in the state - intelligent, honorable and brave and was a tried and trained body that had won fame upon many bloody fields before Gettysburg. It was the equal in intelligence and soldierly qualities of any regiment in the charge, come from where it might."

The Weekly Mississippian of Jackson, Mississippi, on December 12, 1860, reports a "Meeting in Lafeyette. A meeting was held in Oxford Saturday, Nov. 24, 1860, to 'give expression to the opinions and sentiments of the people of Lafayette County, in regard to the election of Lincoln and Hamlin'...'to repel and resist the encroachments upon their constitutinal rights'...'to make measures for the preservation and perpetuity of their peculiar institutions'...'for the people of each slaveholding state to determine the mode and measures of redress in the premises, of a State Convention, composed of delegates elected by the people, to determine the attitude Mississippi shall assume in the alarming state of our federal relations'...This meeting was held on the motion of Col. A. H. Pegues; H. A. Barr, Esq. was chairman, and L. Houseman was Secretary."

If these were the feelings of "conservative," mature men, "calmly and dispassionately" expressed, what can one look for from college boys?

On December first, 1860, the Lamar Rifles, an infantry company, was organized in Oxford, the average age of its members being a little over twenty years, and many of them being University students resident in the county. The campus of the University was seething with rage and excitement but many leading men of the state were actively opposed to the organization of a military company of students on the campus. In the face of all the opposition, however, the boys organized in December, later electing William B. Lowry, captain. He had had some military training in a chool in Kentucky,

Their captain-elect seems to have devoted himself to his military duties to the disadvantage of his University obligations, if one may read between the lines of the faculty minutes. He is first mentioned in an entry on January seventh, 1861; Lowry and Slack had had a fight; Slack had gone home and Lowry was to be "lectured" by the chairman of the faculty. Most of the records for the next few months are concerned with Lowry. On February the eleventh he was dropped from the roll for "having more than fifty marks for absence from College exercises." On February the eighteenth he was reinstated because he had the Chancellor's permission for twenty of his absences.

In the meantime the "repeated applications" for commissions for the officers of the University Greys had borne fruit. On February 7, 1861, Governor Pettus had commissioned the following officers: Captain, William B. Lowry; First Lieutenant, Calvin B. McCaleb; Second Lieutenant, Levins M. Bisland; Third Lieutenant, William A. Raines.

General Griffith was authorized to muster the company in, which he did on the twenty-second of February, 1861, as part of the Mississippi state troops, to be known as the University Greys. A clippin from The Weekly Clarion in the files of the State Department of Archives and History, says: (On that day) "they proundly paraded the streets of Oxford as soldiers ready to do the bidding of their state. They returned to the halls of the University not to tax their minds with the dull routine of college duties, but to speculate on the signs of the times, and watch and wait for the coming of the hour when they could illustrate their patriotism by deeds of valor."

To the University faculty, however, the young soldiers were still college boys subject to discipline and the "Lowry Case," as they came to call it, continued to adorn the pages of their records. On February 25th he was again dropped for absences. On February 26th, his case was considered and he was directed to prove that he had authority from parent or guardian for being absent and to take examinations on the work done in his classes while he was absent. On March 4th: "Mr. Lowry's case came up and he was dropped from the roll in consequence of his negligence in discharging the duties of his position as a student of the University."

Mr. Lowry seems to have been already a pretty good fighter, for he petitioned to be allowed to pass examinations and reenter, but was told that he could reenter, if at all, only in a lower class. What his reply to this was does not appear but ther is a court entry on March 18th: "Mr. Lowry's case came up...voted that Mr. Lowry be expelled from the University unless he leave these grounds and the town of Oxford within forty-eight hours."

But he had them there! He held that his place was with his company as its captain and stayed on the compus.

Events were now moning swiftly. This paragraph appeared in The Oxford Mercury of March 14th, 1861: "War Implements! We are gratified to learn that the University Greys and the Lamar Rifles have recieved from Jackson 120 muskets with bayonets. We have examined some of these guns and know that they are excellent weapons. We have now on hand in old Lafayette a pretty fiar supply of war implements...and we have the men ready and willing to use them. We claim that Lafeyette is the Banner County in this struggle."

The same paper published also an officail call for troops "for the defense of the Southern Confederacy" and a resume of the newly adopted Constitiution of the Confederacy. Its columns abounded in "items about the Revolution," gibes at the North and at the Republicans, reports of results in other states as they voted on Secession. Texas is out! Tennessee is out! Missouri wil lnot come now - but later we think she will. Some negro workmen in Georgia, said The Mercury, had hoisted secession flags on thier dirt carts, showing eight stars. Asked why they had added the eighth, they had replied, "Ole Virginney's bound to come."

Several columns of The Mercury were given to the report of the presentation of the banner to the Lamar Rifles on March the ninth at a gathering in the Oxford Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Two Holly Springs companies had come down for the event. They, the Lafayette Guards, and the Lamar Rifles had paraded through the streets and drilled on the square to the music of the drum and fife before marching to the church for speeches and the presentation. A few days afterward a banner was presented to the Lafayette Guards and later in the month they left for the Florida front.

The diary of Duncan McCollum, senior in the University in 1860-1861, under the date od April 4th, says "(I) Go to a concert given by the ladies of the town to get the money to buy a banner for the University Greys."

But amid all this excitement the faculty on the campus was still trying to hold the students to their duties. On April first the record says that Professor Lamar reported on the result of an interview which, at the Chancellor's request, he had with the governor. Chancellor Barnard had asked Govenor Pettus through Professor Lamar to remove Mr. Lowry from the "captaincy of the University Military Company." The governor had promised to investigate his power in the matter. He later wrote that commissions had been issued to the officers of the University Greys and that they were exempt from his control. He could not remove Captain Lowry. The company seems to have justified Dr. Waddell's earlier description of the student body. There is an amusing entry in the faculty minutes on April 8th: "The Chancellor's attention was called to the fact that various members of the University Greys are in the habit of using their muskets for hunting and other purposes in violation of the terms of agreement by which they were allowed to remove their muskets from the 'arsenal' to their own rooms for better keeping. The Chancellor promised to have the practice stopped...After an animated discussion on the 'Lowry Case' the faculty adjourned."

On this same day President Davis made his first general call for troops. A few days later, Fort Sumter fell, followed by the call to arms in the North, and President Davis increased his first call to a total of 8,000 from Mississippi. Now parents of the younger members of the University Greys began to write to the Chancellor to have their sons withdraw from the company. The situation looked increasingly serious. The faculty had a circular letter printed and sent it to the parents or gaurdians of undergraduate members of the Greys: "Requesting immediate notification as to whether their sons or wards were members of the said military company by their consent and asking if they were willing to allow their sons to be drafted into the service of the Confederate States in case further demand is made for volunteers."

On April 22d the Chancellor read letters from a number of parents whose sons were minors who wished them to withdraw if the company should be called into active service. The Chancellor was directed to notify these boys of thier parents' wishes and "then to notify Capt. Lowry of the necessity of his dismissing such minors from his command." Many left the company under this circumstance.

Four days later, on April 26, 1861, the company was mustered in at Oxford. On the following day Captain Green of the Lamar Rifles received the following orders: "You will have your company in readiness to take the morning train going north on Wednesday next and will as Senr. Capt. have under your command Capt. W. B. Lowry's company the 'University Greys' and it is ordered that as Commander you place these two companies under military discipline and proceed by Miss Central R. R. to Grand Junction - thence by Memphis & Charleston Rl. Rd. to Corinth station where you will transfer your command to Brigd. Genl. appointed to command of Brigade of Miss. Volunteers. You will see that before starting you command is provided with one days rations. (Your command will be furnished at Corinth with tents and camp equipage). By Command of J. J. Pettus, Commander in Chief." Uner these orders on May 1st at 5:00 a.m. the University Greys left Oxford on the same train with the Lamar Rifles, "all in great glee," says Duncan McCollum's diary. In the history of the Rifles published in 1901 by the "Survivors' Association," Mr. T. P. Buford recalls that occasion: "Forty years ago a gay company of youths went forth from the town arrayed in bright uniforms - . Their friends and relatives were there to bid them good-bye and God-Speed...Lamar...was present...and spoke the farewells for the crowd of friends assembled. One that brief farewell speech...I have never forgotten: 'Young men, you are not going on a holiday excursion, for I believe you will see hard service and serious work.' "

On the next day, May 2nd, the faculty records have the follwoing entry: "The Chancellor reported that since the departure of the 'University Greys' on the 1st. Inst. to join the Confederate Army, nearly all the other students have taken out 'dismissions' from college or 'leaves of absence'...only five students were left in attendance...and they would probably drop off in a few hours."

And so the faculty stood and looked around at their fine, new buildings, their magnificent equipment and, believing that the country needed trained men, they grieved at the impetuosity that carried their young men to doom. Yet soon they too were to be schattered - the Northern sympathizers to their northern homes; the Southerners, to the army, the council, the camp. Practicaly all the students of the University, it may be said, fought in the Confederate Army.

At their June meeting, the trustees approved recommendations from the law and academic faculties that the seniors should receive their degrees of Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts respectively and granted the degrees, arranging for sending each one his deploma.

Let us look at the University Greys for a moment as they boarded the train for Corinth. We shall never see them like this again. At their head is Captain William B. Lowry, nineteen years old, "a tall, slender built man...with a classical, handsome face - a courteous and refined gentleman, well-to-do and wealthy," according to the descriptions of A. J. Ledbetter of Crawford, Mississippi, a Confederate Veteran who knew him. Mr. Ledbetter says that Mr. Lowry had brought to college with him two horses, one for himself, and one for his negro servant, his bird dogs, and his guns. The average age of the members of the company was a little over twenty years. Only one, says the History of the Lamar Rifles, was married - James O'Grady who was one of a number not University students who enlisted with them at Oxford. The same history says of the Rifles and the Greys: They "were trained by habit and instinct to ride, to shoot, and to speak the truth. They were of fine physique and high spirited...of soldierly qualities and gallant conduct."