During the early days of June 1863, several soldiers of Company A, the University Greys, of the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment, received copies of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Private Tom Wilkins of Company E remembered that "most of our boys couldn't or wouldn't read this panty-waist mish-mash." One good thing did come out of the book, Wilkins recalled, "We named ourselves 'Lee's Miserables,' rather than Les Miserables."
On June 2, 1863, General James Longstreet issue an order, "Cook 3 days rations and prepare to move." Late in the day, rain, perhaps an omen, moved into the area. By 9:00 p.m., tents were struck, wagons loaded, and the men left to spend a wet, miserable night. The next day, Private Alford Jones of Company K, Carroll County Rifles, correctly anticipated what lay in store for the men of the 11th Mississippi: "I think when Lee invades the Yankee states we will bee with him.
This is a mesterous [mysterious] move to us. all of us was surprised when we heard. we was ordered to Richmond. If we go to Lee's army we will have sum hard times." After reaching their new camp near Fredericksburg, Virginia, Private Charles Ridout of Company D, the Neshoba Rifles, and Private Leander Huckaby of Company E took a few minutes to pen quick notes to their loved ones at home.
Each expressed concerns. Ridout wrote: "We ... are expecting a fight to commence at any moment. Our army had defeated the enemy twice at this place, and we feel satisfied that we can do so a third time if he comes over." Huckaby sensed not only the battle, but his impending doom when he wrote: "this maybe the last time I ever write to [you] for wee was sent from the blackwater here to Lees army expecting a great fight... an I may get killed.
I earnestly and specially ask the prairs [prayers] of you all for my success. I pray and things [thinks] the Lord has answered [some of] my prairs but others it seems are not answered. but everything you do, do it with fear to God... Mother, I hav [had] my Diguerreotype [Daguerreotype] taken. I wil send [it] to you the first chance I get and if I get killed some of my friends wil carry it to you... Mother I will send you a lock of my hair."
On the night of June 13, 1863, the 11th Mississippi set up a theatrical production for their amusement in a huge warehouse near the Rappahannock, a building that also served as their temporary living quarters.
The star performer was Jeremiah Gage of the University Greys, an English and Law major, with a genuine love for poetry and elocution. "Jere" had a "striking stage presence with his handsome well-modeled profile with a tousled shock of reddish-blond hair, deep blue eyes, the muscles of a born athlete, and a deep refined Southern accent." Young Tommy McKie of the Greys, the designated stage manager, had placed "guttering" candles around the makeshift stage for maximum dramatic effect.
With a flourish, the sergeant from Holmes County, Mississippi, mounted the platform and announced that he would present a paraphrased reading from the book, Lays of the Scottish Chiefs, by William Edmondstone Aytoun. Before Gage could begin, Leander Huckaby blurted that this was not exactly the kind of "lay" he needed!
When the roar of laughing and the cackling cheers subsided, Jere Gage began the reading in his "molasses rich" voice. Upon the completion of his patriotic and inspiring presentation, the sergeant boomed, "To the Southern Confederacy and to victory." Within seconds, the entire theatre erupted into a "giant and continuous" Rebel Yell. Through this momentary joy, the eyes of these young men could not conceal the indescribable "pathos of the doomed."
They were no longer sacrificing and fighting for an abstract ideal, they were fighting for each other and their country, and their decision was final - the grave of a hero or victory. Three of these young men had no way of knowing that this trip north for the expected great encounter would be their last battle - Sergeant Gage, Private Huckaby and Private Ridout. During that historical battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 3, 1863, Gage fell fatally with a cannon shot through the abdomen; Huckaby succumbed to grape shot that shattered the upper third of his right leg and a minie' ball through the right tibia fractured that leg and permanently disabled Charles Ridout of the Neshoba Rifles. This event occurred one hundred fifty one years ago.
Civil War Veterans
Emmons, James W.- Private; enlisted March 1, 1862, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-one; miller; hospitalized with measles at Chimborazo Hospital #1at Richmond, Virginia, May 14 to June 1, 1862; received $68.25 for clothing and four month's pay at Richmond, September 15, 1862; hospitalized with diarrhea at Howard's Grove Hospital at Richmond, September 19 to 23, 1862; hospitalized at the Confederate Hospital at Culpeper Court House, Virginia, November 3, 1862; hospitalized at the General Hospital at Charlottesville, Virginia, November 6 to 13, 1862; died with typhoid fever at General Hospital #2 at Lynchburg, Virginia, November 22, 1862; buried in section 122, row 3, grave #4 in the Confederate Burial Ground at the Old City Cemetery at Lynchburg; inventory of person items: one coat at $1.50, one pair of pants at $1.00, one shirt at 50 cents, one towel at 50 cents, one scarf and hat at 10 cents and $36.00 in cash for a total of $39.60, at Lynchburg, March 6, 1863; death claim of $94.66, paid to his father, Daniel Emmons, January 14, 1865;
World War II Veterans
Gipson, Andrew Norman - Apprentice Seaman to Aviation Machinists Mate First Class; enlisted January 12, 1943, at Jackson, Mississippi, in the United States Navy; age nineteen; student; nick-named "Hoot;" served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at San Diego, California, February 1943; stationed at an aviation machinists school at Norman, Oklahoma, June 1943, at an aerial gunnery school at San Diego, October 1943 and at San Francisco, California, January 1944 to June 1944; stationed also at Terminal Island, San Bruno, California, September 1944, and at Pearl Harbor, Oahu Island, Territory of Hawaii, February 1945; served also in the Asiatic-Pacific Theatre of Operations with the Aircraft Carrier Servicing Units #1 and #33; awarded the America Campaign Medal and the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; discharged at New Orleans, Louisiana, February 12, 1946, demobilization; described as six feet two inches tall, weighing 225 pounds, with auburn hair and green eyes..
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350