The State of Mississippi seceded from the Union on January 9, 1861. On May 4th, nearly the entire student body and many of the professors at the University of Mississippi formed ranks on the grounds in front of the Lyceum, left school and enlisted in the Conferderate Army. Only four students reported for classes in fall 1861, so few that the university closed temporarily.
The Greys, as Company A of the 11th Mississippi and the Army of Northern Virginia, served in many of the most famous and bloody battles of the war. The most famous engagement of the University Greys was at Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg, when the Confederates made a desperate 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.
Historians agree that the Rebel charge by the boys from Mississippi was the high water mark of the Confederacy. During the height of the July 3rd cannonade preceding Pickett’s Charge, a stretcher was carried into a Confederate aid station somewhere behind the fighting. Surgeon LeGrand Wilson of the 42nd Mississippi, saw a head raised and recognized University of Mississippi student Jerry Gage. The following is the surgeon’s writing and J.S Gage’s letter home.
Although I have read this many time, it still tugs at my Ole Miss heart and brings tears to me eyes.