By Janet S. Lee
As Mississippi’s own William Faulkner famously noted, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Clinton’s mid-19th century past will come alive in unique ways the weekend of April 19 and 20 as the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War will be commemorated with “150 Years Ago! Remembering Clinton’s Role in the Civil War.”
Sponsored by the City of Clinton, the two-day event will feature informative and entertaining activities for children, music lovers, history buffs and anyone looking for a taste of what life was like in Clinton during the Civil War period.
The weekend will kick off at 7 p.m. on Friday with a musical presentation and a reader’s theatre, slated for Mississippi College’s antebellum Provine Chapel. Noted mezzo-soprano Lester Senter Wilson, a much-in-demand soloist for leading opera companies, festivals and symphonies, will perform “Songs along the Natchez Trace,” a collection of early 19th century songs written by American composer and Southern favorite Stephen Foster. Ms. Senter Wilson holds a D. M. A. in piano and voice from the University of Texas, has recorded eleven CD’s, and is a past winner of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. Though she travels widely to perform, she makes her home in Jackson. She will be accompanied by Carol Joy Sparkman.
Former Clinton mayor Dr. Walter Howell, a Clinton resident for forty-ﬁve years and a retired Mississippi College history professor, will make his debut as a playwright with a reader’s theatre presentation of “Captain Lewis’ Lost Cause.” Howell has spent the last three years researching and writing about Captain William Lewis, who operated the livery stable on Jefferson Street until the early 20th century. The background of the short play is that two children, a niece and nephew of the Captain, come to visit and ask for stories about the war. John Henry and Emma Fox, real-life forebears of Clintonian Carrie Fox-Clark, want to hear about “the lost cause.”
Howell stresses that all of the narrative is factual, but the framework of having information related to the children gives a human dimension to “the lost cause,” a war which took 600,000 American lives. The role of Capt. Lewis will be portrayed by New Stage veteran and Bolton resident James Anderson; the children are Clinton students Sara Waldbauer and Jonathan Dacus.
Saturday’s activities include the opportunity to visit Provine Chapel, a children’s “boot camp” at Lion’s Club Park, living historians roaming the brick streets, an open house at antebellum Tanglewood, and a Clinton Cemetery tour.
Representatives of the Mississippi College history department will be on hand from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. to offer insight into the background and uses of Provine Chapel during the war. Also at 9 a.m., children can troop to Lions Club Park to be enlisted into the Clinton Guards and experience “boot camp.” They’ll be given wooden muskets and learn from soldiers about the calvary, infantry and artillery. Tents will be set up with interpreters to illustrate what military life was like. When they ﬁnish their “training,” the children will get to participate in a variety of old-fashioned games, ranging from sack races to horseshoes, checkers and dominoes. They’ll also be given a special booklet with appropriate historical information.
A living historian, in character as Gen. William Sherman, will be camped out on the steps of City Hall, whose site was the Union Army’s headquarters for a short while. Craftsmen will be positioned along the bricks of Jefferson Street, displaying skills such as blacksmithing, soap-making, stitchery and wood-working for visitors to observe.
Bakery treats, such as Stonewall Jackson’s favorite lemon cake, will be available, and Civil War-era music will add to the atmosphere.
Tours will also be offered of Tanglewood, the historic Captain William Lewis home at 302 Jefferson Street. Mrs. Lewis’ namesake, Carrie Lewis Criddle Fox and her husband, John Henry Fox, purchased the home from the Lewis estate in 1922. The plantation-style cottage was built 1855-1859 and was part of the original Sunnyside plantation, located southwest of Clinton near Norrell Road. Tanglewood was rolled on logs into Clinton around 1882.
Shirley Faucette, granddaughter of John Henry Fox, lived in the house until her death. It has most recently been purchased and restored by Phil and Kathy Fisher.
The day’s events will conclude with a Clinton Cemetery Memorial Tour. Groups will be led by long-time Clintonians and living historians, departing at 4 p.m., 4:15 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 4:45 p.m. from the front gates. The graves of Daniel Comfort, some members of the Mississippi College Riﬂes and unknown Civil Warera soldiers will be pointed out. The ﬁnal resting place of 20th century Clinton military heroes Joe Albritton and Homer Ainsworth, who inspired the design of the Clinton Visitor Center statue by Dr. Sam Gore, will also be noted.
The planning committee for the weekend is comprised of T. J. McSparrin, Mayor Rosemary Aultman, Kim Corbett, Caroline Hoff, Carrie Fox-Clark, Tara Lytal, Dr. Walter Howell, Debbie Tillman, Jacque Tharp, Lucky Osborne, James Anderson, George Ewing, Hannah Hess, Karen Lampton and Marsha Barham.
For more information about any of the events, call 601-924-2221.