NORTH MISSISSIPPI 441 OXFORD COURTHOUSE The original Lafayette County courthouse in Oxford was destroyed by Union troops in 1864 during the Civil War. Rebuilt in the 1870s using federal funds, the Lafayette County courthouse remains an active part of the community, housing the circuit court, circuit clerk, and other government offices. PHOTO BY GREG CAMPBELL bipartisan meeting was chaired by H.A. Barr; the committee included Alexander Pegues, his cousin Thomas E.B. Pegues, W.F. Avent, and physician Thomas Dudley Isom. After a fiery speech from the Honorable Sam Benton of Holly Springs, the committee read aloud a series of resolutions for the crowd’s approval. The resolutions called for a state convention to determine the position of Mississippi in the “alarming state of our federal relations.” They were un-animously approved. On December 20, 1860, the same day South Carolina became the first Southern state to secede from the Union, a large crowd gathered at the Oxford courthouse to nominate two delegates for the secession convention in Jackson. Thomas Dudley Isom, one of the first settlers in Oxford, a respected physician and planter, the owner of twenty-nine slaves was chosen. His companion was Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar. Lamar had left Georgia in 1849 when his father-in-law, Augustus B. Longstreet, was chosen as president of the University of Mississippi. From his arrival, Lamar was a fiery States’Rights Democrat, warning his fellow Southerners of the threat of an aggressive, antislavery North. Lamar won election to Congress in 1857 and ran without opposition in 1859. The delegation ticket of Lamar and Isom easily won election. Lamar emerged as one of the leading lights of the convention. In Jackson, he was appointed chairman of the committee drafting the ordinance of secession. Lamar, in fact, had been writing a draft of the ordinance for weeks before his election, laying out in detail the powers of the newly independent Mississippi. The document Lamar presented on the floor of the convention was a much more streamlined version of his draft, simply severing the bonds between Mississippi and the United States. After reading the ordinance, Lamar reminded the delegates that Mississippi had voted (through its delegates) overwhelmingly for secession. Although more moderate voices warned of dangers to come, in the end it was approved eighty-four to fifteen. The headline of the January 9, 1861, Oxford Intelligencer proclaimed, “Mississippi Is Out!” A dispatch had just arrived over the telegraph from Jackson: The convention voted overwhelmingly for secession. The town gave itself up to celebration. Bells tolled; cannons boomed. A young boy, looking back from 1910, remembered that all around the square, the university streets, and the campus, thousands of candles burned and hurrahs for “the Republic of Mississippi” (soon to join the Confederate States of America in February) rang out. “Far into the night the tempest raged, candle lights flashing, tar barrels burning, the plank walks going whack- a-lack, whack-a-lack, with a thousand feet as the night reverberated with a thousand voices,” recorded a young student, Duncan McCollum, in his diary, declaring the event “the Glorious day for Mississippi.” “Great demonstration at college and town illuminated. A salute fired. Boys parade a torchlight procession went to town and was joined by citizens. Several speeches. Fire balls on campus. Mrs. Lamar illuminated her dwelling. Immense excitement. Much music,” he wrote. As a region, all of North Mississippi seemed consumed with a passionate revolution, with popular enthusiasm released in a series of mass meetings, parades, and speeches. The armies of young volunteers who would do the vast bulk of the marching, fighting, and dying were organized from the ground up. Community leaders recruited companies on their own initiative, appealing to young men eager to prove that one Southerner could whip a dozen Yankees in a short and glorious war. The most celebrated of these companies was the University Greys. The University of Mississippi campus