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Press Release February 3, 2024
History Comes Full Circle on the Raymond Battlefield
One hundred and sixty-one years ago, in the center of a corn field bordering the muddy waters of Fourteenmile Creek two miles southwest of the sleepy village of Raymond, twenty-two Federal cannon belched fire and iron for five frantic hours against three Confederate guns positioned on a hillside a half mile to their front. And while the red-hot shells shrieked over the heretofore bucolic fields, over 14,000 soldiers in blue and gray blasted their rifle-muskets at one another across the ravine-like banks of the creek.
Fast-forward to 2024, and on Saturday, April 13, for the first time after over a century-and-a-half has expired, one of those original Federal guns will again belch fire and split the air over the Raymond battlefield. The story of this gun is, in modern parlance, fantastical, so here goes.
Four of the federal cannon at Raymond were unique because they were bronze 24-pounder howitzers—big field guns and the only ones in General Grant’s Army of the Tennessee—which had served with distinction a year earlier at the Battle of Shiloh. There, along the western bank of the Tennessee River in April of 1862, this artillery unit, officially dubbed Battery D, 1st Illinois Light Artillery but colloquially known as McAllister’s Battery, was freshly-armed with new 24-pounder bronze guns. In fact, General William T. Sherman, who had earlier sent the four guns southward on the Tennessee River from a supply depot on the Ohio River, personally supervised the firing of these big guns at the end of the second day of the battle on April 7, 1862.
Unfortunately, Captain Edward McAllister was wounded at Shiloh and subsequently resigned his commission, so at Raymond the battery was led on May 12, 1863, by Captain Henry Rogers. However, the battery was cursed with bad luck in regard to its commanders; after Raymond Rogers was destined to spend only 17 more days on this earth. He would be struck down by a sharpshooter’s bullet in front of the Shirley House at Vicksburg on May 29.
Thirty-four years after the Civil War, in 1899, the Vicksburg National Military Park was established, and in the next decade the State of Illinois erected a granite monument to Battery D near where Rogers fell. This plinth sits atop the earthen embankment in front of the Shirley, or “White House,” and, soon after the park was established, surplus cannon barrels were removed from U.S. arsenal stockpiles and positioned in the park as interpretive devices. As luck would have it, one of these randomly-selected gun barrels was an original 24-pounder of McAllister’s, and later Rogers’, elite unit.
Then, over a century later, this original 24-pounder cannon barrel was removed from Vicksburg and sent to an out-of-state collector as a trade for a 12-pounder boat howitzer to replace the missing one on the ironclad gunboat, USS Cairo. The boat howitzer was not on the gunboat when it was pulled from the turbid waters of the Yazoo River in 1964. This trade resulted in the USS Cairo museum gaining a rare 12-pounder boat howitzer and Battery D’s 24-pounder leaving the military park and entering the private sector. A few years later, after another trade, this peripatetic gun barrel returned to Mississippi and found a new home in the Starkville Civil War Arsenal, a privately-owned museum, where it resides today in near-perfect condition.
While the history of Battery D’s 24-pounder may be of limited interest to some, what is of great interest is that the owner of the Starkville Civil War Arsenal, Duffy Neubauer, plans to bring this original gun to Raymond battlefield, along with a plethora of equipment and a platoon of living historians, on Saturday, April 13, 2024. Remarkably, on the very battlefield that this gun fired one-quarter of the 72 rounds expended by the four-gun battery that eventful day in May of 1863, the public will be told the history of the battery and will be shown the equipment and military maneuvers of a Civil War artillery unit. A raffle will be held for a lucky winner to have the privilege and honor of pulling the lanyard to fire the historic, vintage gun, for its first firing at Raymond in 161 years. Now, if you crave adventure training, with one of the actual guns being fired on the historic battlefield, it just doesn’t get any better than this!
Friends of Raymond received an Award of Merit
The Mississippi Historical Society held its annual meeting March 10–11 in Hattiesburg to honor its 2022 award winners, including the best Mississippi History Book of 2021, the lifetime achievement award, teacher of the year, and awards of merit.
Friends of Raymond received an Award of Merit for providing funding to secure almost 44 acres at Raymond to preserve land at the site of the Battle of Raymond in 1863.
Significant Gift Bequeathed to Friends of Raymond
Raymond native Mary Will McKenzie, a world-renowned occupational therapist and educator, recently bequeathed a significant gift to the Friends of Raymond.
“We were so honored that Miss McKenzie remembered Friends of Raymond in such a generous and meaningful way,” said Friends of Raymond President Eric Bobo. “Her parents, Mary and W.M. “Mac” McKenzie, were beloved educators in this area. Her gift will contribute to the success of future Friends of Raymond community projects,” he said. “The W.M. McKenzie Arena at Hinds Community College is named after her father, who taught agriculture at Hinds from 1930 to 1966. Her mother Mary taught English at Hinds for 33 years,” he added.
Mary Will McKenzie was born in Raymond, Mississippi in 1936. She received her Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy at Washington University in St. Louis, MO in 1959. Her forty years as an Occupational Therapist afforded her the opportunity to work in various facilities, states and countries. She returned to her home state of Mississippi in 1974 and helped establish the new Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Occupational Therapy Department.
Mary taught and trained many occupational therapists through the years and thus greatly advanced the practice of occupational therapy in rehabilitation. She coauthored articles and a book on rehabilitation topics. While in Mississippi in the late 1970s, Mary helped found the Mississippi Occupational Therapy Association. In 1990, she was awarded the ACRM Distinguished Member Award for her service and contributions.
Mary traveled extensively in Europe, enjoyed cruising and scuba diving in Belize and Bonaire. She retired to Cape Canaveral, FL in 2010, and then to a rural settlement south of Lake Nona in Orlando, FL. Not content to be idle, she trained as a Master Gardener through the University of Florida Extension service. She most recently lived in a Winter Park, FL retirement community participating in many activities there until her death.
“We truly appreciate Miss McKenzie’s gift. Without the generosity of donors like her and the services of our volunteers, it would be impossible to carry out our mission of maintaining and preserving the history of Raymond, Mississippi,” Bobo said. “Images of Miss McKenzie and her father Mac McKenzie will be included on the soon to be completed Friends of Raymond Downtown Mural: Raymond, Then and Now,” he added.
Friends of Raymond is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization operating as an all-volunteer organization dedicated to historic preservation of the Battlefield, improvement, preservation and maintenance of historic sites in the Raymond area. Donations may be mailed to: Friends of Raymond, P O Box 1000, Raymond, MS 39154.