OKOLONA, Miss. — A reenactment of the Battle of Okolona in Mississippi – a pivotal event in the Civil War, a victory for the Confederates in 1864 and one that stemmed the tide of advancing Union forces – will be part of a three-day slate of activities that will include an on-site auction to be held Feb. 22 in Okolona by Stevens Auction Company, based in Aberdeen, Miss.
The auction will be held on-site, at the National Guard Armory, at 607 West Monroe Avenue in Okolona. The reenactment will be held 3 ½ miles away. The auction will take place on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Okolona. Fittingly, it will feature hundreds of items of Civil War memorabilia, including licensed and numbered prints of the Civil War battles.
Also offered in the sale will be the lifelong antique collection from the estate of the late Mrs. Marietta McCarter of Columbus, Miss. Included will be beautiful lamps, original works of art, handmade Persian rugs, silver, crystal, china, fine porcelains, rare collectibles, gorgeous antique furniture and other fine home furnishings. The auction will start at 3:30 p.m. (CST).
Also sold will be the contents of one of Aberdeen’s finest old homes, known as the “Painted Lady,” built in 1880 and now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Sexton. The couple is planning to retire and move to Europe. But the centerpiece event of the weekend promises to be the Battle of Okolona, which will be reenacted by uniformed actors performing for the crowd.
Giant cannons will be fired as the battle – a recreation of the clash between General Nathan B. Forrest’s troops on the Confederate side versus General William Sooy Smith’s men on the Union side – plays out. Activities are planned at the National Guard Armory’s welcome center. Visitors are encouraged to walk the trails, visit the cemetery and relive what took place.
What did take place on that property 150 years ago, literally to the day, is now a source of pride among Southerners still sympathetic to the Confederate cause. The story can begin with the Union General William Tecumseh Sherman who, fresh from a victory at Vicksburg, launched a campaign to take a railroad center in Aberdeen, Miss., then move on to Selma and Mobile, Ala.
On Feb. 1, 1864, Sherman ordered the Union Brigadier General William Sooy Smith to lead a cavalry force of 7,000 men south from Memphis, Tenn., through Okolona along the Mobile & Ohio Railroad. He instructed Smith to meet the rest of the Union force at Meridian, Miss., on Feb. 10. Sherman set out on Feb. 3 for Meridian, with a force of 20,000 Union troops.
But things didn’t go according to plan. Against orders, Smith delayed for ten days while waiting for reinforcements and he didn’t start out until Feb. 11. Along the way his men destroyed crops and railroad tracks, encountering little resistance. About 1,000 former slaves joined them. Smith was supposed to meet up with Sherman in Meridian on Feb. 10, but he never got there.
Sherman left Meridian on Feb. 20, concerned about Smith’s whereabouts. It turns out that Smith was 90 miles north of Meridian, near West Point. There, on Feb. 20, he fought battles with Confederate cavalry units at Prairie Station and Aberdeen. Smith’s foe was the wily Confederate Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest, who forced Smith to regroup and set out for West Point.
On Feb. 21, a Confederate cavalry brigade led by Col. Jeffrey Forrest (Nathan's younger
brother) engaged Smith, withdrawing at times and luring him into a swamp near the Tombigbee River. Other Rebel forces arrived and the fighting intensified. Smith, outnumbered, ordered a retreat. Then, Major General Forrest came on the scene and ordered a pursuit of Smith’s troops.
Skirmishing occurred for the rest of the day, and on Feb. 22 (150 years to the day before the planned reenactment), the Rebels attacked Smith just south of Okolona. More Confederate troops arrived, causing a break in the Union lines and a full-scale retreat. Smith’s men headed for Pontotoc, beaten, but no pursuit was ordered. The reason: the Rebels were fresh out of bullets. Col. Jeffrey Forrest was killed during a skirmish, and he died in his older brother Nathan's arms.
Okolona, Miss., is located just south of Tupelo, not far off State Rte. 78. Stevens Auction Company’s gallery is located at 609 North Meridian Street in Aberdeen, a town located halfway between Tupelo and Columbus, on U.S. Highway 45. An open house preview for the auction will be held Saturday, Feb. 22, the date of sale, from 10 a.m. until the start of sale at 3:30 (CST).
Terms will be cash, major credit cards or pre-approved business or personal checks (with proper I.D.) or wire transfer. A 15 percent buyer’s premium will be applied to all purchases, with an extra 2 percent processing fee for credit cards. A 7 percent sales tax will be charged on all merchandise sold, except for those with a valid state resale number. Out of state buyers must have a copy of their tax certificate or other proof that they are a tax-exempt business or agent. This will be an old-fashioned country auction, with no Internet bidding
Stevens Auction Company is always accepting quality consignments for future sales. To consign a single item, an estate or a collection, you may call them directly, at (662) 369-2200; or, you can e-mail them at email@example.com. To learn more about Stevens Auction Company and the upcoming Feb. 22 auction, log on to www.stevensauction.com. Updates are posted frequently and photos of many of the items to be sold on Feb. 22 have been posted there.