OUR OPINION: Name four-wheeler outlaws who damaged battleground

Many history lovers in the Baldwyn area and beyond are busy planning a sesquicentennial observance of the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads in mid-June, including a re-enactment on portions of the 1,500 acres that have been purchased or donated to preserve the history and topography of the event.

Planners hope residents of the area west of Baldwyn at Bethany Presbyterian Church will help them catch people who have inflicted significant damage to the battlefield site and the cemeteries, where four-wheelers and four-wheel drive pick-up trucks have gouged deep furrows and vandalized some of the headstones.

Billy Francis, who works at the Brice’s Crossroads visitors center, said the damage is dangerous for everyone who visits the battlefield, including horseback re-enactors and maintenance workers who are hired to mow the military site during high-grass season.

Francis said the whole battlefield and the cemeteries nearby are considered hallowed ground. Desecrating any of the property, he said, is punishable under Mississippi law.

Francis said $1,000 already has been spent on repairs of damage from the four-wheeler, off-road vehicles, and additional work will be required before the sesquicentennial commemoration.

Francis said he believes the perpetrators are “local people.” Francis said authorities are asking local residents along Highway 370, CR 833, CR 2848 and CR 503 to help identify individuals who are responsible for desecrating and destroying property on the hallowed ground. Off-road vehicles are being driven in a reckless manner on property where many men were killed during the Battle of Brice’s Crossroads.

Francis said no reward has been offered “yet” in hopes someone will come forward and identify the culprits.

Remembering the battle, which was a bloody event, has been a periodic practice at the site. A major re-enactment was held in 1964 on the centennial date of the battle, one of many similar events during the centennial of the Civil War, and re-enactors have staged additional events there in the years since.

Odds are that someone knows who did the damage, and they should be identified to authorities.

Anyone who has information should contact Mississippi’s Final Stands Interpretive Center, 607 Grisham St., Baldwyn, or call (662) 365-3969.