In 2009 our Friends organization installed a historical marker, shown above, to honor and remember the brave men of the 7th Mississippi Infantry who were killed in a tragic train wreck on February 27th, 1862 about a mile south of Ponchatoula. We hoped this marker would be available to future generations to teach them about what happened here about 150 years ago. This past fall (2013), the sign was stolen and we fear it will never be recovered, probably so some insignificant person could make a few bucks on the value of the aluminum. We show this sign here in remembrance of what should have been and offer the following article, written by a visitor:
PONCHATOULA TRAIN WRECK, FEBRUARY 27, 1862
Recently, I traveled south Hwy 51 about a mile from Ponchatoula, Louisiana,to place a memorial wreath at a spot where 152 years ago on February 27th a train wreck occurred around daybreak on a foggy morn resulting in deaths of 28 soldiers of the Confederate States of America--all from our area of south Mississippi.
Friends of Camp Moore paid for a state historical marker to be placed there several years ago but in 2013 the marker disappeared, presumably stolen, and has not been located. Only the pedestal remains.
My interest in this wreck is very personal. My grandfather Harris Turnipseed Williams was born at Ruth on January 22, 1862, when his father was training as Captain of Company H "Dahlgren Rifles" assigned to the 7th Mississippi. Whether his father ever saw him, none of us know. At the time of my grandfather's birth, Ruth was still a part of either Pike or Lawrence County as Lincoln County had not been formed.
We only know that Capt. Parham Boyd Williams, at 43 years old, would not, like many others, get to see his third son grow up. He and his comrades were being deployed to Tennessee. After taking a barge from Bay St. Louis to New Orleans, the troops spent the night in the city before boarding the train heading north that fateful day.
Conflicting stories and reports have been passed down about that engineer of the southbound train on the same track as the northbound troop train--cleared of wrong doing--considered a Union sympathizer with intent to stop southern soldiers. Whatever his reason, the consequences resulted in the worst train wreck in the history of the Civil War.
Coaches in those days were made of wood and when the heavy locomotives crashed together, the first one behind the tender and engine on which Capt. Williams and his sharpshooters were traveling literally exploded, with many killed and injured by the resulting "wooden bayonets".
It has been determined that those killed or who died from their injuries numbered seventeen from the Dahlgren Rifles and eleven of Company K "Quitman Rifles" Capt. Huff's Company. Eighteen others were injured including one from Company E "Franklin Beauregards".
Family tales passed down say that two of my grandfather's older sisters traveled to New Orleans to care for their dad as he lay mortally wounded, his death coming less than a month later on March 20th. His body was returned to Ruth where he was buried on a knoll on the homeplace.
Capt. P. B. Williams was married to Frances Elizabeth Brent in 1842 and they made their home at Holmesville where he served as Sheriff of Pike County 1846-50. The Pike County Census of 1850 begins at Holmesville with his name as the first entry. He and his wife had a hotel style home where boarders listed were 14 prominent businessmen of the beginning town. Williams was appointed Postmaster of Holmesville in 1858, the same year he purchased his land grant for the property at Ruth where he built a home for his family later.
The history of this train wreck can be viewed at www.7miss.org/wreck.html with a list of all casualties and references and resources for those interested.
Sylvia Williams Blake Johnson resides in Tylertown and is an active member of the Summit Historical Society.