CATEGORY: Tupelo Stories

AUTHOR: GIBSON

HED:Grave marker just moved, not stolen

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Reports of the theft of a Confederate grave marker from Ballard Park were greatly exaggerated.

And an official blessing upon the removal of a Kentucky soldier's remains from the city site is expected soon.

Bystanders on Friday thought they saw two men stealing the grave marker from city property across the street from Ballard Park and reported it to park officials, who, in turn, called police.

The park officials had no knowledge the Sons of Confederate Veterans were planning to remove the grave marker.

And rather than thieves, members of the local Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter actually removed the grave marker Friday for cleaning, said Mike Sheffield, commander of the Harrisburg Camp chapter of the national organization.

The chapter is preparing to move the grave of Thomas Payne, a Confederate soldier from Kentucky who died at the Battle of Harrisburg. Payne's once-final resting place is jeopardized by road widening construction on West Main Street.

"I'm glad someone was watching" over the grave, even if they sounded a false alarm, Sheffield said.

Tupelo Mayor Glen McCullough, who had met with the chapter members in early July about moving the grave, said miscommunication between city officials and the timing of the incident late Friday afternoon contributed to the misunderstanding about the grave marker.

"We didn't know when they were going to take action," McCullough said.

When the revelation about the Confederate chapter's action came to light Tuesday, the Tupelo Police Department began laying to rest its investigation into the disappearance of the grave marker, detectives said.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter has filed an uncontested petition in Lee County Chancery Court to allow them to move the grave, attorney David Sparks said. Final approval on the petition is expected this week.

The chapter plans to exhume the soldiers remains Saturday, Sheffield said. The soldier will be reburied at the Old Verona Cemetery with other soldiers who died at the Battle of Harrisburg, probably in November.

The remains will be properly stored until the reburial, Sheffield said.

The city has no problem with the chapter's plans to move the soldier's grave, McCullough said.

"The city's position is that the remains should be reinterred at an appropriate site É and hopefully never disturbed again," McCullough said.

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