Archive for May 28th, 2010

A paleontological meeting at the Owl Creek Formation

May 28th, 2010

RIPLEY, MISSISSIPPI — On our last full field day we met a team from the American Museum of Natural History (led by paleontologist Neil Landman) and converged on the famous Late Cretaceous Owl Creek Formation exposures near Ripley in northern Mississippi.  This site has been studied since 1810 and has produced extraordinary fossils, especially ammonites with pearly layers of aragonite still preserved in their shells.  As fun as the geology was, it was even more entertaining to see the mix of southern and New York accents and mannerisms on the outcrop!

The gray unit in the bottom half of the cliff is the Owl Creek Formation (Late Cretaceous); the brown and orange sands above are the Clayton Formation (Lower Tertiary). Yet another example of the K/T boundary on this trip.

A mix of geologists from England, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, Kansas and New York at the Owl Creek Formation section near Ripley, Mississippi.

A more recent history

May 28th, 2010

BALDWYN, MISSISSIPPI — When possible on these geological field trips we explore the local culture and history of the region in which we are temporary guests.  This morning we visited the small Civil War battlefield of Brice’s Crossroads (June 10, 1864) in Lee County, Mississippi.  It lies between our field sites at Blue Springs in the south and Owl Creek to the north.  The center of the battlefield is marked by two cannon and a stone monument which memorializes both the Union and Confederate dead.  A Confederate cemetery is nearby.

At the time of the battle, Union commander General William Tecumseh Sherman was conducting his famous March to the Sea through Georgia and other southern states.  (One of his soldiers was Corporal Julian Adolphus Wilson of the 57th Illinois Infantry — my grandfather’s grandfather.)  Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest and his cavalry threatened Sherman’s supply lines, so Union General Samuel Sturgis was sent into northern Mississippi to stop him.  With superior tactics, Forrest decisively defeated Sturgis at Brice’s Crossroads, forcing a long retreat.  It was a rare Confederate victory in that time and place, but Forrest was ultimately distracted from his goal of cutting Sherman’s communications.

Graves of some of the Confederate dead from the Brice's Crossroads battle.