Vicksburg, as a city, sits on the river bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The older streets wind down toward the river, lined with vintage buildings, some dating back to the antebellum years before the Civil War. The Vicksburg Military Park has preserved the site of the siege and battle that happened in Vicksburg and the siege became a reality on this date, May 22, 1863 when General Ulysses S. Grant's troops made the second and final assault and surrounded the city.

Vicksburg, as a city, sits on the river bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The older streets wind down toward the river, lined with vintage buildings, some dating back to the antebellum years before the Civil War. The Vicksburg Military Park has preserved the site of the siege and battle that happened in Vicksburg and the siege became a reality on this date, May 22, 1863 when General Ulysses S. Grant's troops made the second and final assault and surrounded the city.
I take a personal interest in Vicksburg for several reasons. One is that I've visited Vicksburg a number of times. On one of those visits, my family and I watched fireworks on the Fourth of July, a date that wasn't celebrated locally for decades because it was the day that Vicksburg fell. Another is that one of my ancestors, George Neely, fought in that battle, my grandfather's grandfather. He wore Confederate gray.
The other reason is that one of my historical novels, 'Dearest Love: Do You Remember?' is set in Vicksburg, during the season. Like my other historical novels, I wrote it under the pen name of Patrice Wayne to differentiate it from my other novels. One of my main character, Susannah Lambert, is a widow who doesn't leave the city despite the approaching Federal troops. The male lead is Isaac "Ike" Barclay and his young brother, Zachary. Like many of the citizens who stayed, Susannah offers aid and comfort to Zachary after he's injured.
Since it's a love story, appreciation turns to affection and soon Susannah's heart belongs to Isaac.
The basic story is revealed in the cover blurb:
Texan Isaac Barclay thinks the South isn’t all it has been rumored to be. There’s a definite shortage of moonlight and magnolias. He’s yet to meet any Southern Belles, and he’s not sure he’ll survive the Civil War. But, when the Confederate troops fall back into the sleepy town of Vicksburg, Mississippi, he meets a beautiful widow who is as attracted to him as he is to her.
As the Yankees lay siege to the troops and the city, Isaac and Susanna Lambert fall in love. When he suffers from swamp fever, it’s her tender care that keeps him alive but as he weakens, everyone knows he’ll die without quinine. Victory seems unlikely for the Rebel soldiers but Isaac would settle for a happy ending with Susanna back home in Texas—but he has to live before it can be possible.
Although I've visited the city and the military park more than once, I did plenty of historical research to get the details correct for the time, the period and the place.
In writing Isaac and Susannah's story, I tried to portray some of the ugliness of war, the hardships endured both by the troops and the local folk who called Vicksburg home.
The siege began in earnest after the second assault 155 years ago today. Life in these United States has changed since then in many ways. We have technologies undreamed of during the 1860's and war isn't as up close or personal as it was then. The Civil War was the last war fought on American soil so U.S. residents haven't had to deal with battle or the terrible cost of war from their front porches, lawns, or windows in more than a century and a half.
This weekend, the nation will observe the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a time to remember our dead and those who fell in service to our country.
The roots of our modern Memorial Day lie in Decoration Day, a holiday first set by General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) on May 30, 1868. The original purpose was for to remember the fallen of the recent war by decorating the graves.
There is a National Cemetery in Vicksburg and another down river in Natchez, both of which will probably will be decorated in remembrance this year, on Decoration Day




Lee Ann Murphy is a staff writer and writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.