Emma Balfour, wife of Vicksburg doctor and neighbor of the house that Gen. Pemberton occupied as his headquarters during the Siege of Vicksburg in 1863, kept a valuable diary of her life during the Civil War and especially during the long siege that lasted from the end of May until July 4, 1863. Here’s her entry for May 31, 1863.
The shelling from the mortars was worse than usual last night… I could hear the pieces falling all around us as the shells would explode, and once I thought our time had come… The mortars [fired] all night. We soon perceived that we could not retire while they fired as they had changed the range, and every shell came either directly over us or just back or front of us, so we made up our minds to sit up and watch, hoping, however, that they would cease about midnight, as they sometimes do… but no, all night it continued to add to the horror.
At 12 o’clock the guns all along the lines opened and the parrot shells flew as thick as hail around us!… We had gone upstairs determined to rest lying down but not sleeping, but when these commenced to come it was not safe upstairs, so we came down in our dining room and lay down upon the bed there, but soon found that would not do as they came from the southeast as well as east and might strike the house.
Still from sheer uneasiness we remained there until a shell struck in the garden against a tree, and at the same time we heard the servants all up and making exclamations. We got up thoroughly worn out and disheartened and after looking to see the damage, went into the parlor and lay on the sofas there until morning, feeling that at any moment a mortar shell might crash through the roof…