Although I started my “50 States 50 Stories” project in April 2015, my work on it has been sporadic. This is because I haven’t given myself any deadline for finishing. This project is strictly for my own leisurely enjoyment. I just plan to have fun as I ramble towards my “sometime” deadline.
I’ve also allowed myself some wandering around the alphabet as I find stories. I’ve temporarily skipped Massachusetts in favor of Mississippi. This is because the hot, humid weather is more akin to thinking of states like Mississippi rather than Massachusetts.
As I’m using only copyright free material for the project, I began with a search of the word “Mississippi” in the Gutenberg.org site. Uhoh, big mistake! I’d forgotten that this would bring up numerous stories and articles about the Mississippi River, not just the state. Then I tried names of some of the Native American tribes from Mississippi. That was all right to a point, but many tribes in what became Mississippi moved from area to area, often ending up someplace other than Mississippi. (Probably not their idea in most instances.)
So I started looking for texts on the various towns in Mississippi – Tupelo, Pascagoula, Natchez, Vicksburg…oh! The Siege of Vicksburg. While I’m not an American Civil War or any war aficionado, I was somewhat aware of the importance of this incident. So my “Siege of Vicksburg” research began. “A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg” looked promising, but was really a little too long. Then I saw that there was a poem about the siege. A poem would be perfect! Well… not one that’s 300 pages long. OK, start searching again. There were lots of detailed accounts – from the southern side, northern side, regimental histories, descriptions of battles, etc. But none seemed right for the project and most of them too long. I was beginning to think I’d never find even one appropriate Mississippi story for this project! Then I found “Letters of a Badger Boy in Blue: The Vicksburg Campaign”. These series of letters were written by a 17 year old Union soldier from Wisconsin (thus the Badger boy referemce) about his time in the Vicksburg area. They were descriptive, personable, first-hand accounts, and just what I needed!
Glancing through the letters, I wondered what had happened to the young man who wrote them. Had he perished during the war? Or had he survived those trials? Researching ancestry.com, I found that he did survive, married and had a family, passing away in 1919. His letters were published in 1920 by the “Wisconsin Magazine of History”, where I found them on archive.org.
Others were obviously as impressed as I was by the letters. The book is not only available from archive.org, but is also sold online as both an e-book and a hard copy book.
So my Mississippi portion of my “50 States 50 Stories” that began with a rather frustrating search ended with a selection that is “just right” for the project. Story found, frustration overcome, mission accomplished. Life is good.