Civil War artifacts missing from Balfour|[2/16/06]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 16, 2006

Several Civil War artifacts were reported missing Wednesday in a break-in at an antebellum home described as a &#8220vital element of Vicksburg’s Civil War story.”

The Balfour House at 1002 Crawford St. was taken by Union troops and made their headquarters during the Siege of Vicksburg.

The house is known to historians young and old as the site of a ball on Christmas Eve in 1862 during which a messenger delivered the news to Confederate officers and Vicksburg residents that a Union boat was on its way down the Mississippi River and on its way to Vicksburg.

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Capt. Mark Culbertson this morning said items listed as missing in the report filed at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday included Union playing cards, a button from a uniform, a framed love poem, a framed letter by Union Gen. James McPherson, a framed Civil War document and framed Confederate currency.

The house, owned by Robert Humble, has been vacant for several years. Humble, who could not be reached, is selling the house through the Jones and Upchurch real estate agency.

Andrea Upchurch, the Realtor handling the sale, said this morning that most of the missing items were hanging on a wall in the house. Two windows had been broken to gain entry, she said.

One of the home’s namesakes, Emma Balfour, is known for producing one of the best accounts of the Union siege in her diary, said Terry Winschel, historian at the Vicksburg National Military Park.

Immediately after the city surrendered following the Union Army’s 38-day blockade and siege in 1863, the house served as Union headquarters and home for McPherson, who commanded the occupation.

&#8220It’s one of the vital elements of Vicksburg’s Civil War story,” said Winschel. &#8220What a shame.”

Most of the items reported missing were probably found in the house’s attic by Dr. Phillip Weinberger, who edited an edition of Emma Balfour’s diary in the early 1980s and was nearly killed when a cannonball became dislodged from the roof, Winschel said.