Born in Virginia in 1818, Emma Harrison moved to Mississippi with her first husband, remaining here after his death in 1844. Three years later she married Dr. William Balfour of Vicksburg and became a member of the city's social elite. On Christmas Eve, 1862, the Balfours hosted a gala Christmas ball celebrating the defeat of Grant's forces in north Mississippi. The ball, however, was rudely interrupted when a wet, mud- covered courier named Phillip Fall barged in among the dancers and notified the Confederate commander of the imminent arrival of the Union Expeditionary Force led by William T. Sherman. The commander declared, "This ball is at an end; the enemy are coming down the river, all non- combatants must leave the city."
Fortunately for the citizens of Vicksburg, Sherman's force was defeated along the banks of Chickasaw Bayou. But the spring of 1863 brought a larger, more deadly enemy force led by Grant, who marched against Vicksburg and laid siege to the city. Mrs. Balfour and hundreds of others were trapped and forced to live underground in caves to escape the constant bombardment of Union land-based and river gunboat cannon and heavy mortars. Maintaining a diary of daily life in Vicksburg, and detailing with great emotion the horrors of cave life and the sufferings of the civilian population of the city, she survived the siege and Union occupation to resume a normal life in Vicksburg. Dr. Balfour died in 1877 and Emma followed him nine years later. They are buried in Vicksburg Cedar Hill Cemetery, but her diary remains to chronicle the experiences of the brave citizens of Vicksburg and their terrifying quest for survival when war engulfed their homes.