White Mane Kids

ghosts of vicksburg, civil war stories

"...a heartwarming, intense book..."
Civil War Book Review

"Ernst realistically shows us the sorrow, hatred, agony, and confusion that the War Between the States caused."

"An especially recommended addition to school and community libraries."
Midwest Book Review

The award-winning Ghosts of Vicksburg is the seventh of Kathleen's published books. It is written for readers ages 10 and up who enjoy American Civil War historical fiction without sex, gore, or explicit violence.

Story Description

Jamie Carswell’s happiest childhood memories are of summers spent in Mississippi with his favorite cousin, Althea Winston. When he joins the 14th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, he is horrified to find himself campaigning in Mississippi—and to see firsthand the impact of war on local women and children. Althea, meanwhile, is struggling to keep her family intact and safe. She is also haunted by a past mistake that took a terrible toll on her family.

When the Union army settles in to besiege Vicksburg in 1863, Jamie is in the entrenchment and Althea is trapped inside the city. As the endless days and nights of bombardment unfold, the two cousins struggle to make peace with the past and to cope with the present. Ghosts of Vicksburg is the compelling story of two young people struggling to find their way during one of the most dramatic campaigns of the Civil War.

This book contains a period map, photos and illustrations, author's note, glossary of historical terms, and list of additional resources. This book is available as a 215-page trade paperback.

What Others Are Saying


Image of Council for Wisconsin Writers Award logo. Arthur Tofte Juvenile Fiction Award
Council for Wisconsin Writers

The CWW is a community of writers, poets, and educators dedicated to recognizing oustanding work by Wisconsin authors.
Black and white photo of author Lance J. Herdegen. Lance J. Herdegen
Author of The Men Stood Like Iron: How the Iron Brigade Won Its Name

"Kathleen Ernst's Ghosts of Vicksburg is the heartfelt story of a family split by the Civil War and caught up in the epic and horrible siege of Vicksburg. A first-rate book."
Image of the School Library Journal logo. School Library Journal
Review by Nancy P. Reeder

"The characters are well drawn and realistic in their emotions, hopes, doubts, courage, and anxieties. The author has done a commendable job of remaining neutral and showing the good and bad of both causes."

About the Author

Bestselling author Kathleen Ernst writes award-winning mysteries, historical fiction, and non-fiction for adults and young readers.

Her work has earned numerous honors, including two lifetime writing achievement awards, an Emmy for educational television, and an Edgar Allan Poe and multiple Agatha Christie mystery award nominations.

To date nearly 1.8 million audio, ebook, and print copies of Kathleen's thirty-eight published books have been purchased. more>>

Related Blog Posts

Enjoy the author's insights about the story, characters, and settings.

Ghosts of Vicksburg - The Stories Behind The Story

Cropped black and white tintype photo of Private Elisha Stockwell, Jr., 14th Wisconsin Infantry, in his Civil War uniform. Courtesy of University of Oklahoma Press. Nothing quite said “This is it,” though, until I found the memoir written by Elisha Stockwell, who was 15 years old when he ran away from his family farm near Alma, Wisconsin, and enlisted in the 14th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment... more>>

Reenacting For Writers

hearts of stone, civil war stories

My husband, daughter Meg, and I reached Spring Hill, TN, in a driving rain. The temperature was dropping. The parking lot—a field intended to hold the vehicles of 10,000 or so Civil War reenactors and their gear—was a sea of mud... more>>

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Author's Note

One of the most sad and compelling things about the American Civil War is that it ripped not only the nation apart, but families as well.

I grew up in the border state of Maryland. Perhaps that’s why the notion of divided loyalties has always fascinated me. For Ghosts I created two main characters.  Jamie is a Wisconsin boy who joins the Union army. His cousin Althea, who lives in Mississippi, is a staunch Confederate supporter.

This book is about more than different viewpoints, though. The war presents terrible challenges to Jamie and Althea, and they respond in different ways. I hope the story gives you some new perspectives on what life was like for young people during those terrible times. 

Book Goodies

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Surviving the Siege

This photo shows earth and timber "bombproofs" built by Union soldiers for protection from exploding artillery shells during the 1863 siege of Vicksburg. Many Confederate civilians within the city resorted to living in caves for the same reason. The home at the top of the photo is the 1830 Shirley House; it is now the only surviving Civil War-era building within the Vicksburg National Military Park. Click below to see an enlarged copy of this period photograph.

Union Army Bombproofs - Shirley House - 1863 Siege of Vicksburg MS

Final Moments of Fighting

This lithograph depicts Union General Ulysses S. Grant (bottom right) being notified of an approaching Confederate delegation (white flag in middle). The resulting negotiations lead to Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrendering his army and the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, on July 4, 1863. Click on the lithograph below to see a larger copy.

Union Entrenchments Facing Confederate Defenses at Vicksburg

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