I have always been blessed or cursed with being drawn to the supernatural things of this world. I can’t put a name to it, but I know it is always with me. The telephone will ring and I know who is calling, or I know something is going to happen before it
does. This preference of the unknown forces of this world has caused me to experience things that have caused me great pain as well as joy.
April 1, 1992 is a day I will never forget. It starts as any other day, except it is my day off which makes it special
for me. After I work twelve hour shifts, three or four days in a row I am more than ready for my time off. My name is Janice Smith, and I work as a labor and delivery nurse in Greenwood Mississippi.
Today I am driving and sightseeing to just have a relaxing day. I am going to visit the national park in Vicksburg. I have lived in this state all my life, and I have never visited the battlefield. I always have this unsettled feeling whenever the battlefield is mentioned around me.
I am the fourth generation from Mississippi. My great-great-grandparents owned a plantation, right in the middle of
what is now Vicksburg National Park. Back in the early 1800’s it was known as Magnolia Springs, because of the magnolia trees and fresh water from the numerous springs scattered over the land. After the National Park Service took over the property, it became known as the Shirley House.
I visit the Park Information Center gathering information and looking at astounding pictures of men and action during the Civil War. I leave the center starting my driving tour. The closer I get to the Shirley House the heavier the feeling of gloom surrounds me. I feel like someone is talking to me, but I can’t understand what is being said.
I am the only one on the road, which is a good thing because I just do not feel right. I pull up in front of the Shirley property, get out of my car and start walking towards the house. I can see the dugout areas in the side of the hill where the Confederate Soldiers camped and tried to defend the property.
I suddenly find myself in a ball gown on the front porch of the house. My head is spinning and I feel very unstable on my feet. Something is happening to me. The world around me has changed. I am in the same place but a different person.
“Amanda, where are you? Amanda, there you are, what are you doing on the porch? You should be inside dancing with your young man. He is going to be leaving soon. Amanda, are you all right?”
I see this woman walking towards me, and I have to assume she is speaking to me. I actually know what is going on and who she is. “I am not feeling well, so I stepped out on the porch for some fresh air. All the cigar smoke in the house is making me feel faint. This blasted corset is killing me.”
Amanda Shirley, watch your mouth. You are a lady, and ladies do not swear. Get your fresh air and come back inside. You
have guests to attend to. This is your engagement party, you know.”
“Yes mama, I will be come inside in a couple of minutes. I want to stay on the porch with the cool breeze, and the smell of magnolia trees in the air. This is such a wonderful time of the year.”
Mama goes into the house and leaves me alone. I can’t imagine what our world is coming to, especially if this war happens,
as everyone says it will. I don’t want my world to change. It is just too wonderful as it is.
I leave the front porch, and go back into the ballroom. I am immediately met by Lieutenant Patrick Allan Coker. He looks
so dashing in his uniform. I am fond of the bright red sash around his waist. It makes him stand out from everyone else in the room.
He sweeps me out onto the dance floor, and we waltz, just floating in each other’s arms. We will be man and wife in a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait. He has been my love for as long as I can remember. He grew upon the Coker plantation, which is just up the road from where I live. We spent many hours together playing, and then later, planning our future.
We dance until the party is over and everyone has left. Mama and Papa have gone upstairs for the night. A couple of the servants of cleaning things up so the furniture can be brought back out in the morning.
“Amanda, you are the love of my life, and I will love you for all eternity, I swear. I can’t wait for you to become my
wife. We will have such a long happy life and many children. No one will be as happy as you and I.”
Patrick, I love you also. Kiss me and go home, it is getting late. I do want to get a little sleep before the sun comes up, and the air starts getting hot. Besides I want to get out of this dress.”
Patrick kisses me good-bye, and I close the door as he mounts his horse. I turn to start up the stairs, and the next thing I
know, I am standing at the top of the stairs in my wedding gown. What has happened? Am I losing my mind?
My father is at the bottom of the stairs, and has his arm out for me. The wedding march is starting as I go down the stairs. I walk into the parlor holding on to Papa’s arm, and he takes me to Patrick. I am going to be his wife now. Whatever is going on is a blessing.
Patrick and I are finally man and wife. The pastor tells him to kiss his bride and as his lips touch mine, I find myself back in my car in my modern clothes.
Oh my God, I have to get back to Greenwood. I am losing my mind. I remember everything about the house and the wedding.
What am I supposed to do? I start the car and begin driving. I end at the Vicksburg National Confederate Cemetery.
I don’t want to go inside, but something keeps pulling me in that direction.
I drive down a couple of the gravel roads they have built between the graves. The dread gets heavier, the longer I drive. I have to stop. I get out of my car, and walk to my left, to the second row of stones. I hear a scream, and I am back at the Shirley House.
I am standing on the front porch screaming as Mama and Papa comes rushing out. I can’t even catch my breath.
“What child, what is wrong?”
“Excuse me Ma’am, but I am Corporal John Jones from the 1st Mississippi. I just gave Mrs. Coker some bad news. Her husband, Lieutenant Coker died last week. One of those damn Yankees shot him. I am so sorry to have given you this news. Please accept my condolences Mrs. Coker. I must rejoin my regiment as we are heading north today.”
“Blessing to all of you Corporal Jones, we will keep you in our prayers,” Mama said. “Amanda honey, come in the
house. I will watch Junior for you, while you go upstairs and lie down.”
The tombstone reads: Lieutenant Patrick A Coker, CSA, born July 3, 1840, Died April 22, 1862.
I know I was his wife, and the war left me a widow with a child. My ancestor wanted me to know about her life and the love she had for her husband. May they rest in each other’s arms forever.