The Northern newspapers were looking for some good news, any good news, with which to counteract the terrible defeat at Chancellorsville. On May 16, the New York Times ran a special advertisement for newly published books, among which The Conscript: A Tale of War was heralded. This book was by Alexandre Dumas, the French novelist who had written The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and many other well-loved books. The Conscript was a darker tale, based on the French Revolution, but, as the Times expressed it, this was a book with great relevance for contemporary Americans, who faced a coming conscription.
The South’s General Pemberton organized his army about twenty miles east of Vicksburg, where Ulysses S. Grant attacked and defeated him.