Fun Family visits Caroling Snowball fights Feasting Boredom Starvation Disease Battle
Civil War Christmas Christmas was NOT a National Holiday during the Civil War. There were still parts of the country that discouraged the celebration of Christmas, or were just starting to celebrate the Holiday after years of official and unofficial suppression. (New England) Popular in the South. Alabama If you worked for the Federal Government and a few state Governments you were expected to show up for work if it did not fall on a Sunday. In many parts of the country schools were open.
Civil War Christmas Traditions The following Holiday practices were either started or popularized during the American Civil War or the immediate years proceeding it. The modern image of Santa Claus-Thomas Nast Christmas Cards Christmas Trees Rebirth of Christmas Caroling Many or most started in Europe but moved to America
American Christmas Most of our current Christmas traditions were given to us by early German, Dutch, and English settlers, with a few provided by France and Spain.
German Christmas Christmas Tree via Queen Victoria German Christmas Tree dates to at least 1500 There is a recording of a tree as early as 1804, Fort Dearborn, but definitely by However, it was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert that helped popularize the tree in America the first recorded tree in America in a non-German setting, Williamsburg
Godey’s Lady’s Book December 1850
Christmas Tree First known Christmas tree erected at the house in 1842 William & Mary Professor Charles F.E. Minnigerode, a political refugee from the principality of Hesse-Darmstadt, put up Williamsburg's first recorded Christmas tree at the house in He was a friend of Tucker's son Nathanial Beverley Tucker. Minnigerode enjoyed Nathanial's children and put up a tree for them in the Tucker parlor in the German Yuletide tradition. A small tree, emblematic of the occasion, now is left each Christmas on the porch.
German Christmas Jenny Lind was presented a Christmas tree by the people of Charleston, SC R.E. Lee had a Christmas tree while Commandant of West Point, Pres Franklin Pierce-the First White House Tree
F.A. Chapman 1850
Harper’s Weekly Dec. 25, 1858 by Winslow Homer
Dutch Christmas Dutch- Sint Niklass to Sinter-Claes or Klass German- Sint Nikolaus Americanized to Santa Claus In spite of rejecting Roman Catholicism the Dutch kept St. Nicholas. Santa Claus’ appearance would often change in response to current political events.
Dutch Santa No universal depiction of Santa in Northern Europe. Usually on elf, Bishop, or an Old man. Sinter Klas and Black Peter Pelsnickel Grandfather Frost In Antebellum Baltimore Saint Nicholas and Pelsnickel would travel together. December 6 Would merge with December 24 Washington Irving
Santa in America Sometime during the early 1800’s in America, Santa became associated with Christmas Eve and not December The Children’s Friend 1 st time in print 1822 Clement C. Moore, A Visit from Saint Nicholas, better known as Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Thomas Nast-Harpers Jan. 3, 1863
Santa Claus History in the USA begins 4 centuries ago 1600's: The Puritans made it illegal to mention St. Nicolas' name. People were not allowed to exchange gifts, light a candle, or sing Christmas carols. 17th century: Dutch immigrants brought with them the legend of Sinter Klaas. 1773: Santa first appeared in the media as St. A Claus. 1804: The New York Historical Society was founded with St. Nicolas as its patron saint. Its members engaged in the Dutch practice of gift-giving at Christmas. 1809: Washington Irving, writing under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker, included Saint Nicolas in his book "A History of New York." Nicolas is described as riding into town on a horse. 1812: Irving, revised his book to include Nicolas riding over the trees in a wagon. 1821: William Gilley printed a poem about "Santeclaus" who was dressed in fur and drove a sleigh drawn by a single reindeer. 1822: Dentist Clement Clarke Moore is believed by many to have written a poem "An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicolas," which became better known as "The Night before Christmas." Santa is portrayed as an elf with a miniature sleigh equipped with eight reindeer which are named in the poem as Blitzem, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Donder, Prancer, and Vixen. Others attribute the poem to a contemporary, Henry Livingston, Jr. Two have since been renamed Donner and Blitzen.Clement Clarke Moore"The Night before Christmas." 1841: J.W. Parkinson, a Philadelphia merchant, hired a man to dress up in a "Criscringle" outfit and climb the chimney of his store. 1863: Illustrator Thomas Nast created images of Santa for the Christmas editions of Harper's Magazine. These continued through the 1890's.Thomas Nast 1860s: President Abraham Lincoln asked Nast to create a drawing of Santa with some Union soldiers. This image of Santa supporting the enemy had a demoralizing influence on the Confederate army -- an early example of psychological warfare.
English Traditions Yule Log Mistletoe Christmas greens Christmas Feast/revelry Caroling Christmas Cards Charles Dickens
English Christmas Medieval Renaissance England-Feasting, drunken revelry, bawdy carols, gambling, harkening back to Roman and Pagan fertilization rites, Saturnalia, Bacchanalia, Druidic/Celtic midwinter festivals. Banned by Puritans- not entirely accepted, including riots and arrests mid 17 th Century Restored in 1670’s Revelry exists but is more subdued. Christmas for the first time become’s Christ centered.
Christmas Cards Most were handmade. The 1 st commercial card date’s to 1843 in England, but it was not until 1873 that commercial cards were used widespread in the United States
Popular Civil War Carol’s God Rest ye Merry Gentleman Deck the Hall’s O Come all Ye Faithful We Three Kings Up on the Housetop It Came Upon a Midnight Clear Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing Away in a Manger Jingle Bell’s Silent Night O Little Town of Bethlehem What Child is This? Angels We Have Heard on High
Christmas Civil War SouthNorth Much more popular Gunpowder expenditure Boisterous Feasting Gift giving 12 Day celebrations Religious revival in the South Christmas Tree Santa Claus Just becoming popular in New England
Christmas for Slaves Generally received time off work (not including House staff) Were allowed to feast and relax Usually received gifts from their master’s
Christmas st Department Store Santa (Philadelphia) Stocking’s Advertisement’s Tree’s Caroler’s Card’s
Civil War Christmas Hopefully less duty 1861-sense of adventure 1862-sense of loss 1863-sense of despair and exhaustion 1864-sense of exhaustion, but hope in the North, despair in the South Christmas meant a large amount of gift boxes.
1861 James Williams, on the Alabama coast with the 21st Alabama Regiment, told his wife his desire, and how he and his comrades celebrated the holiday. “A Merry Christmas! I wish my darling! oh! that I had a furlough to share it with you tomorrow we would both get ‘tight’ on egg-nog wouldn’t we?” Williams continued, “Christmas began this morning before daylight … two glasses of eggnog came for each before we were out of bed, which took away our appetites for breakfast.” A raucous parade followed reveille, with soldiers following “the band all through the regiment singing and tin-panning to the tune of ‘Dixie’… I mustn’t close my letter without giving a little description of our Christmas dinner, Bob Weir who presides over the ‘last chance mess’ invited us to dine; and a grand dinner it was I tell you!” He then laid out the “Bill of Fare” Cold Turkey Roast Beef Pigeon Pie Rice Salt Pepper Sauce Jelly Cake Eggs Bread Mince Pie One kind of Cake Pepper Turnips SugarSweet Potatoes Another Kind of Cake Sugar-Topped Cake Vinegar Mustard Port Wine Sherry Wine
From the Front Alfred Bellard of the 5th New Jersey remarked about the arrival of the newly popular Christmas icon to his camp along the lower Potomac River. "In order to make it look much like Christmas as possible, a small tree was stuck up in front of our tent, decked off with hard tack and pork, in lieu of cakes and oranges, etc".
From the Front Robert Gould Shaw, then a 2nd lieutenant in the 2d Massachusetts Infantry, writes in 1861, about guard duty near Frederick, MD. He would later earn fame as the commander of the heroic African American unit, the 54th Massachusetts. "It is Christmas morning and I hope a happy and merry one for you all, though it looks so stormy for our poor country, one can hardly be in merry humor."
From the Front From the diary of Private Robert A. Moore, a Confederate soldier: Tuesday, Dec 24th, 1861, camp near Swan's... "This is Christmas Eve but seems but little like it to me" Wednesday, Dec. 25th, 1861, camp near Swan's... "This is Christmas & and very dull Christmas it has been to me. Had an egg-nog to-night but did not enjoy it much as we had no ladies to share it with us."
Lee to his daughter My Dear Daughter, May God guard and preserve you for me, my dear daughter! Among the calamities of war, the hardest to bear, perhaps, is the separation of families and friends. Yet all must be endured to accomplish our independence and maintain our self-government. In my absence from you I have thought of you very often and regretted I could do nothing for your comfort. Your old home, if not destroyed by our enemies, has been so desecrated that I cannot bear to think of it. I should have preferred it to have been wiped from the earth, it’s beautiful hill sunk, and its sacred trees buried rather than to have been degraded by the presence of those who revel in the ill they do for their own selfish purposes. I pray for a better spirit and that the hearts of our enemies may be changed. In your homeless condition I hope you make yourself contented and useful. Occupy yourself in aiding those more helpless than yourself. Think always of your father. R.E. Lee.”
From the Front Entry in clothing account book for Co. C 4 th KY CSA Dec 25 th, 1861 The birth of out Christ our redeemer finds our country struggling in the holy cause of liberty with the vile horde of robbers and assasins (sic) sent to burn and destroy by their master Abraham Lincoln who occupies the char at Washington.
From the Front One of the dreariest accounts of Christmas during the Civil War came from Lt. Col. Frederic Cavada, captured at Gettysburg and writing about Christmas 1863 in Libby Prison in Richmond: "The north wind comes reeling in fitful gushes through the iron bars, and jingles a sleighbell in the prisoner's ear, and puffs in his pale face with a breath suggestively odorous of eggnog...." "...Christmas Day! A day which was made for smiles, not sighs - for laughter, not tears - for the hearth, not prison." * * * * * From the diary of Robert Watson of Key West, Florida. December 25, 1863 at Dalton, Georgia after action at Chickamauga "Christmas day and a very dull one but I find a tolerable good dinner. I had one drink of whiskey in the morning. There was some serenading last night but I took no part in it for I did not feel merry as my thoughts were of home..."
From the Front After a miserable Holiday, Levi McCormick wrote in a letter to his wife: Dec 27th 1864 Camp 4th Del Vol 3 Brg 2 Dev 3 Corps Dear wife I will send you a few lines stating how we are I have bin down with the diarier for about a weak it has bin the most sevear that I hav ever ha but I feel better to day & I hav washed all of my cloaths & I borrowed some cloathes while mine are drying I cant write you mutch this time but if I keep wel I will try and write you a interesting leter some of those days we hav got houses built up wonce more but Christmas was a very dul day hear we have not had it yet but the war news is good we have had a despatch from G Shairman he has done more than we could of asked of him I hope this will find you all wel Samey is not very wel he had a cold we hav bin very mutch exposed but I dont want to write about You can sea the reason why I hav not wrote I send my love to all from you ever true and loving Husband Levi McCormick good by send on your box
From the Front In one amusing anecdote, a Confederate prisoner relates how the realities of war intruded on his Christmas celebrations: “A friend had sent me in a package a bottle of old brandy. On Christmas morning I quietly called several comrades up to my bunk to taste the precious fluid of…DISAPPOINTMENT! The bottle had been opened outside, the brandy taken and replaced with water…and sent in. I hope the Yankee who played that practical joke lived to repent it and was shot before the war ended.”
The Homefront Eggnog, sometimes served with accompaniment of spirits, was standard in most homes during the holiday season until the war made even such a simple staple a luxury out of reach of most Southerners. Prewar decorations utilized exotic fruits such as pineapples, lemons, limes, pomegranates, and kumquats along with cuttings of holly, bayberry, china berry, mistletoe, magnolia, ivy, and pine cones. Confederate nurse, Kate Cumming, was up well before daylight making eggnog for the hospital in which she worked. She was unable to procure enough eggs to serve everyone so the holiday treat was given to the wounded, the cooks, and nurses. The doctor had done his best to provide a holiday meal which consisted of turkeys, chickens, vegetables, and pies. Kate's delight with the meal was contained due to her knowledge that the men in the field had not fared as well. Shortages were felt in different degrees at different times, but generally throughout the Confederacy. Myra Inman of East Tennessee made brief mention in her diary of Christmas 1860 and 1865 as being pleasant but did not mention the years during the war leading us to believe they were sparse. Flouride Clemson, granddaughter of John C. Calhoun was typical of prominent families who endured shortages during the war. She noted in 1863 her only gift at Christmas was a pair of sleeve buttons.
The Homefront By 1863, the Union blockade of the Southern coasts had made it nearly impossible for Santa Claus to visit homes in the South; scarcity of goods and the consequent high prices put both store-bought presents and raw materials for homemade gifts out of the financial reach of many Southern consumers. Quite a few mothers explained to their children that even Santa Claus would not be able run the formidable blockade.
The Homefront Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas of Augusta, Georgia, told how a simple act of faith on the part of her children caused her to dig deeper for a holiday offering on Christmas Eve: I have written so much that it is now after 9 o'clock and yet I have said nothing of Turner's and Mary Bell's party which we gave them last week in lieu of the Santa Claus presents. Mary Bell has been told that Santa Claus has not been able to run the blockade and has gone to war–Yet at this late hour when I went upstairs Thursday night of the party I found that the trusting faith of childhood they had hung their little socks and stockings in case Santa Claus did come. I had given the subject no thought whatever but invoking Santa Claus aid I was enabled when their little eyes opened to enjoy their pleasure to find cake and money in their socks–Jeff was delighted
The Homefront Sallie Brock Putnamm, of Richmond, devoted some lines in her memoirs to Christmas in Richmond during the third year of the war. She plotted the course Santa Claus needed to follow to avoid the blockade to bring presents to Southern children and Christmas boxes to soldiers in the field.
Healing a Nation Sometimes Santa Claus worked behind the scenes of wartime savagery to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to those who otherwise had little reason to celebrate. Following Union Major General William T. Sherman's capture of Savannah, Georgia, and presentation of it as a Christmas gift to Lincoln in 1864, about 90 Michigan men and their captain in turn gave a token of charity to Southern civilians living outside the city. On Christmas Day the soldiers loaded several wagons full of food and other supplies and distributed the items about the ravaged Georgia countryside. The destitute Southerners thanked the jolly Union Santa Clauses as the wagons pulled away under the power of mules that had tree-branch "antlers" strapped to their heads to turn them into makeshift reindeer.
Military Action Military exercises also took place on December 25. In 1861, a blockade runner was caught by the Union navy, and there were two skirmishes in Virginia and Maryland. [ In 1862, there were several skirmishes, and Confederate general John Hunt Morgan engaged in his famous Christmas Raid in Kentucky; on that single day, Morgan's men destroyed everything he possibly could of the improvements that the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had made along 35 miles of track from Bacon Creek to Lebanon Junction. [ There was also a military execution for desertion that the soldiers were forced to witness. [ In 1863, Union forces destroyed Confederate salt works at Bear Inlet, North Carolina; there were also several skirmishes between Confederate artillery and the Union navy on the Stono River and near Charleston in South Carolina. In 1864, the Confederates fiercely repelled the Federal assault of sixty warships on Fort Fisher, while in the western theater of the war there were several skirmishes fought. [ [