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The FReeper Foxhole Remembers "Ought it not be a Merry Christmas?" - Dec. 25th, 2005
City of Alexandria / Fort Ward Museum ^

Posted on 12/24/2005 9:08:05 PM PST by SAMWolf


Keep our Troops forever in Your care

Give them victory over the enemy...

Grant them a safe and swift return...

Bless those who mourn the lost.

FReepers from the Foxhole join in prayer
for all those serving their country at this time.

.................................................................. .................... ...........................................

U.S. Military History, Current Events and Veterans Issues

Where Duty, Honor and Country
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.

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The FReeper Foxhole is dedicated to Veterans of our Nation's military forces and to others who are affected in their relationships with Veterans.

In the FReeper Foxhole, Veterans or their family members should feel free to address their specific circumstances or whatever issues concern them in an atmosphere of peace, understanding, brotherhood and support.

The FReeper Foxhole hopes to share with it's readers an open forum where we can learn about and discuss military history, military news and other topics of concern or interest to our readers be they Veteran's, Current Duty or anyone interested in what we have to offer.

If the Foxhole makes someone appreciate, even a little, what others have sacrificed for us, then it has accomplished one of it's missions.

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"Ought it not be a Merry Christmas? "
Holiday observances during the American Civil War

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Lonely camp scene from an 1862 Harper's Weekly entitled "Christmas Eve".

Even with all the sorrow that hangs, and will forever hang, over so many households; even while war still rages; even while there are serious questions yet to be settled - ought it not to be, and is it not, a merry Christmas?"
Harper's Weekly, December 26, 1863


Harper's Weekly depicts a family separated by war in its January 3,1863 edition.

For a nation torn by civil war, Christmas in the 1860s was observed with conflicting emotions. Nineteenth-century Americans embraced Christmas with all the Victorian trappings that had moved the holiday from the private and religious realm to a public celebration. Christmas cards were in vogue, carol singing was common in public venues, and greenery festooned communities north and south. Christmas trees stood in places of honor in many homes, and a mirthful poem about the jolly old elf who delivered toys to well-behaved children captivated Americans on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.

But Christmas also made the heartache for lost loved ones more acute. As the Civil War dragged on, deprivation replaced bounteous repasts and familiar faces were missing from the family dinner table. Soldiers used to "bringing in the tree" and caroling in church were instead scavenging for firewood and singing drinking songs around the campfire. And so the holiday celebration most associated with family and home was a contradiction. It was a joyful, sad, religious, boisterous, and subdued event.

Before the war

"The Christmas Tree" by F. A. Chapman.

Many of the holiday customs we associate with Christmas today were familiar to 1840s celebrants. Christmas cards were popularized that decade and Christmas trees were a stylish addition to the parlor. By the 1850s, Americans were singing "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem," and "Away in a Manger" in public settings. In 1850 and 1860, Godey's Lady's Book featured Queen Victoria's tabletop Christmas tree, placed there by her German husband Prince Albert. Closer to home, in December, 1853, Robert E. Lee's daughter recorded in her diary that her father - then superintendent at West Point - possessed an evergreen tree decorated with dried and sugared fruit, popcorn, ribbon, spun glass ornaments, and silver foil.

Clement Clarke Moore, a religious scholar who for decades was too embarrassed to claim authorship of the 1822 poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas," was now well-known for his tribute to Santa Claus. "Santa Claus" made his first public appearance in a Philadelphia department store in 1849, marking the advent of holiday commercialism.

For enslaved African Americans, the Christmas season often meant a mighty bustle of cooking, housekeeping, and other chores. "Reward" for these efforts was a suspension of duties for a day or two and the opportunity for singing, dancing, and possible brief reunions with separated family members. Further gestures of "goodwill" by masters who saw themselves as benevolent owners were small and the semi-annual clothing allotment.

By 1860, many worried about civil unrest, fearful this Christmas would be the last before the outbreak of war. An Arkansas diarist writes:

"Christmas has come around in the circle of time, but is not a day of rejoicing. Some of the usual ceremonies are going on, but there is gloom on the thoughts and countenances of all the better portion of our people."

KEYWORDS: civilwar; freeperfoxhole; merrychristmas; veterans; warbetweenstates
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Men of the 5th New Hampshire engaged in a hilarious greased pig chase as their Christmas entertainment. From Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War.

Events proceeded quickly in 1861, hastening war. Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president of the United States in March and the bombardment of Fort Sumter occurred in April. Southern states seceded and the Confederates claimed their first major victory at the first battle of Manassas. For the shopkeeper or farm boy or student away from home for Christmas the first time, melancholy set in.

Robert Gould Shaw, then a 2nd lieutenant in the 2d Massachusetts Infantry, writes 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."

James Holloway, writing from Dranesville, VA tells his family that Christmas:

"You have no idea how lonesome I feel this day. It's the first time in my life I'm away from loved ones at home."

On the civilian front, Sallie Brock Putnam describes Christmas, 1861 in Richmond, VA.

"Never before had so sad a Christmas dawned upon us. Our religious services were not remitted and the Christmas dinner was plenteous of old; but in nothing did it remind us of days gone by. We had neither the heart nor inclination to make the week merry with joyousness when such a sad calamity hovered over us."

Yet Christmas 1861 also saw soldiers full of bravado, still relatively well fed and equipped, and eagerly anticipating Christmas boxes of treats from home. Often officers authorized extra rations of spirits and men engaged in greased pig-catching contests, footraces, jumping matches, and impromptu pageants dressed as women. Soldiers erected small evergreen trees strung with hardtack and pork. Some were excused from drills, although other references point to the need to haul logs and forage for firewood no matter what day of the year it was.

Artist Winslow Homer depicts soldiers' joy at receiving holiday boxes from home in this 1861 Harper's Weekly illustration.


By Christmas, 1862, Thomas Nast had allied Santa Claus with the Union Army. From Harper's Weekly, January 3, 1863.

This sad year brought forth the war's impact full force with battles at Shiloh, Manassas, and Antietam, and campaigns in the Shenandoah Valley and the Peninsula. Many Fredericksburg, Virginia citizens were homeless or fled their town just prior to Christmas.

Harper's Weekly illustrator Thomas Nast, a staunch Unionist, is now depicting Santa Claus entertaining Federal soldiers by showing them Jefferson Davis with a cord around his neck. Abraham Lincoln would later refer to a politicized Santa as "the best recruiting sergeant the North ever had." More moderate illustrations show soldiers decorating camps with greens and firing salutes to Santa. Ironically, it was Nast who fixed Santa's home and toy workshop address at the "North Pole" "so no nation can claim him as their own."

Officers of the 20th Tennessee gave their men a barrel of whisky to mark the day. "We had many a drunken fight and knock-down before the day closed," wrote one participant. But there were other more somber occurrences recorded for Christmas 1862. One account tells of soldiers being forced to witness an execution for desertion and another grim letter describes how men firing their weapons in a funeral salute were mistakenly punished for unauthorized holiday merrymaking.
1 posted on 12/24/2005 9:08:09 PM PST by SAMWolf
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To: snippy_about_it; radu; Victoria Delsoul; w_over_w; LaDivaLoca; TEXOKIE; cherry_bomb88; Bethbg79; ...

Children still found Christmas morning joyful in this 1864 Harper's Weekly edition. Note that the youngster on the right is equipped with sword, drum, kepi and a haversack with "U.S." prominently displayed.

This year saw the battles of Gettysburg and Vickburg and the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. Thomas Nast portrayed Santa Claus in a patriotic uniform, distributing to Yankee soldiers to raise their morale. Southern parents were gently preparing their children that Santa Claus may not "make it through the blockade" to deliver presents this year. Harper's Weekly depicted a tender reunion scene of a soldier husband and father briefly reunited with his family during furlough.

Holiday boxes and barrels from home containing food, clothing and small articles of comfort were highly anticipated by soldier recipients. Depending on their duty assignment, Christmas dinner may have consisted of only crackers, hard tack, rice, beans and a casting of lots for a single piece of beef too small to divide. Those lucky enough to receive boxes from home could supplement a meager meal with turkey, oysters, potatoes, ham, cabbage, eggnog, cranberries and fruitcake.

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."

Cavada continued:

"Christmas Day! A day which was made for smiles, not sighs - for laughter, not tears - for the hearth, not prison."

He described a makeshift dinner set on a tea towel-covered box. Each prisoner brought his own knife and fork and drank "Eau de James" (water from the nearby James River.) Cavada reported he combed his hair for the occasion and further related that the prisoners staged a "ball" with a "great eal of bad dancing" during which hats were crushed and trousers torn. Sentries called "lights out" at 9 p.m.


General William Tecumseh Sherman is host at a celebratory Christmas dinner in Savannah after presenting the captured city to President Lincoln as a holiday.

The final wartime Christmas came as the Confederacy floundered, Lee's Army behind entrenchments in Petersburg and Richmond. Abraham Lincoln received a most unusual holiday - the city of Savannah, GA - presented by General William Tecumseh Sherman via telegram. Union and Confederate sympathizers were hoping this Christmas would be the last at conflict.

Johnny Green, of the 4th Kentucky's Orphan Brigade, expressed this sentiment:

"Peace on Earth, Good will to men should prevail. We certainly would preserve the peace if they would go home and let us alone..."

Green further reports he and his comrades received an unexpected and very welcome holiday:

"Our commissary sends word for each Orderly Sergeant to come to his wagon & he will issue one piece of soap to each man. This is indeed good news. Since the Skirmish began at Stockbridge Nov 15 we have not had a chance to wash any more than our faces occasionall & never our feet or bodies until now...."

Holiday season charity was not forgotten this year. On Christmas Day, 90 Michigan men and their captain loaded up wagons with food and supplies and distributed them to destitute civilians in the Georgia countryside. The Union "Santa Clauses" tied tree branches to the heads of the mule teams to resemble reindeer.

Many other units, however, were on the march, either trying to evade capture or pursuing the opponent for better position. Soldiers left in the squalid conditions of prison camps spent the day remembering holidays at home, as did others in slightly more comfortable settings. Confederate General Gordon, writing from his headquarters near Petersburg, wrote of fighting famine as well as General Grant:

"The one worn-out railroad running to the far South could not bring us half enough necessary supplies: and even if it could have transported Christmas boxes of good things, the people at home were too depleted to send them."

His wife, who was with him at headquarters, presented him with a most precious treat for Christmas 1864 - "real" coffee brought from home 'to celebrate our victories in the first years and to sustain us in defeat at the last.'

Moods were more bouyant in Washington and New York, where celebrants supped on substantial feasts and attended the theatre.

"Snowy Morning on Picket" from Harper's Weekly January 30, 1864.

2 posted on 12/24/2005 9:08:53 PM PST by SAMWolf (Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?")
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To: All
After the war

Thomas Nast's most famous image of Santa Claus was published in Harper's Weekly on January 1, 1881.

The events of 1865 again influenced holiday celebrations. President Lincoln's assassination shocked the nation, but by mid-summer, the conspirators were hung or imprisoned for lengthy terms. War was ended and many soldiers had been mustered out of service. The 13th Amendment to the Constitution became law on December 18, 1865, abolishing the institution of slavery. Soldiers and civilians alike were ready to reunite with their families and again embrace Victorian holiday customs.

At the end of hostilities, commerce once again flowed southward, and goods filled Northern shops. Long-held holiday traditions were re-introduced, as ornamental greens and trees filled the markets and toys and other items went on display. Newspaper illustrations were of domestic and wintry scenes.

The final verse of a poem By the Christmas Hearth published in the Christmas edition of Harper's Weekly reflected the sentiments of many:

Bring holly, rich with berries red,
And bring the sacred mistletoe;
Fill high each glass, and let hearts
With kindliest feelings flow;
So sweet it seems at home once more
To sit with those we hold most dear,
And keep absence once again
To keep the Merry Christmas here.

Information for this article was drawn from "We Were Marching on Christmas Day: A History and Chronicle of Christmas During the Civil War" by Kevin Rawlings.

3 posted on 12/24/2005 9:10:00 PM PST by SAMWolf (Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?")
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To: All

Showcasing America's finest, and those who betray them!

Please click on the banner above and check out this newly created (and still under construction) website created by FReeper Coop!

Veterans for Constitution Restoration is a non-profit, non-partisan educational and grassroots activist organization. The primary area of concern to all VetsCoR members is that our national and local educational systems fall short in teaching students and all American citizens the history and underlying principles on which our Constitutional republic-based system of self-government was founded. VetsCoR members are also very concerned that the Federal government long ago over-stepped its limited authority as clearly specified in the United States Constitution, as well as the Founding Fathers' supporting letters, essays, and other public documents.

Actively seeking volunteers to provide this valuable service to Veterans and their families.

We here at Blue Stars For A Safe Return are working hard to honor all of our military, past and present, and their families. Inlcuding the veterans, and POW/MIA's. I feel that not enough is done to recognize the past efforts of the veterans, and remember those who have never been found.

I realized that our Veterans have no "official" seal, so we created one as part of that recognition. To see what it looks like and the Star that we have dedicated to you, the Veteran, please check out our site.

Veterans Wall of Honor

Blue Stars for a Safe Return


The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul

Click on Hagar for
"The FReeper Foxhole Compiled List of Daily Threads"


4 posted on 12/24/2005 9:10:26 PM PST by SAMWolf (Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?")
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To: alfa6; Allen H; Colonial Warrior; texianyankee; vox_PL; Bigturbowski; ruoflaw; Bombardier; ...

"FALL IN" to the FReeper Foxhole!

Merry Christmas Everyone.

If you want to be added to our occasional ping list, let us know.

5 posted on 12/24/2005 9:14:26 PM PST by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: SAMWolf; snippy_about_it; PhilDragoo; All
Merry Christmas, everyone!

6 posted on 12/24/2005 9:14:40 PM PST by Victoria Delsoul
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To: snippy_about_it

Merry Christmas, Snippy.

7 posted on 12/24/2005 9:17:25 PM PST by Victoria Delsoul
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To: SAMWolf; snippy_about_it; bentfeather; Darksheare; PhilDragoo; Matthew Paul; Wneighbor; ...

Wishing everyone a VERY

8 posted on 12/24/2005 9:25:48 PM PST by radu (May God watch over our troops and keep them safe)
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To: snippy_about_it; SAMWolf; Samwise; Professional Engineer; Peanut Gallery; The Mayor; Wneighbor; ...

Merry Christmas FOXHOLE!!

Blessings to all this Season of Celebration.

9 posted on 12/24/2005 9:48:19 PM PST by Soaring Feather
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To: snippy_about_it; SAMWolf; Professional Engineer; Samwise; Valin; Iris7; bentfeather; All
From the alfa6 household a Merry Christmas to all the denizens of the Freeper Foxhole.

A pic of the Pigeon Pad Testers with some of Mrs alfa6s Christmas handiwork :-)

Bleesed Regards to All

alfa6 ;>}

10 posted on 12/24/2005 10:08:04 PM PST by alfa6
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To: alfa6

Awwww, nice picture of the children alfa. Thank You.

11 posted on 12/24/2005 10:19:21 PM PST by Soaring Feather
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To: alfa6; All

I envy you your beautiful children, and your talented (and wonderful, I'm sure) wife.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

To ALL FReepers:

May God bless and protect you and yours, and may every Christmas be better than the last.

12 posted on 12/24/2005 10:54:32 PM PST by Don W (Stress is when you wake up screaming, and then you realize you haven't fallen asleep yet.)
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To: SAMWolf; All

Merry Christmas, everyone!!!!

13 posted on 12/25/2005 12:05:58 AM PST by Bradís Gramma (Jesus is the Reason for the Season!!!)
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To: snippy_about_it

Merry Christmas from EGC of Southwest Oklahoma.

14 posted on 12/25/2005 3:04:35 AM PST by E.G.C.
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To: snippy_about_it; alfa6; SAMWolf; All

Thanks for letting me join in with you guys. This is a great day.
I wish you & yours a very, Merry Christmas and a happy New Year from Texas.

15 posted on 12/25/2005 3:58:46 AM PST by texianyankee
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To: SAMWolf
Good morning Sam, Snippy and everyone. May our Lord bless each one here at mightly this coming New Year. Merry CHRISTmas everyone.

This is copyrighted so I'll only post the link.

Soldier's having Christmas in Iraq

16 posted on 12/25/2005 4:38:11 AM PST by GailA (Happy Birthday to my Lord and Savior Jesus. Merry CHRISTmas one and all!)
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To: Victoria Delsoul

Merry Christmas! Hope Santa was good to you. :-)

17 posted on 12/25/2005 4:44:19 AM PST by SAMWolf (Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?")
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To: radu

Merry Christmas, Radu.

18 posted on 12/25/2005 4:45:00 AM PST by SAMWolf (Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?")
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To: bentfeather

Merry Christmas, Featner.

19 posted on 12/25/2005 4:45:16 AM PST by SAMWolf (Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?")
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To: alfa6

Merry Christmas, alfa6. I like the Raggedy Andy outfit. :-)

20 posted on 12/25/2005 4:46:08 AM PST by SAMWolf (Capital Punishment means never having to say "you again?")
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