Present-day Christmas conjures memories of snow, lighted trees, cinnamon, gifts, parties, and music. If we lived during the Civil War, what kinds of memories would we have? Would they be of family, food, warmth, and parties, or would they be of just trying to survive and stave off hunger? Would there be presents under the tree, or would we be happy just to be present with our loved ones. To learn a bit more about Christmas during the years 1861-1864, explore the items in the library and the Web sites listed below.
By A. L. Peel
Albert Peel was raised in Mississippi. At 17, he left the Kentucky Military Institute to come home and enlist in the 19th Mississippi Regiment. He was killed May 12, 1864, at Spotsylvania's Bloody Angle and is buried in the Confederate Cemetery near Spotsylvania Courthouse. These diary entries, written a year previously, tell of the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Wednesday, April 29 - Orders came this evening to fall in to fight. Major Hardin went to take command of the right wing which was on picket. Col. Harris was absent so I formed the left wing & formed on the 12 Regt, marched in quick time to the Chanseller Hotel, & Genl. Posey sent us on picket 1½ mile up the road. I put out 2 Companies in advance as pickets. Col. Harris came to us at 9 p.m. Our pickets brought in a prisoner who reported that a company of the enemy had crossed at germanias ford.
THROUGH THE WILDERNESS IN VA.
ARMY OF THE POTOMAC
COMMENCING MAY 4TH 1864
May the 7th 1864
Arose at daylight, we had our breakfast about half cooked when the battle commenced. The rebels came out of the woods in 4 lines of battle, then Our artilery opened on them with Grape & Canister causing them to retreat in confusion & were glad to get out of sight. Very heavy fighting down the left of the line near Chancelorsville. It was reported we had captured between 4 & 5000 prizoners today. Heared good news about dark and Great Cheering prevailed the whol length of the line. We recd orders to be ready to move at dark. We marched 3 or 4 miles and halted untill 2 O clock in the morning by the side of the road. We slept with our knapsacks on our backs. Was aroused from our slumbers by a pack of mules running away. We sprung to our feet, grabbed our muskets & got ready for action. We considered it an attack from the rebels. In a moments time we were all quiet and down we laid until daybreak.
By General G. Moxley Sorrel
In the aftermath of December 1862's bloody Battle of Fredericksburg, in the midst of the tending of the wounded and removal of the dead, there were some surprising flashes of cordiality between the enemy camps. General G. Moxley Sorrel, Longstreet's Chief of Staff, gives a very human side to the war in his recollections.
The old wines of the good people of Fredericksburg have been referred to. They suffered in the fortunes of war. A few nights before the opening of the battle, which was then imminent, considerable quantities of fine old Madeira and other varieties were taken out of cellars and bins, and sent by the citizens to our fellows in camp, equally ready for drink or for battle. It was known that the town would be shelled and occupied by the Federals, probably looted and plundered; therefore it was thought safest to see priceless old vintages passed around campfires and quaffed in gulps from tincups. Of course the men would have better liked whiskey, but they did not refuse the wine.
Historians believe at least 400 women served in the Civil War as soldiers, but documented cases are very few.