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Many of the current Christmas traditions celebrated today actually started during the Civil War era. Although Christmas wasn’t an official holiday until President Ulysses S. Grant made it one in 1870, many Americans observed the holiday throughout the war as a way to find comfort and bond with family members through long-lost traditions.
Christmas was widely celebrated in Europe for centuries but when the Puritans came to the New World they brought with them their distaste for the holiday. Instead of the joyful, family-oriented holiday that it is today, they turned Christmas into a solemn occasion that involved praying and reflecting on sin. Feeling that it was more of a European pagan holiday than a Christian celebration, Puritans officially banned Christmas in Boston for over 20 years during the mid 1600s. Even after the ban was lifted it was still viewed with suspicion and dragged on as a dull, muted holiday over two centuries later.
During the Civil War, soldiers celebrated by decorating
their camp Christmas trees with hard-tack and salt-pork and singing carols such as “Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night.” After General William Sherman captured Savannah in December of 1864, his soldiers dressed their horses up like reindeer by attaching branches to their headgear and delivered food and supplies to hungry families in Georgia.
Although some soldiers, especially Union soldiers in the beginning of the war, enjoyed special Christmas dinners of turkey, oysters and pies, other soldiers were not as lucky:“And when I turned from these musings upon the bill of fare they would have at home to contemplate the dreary realities of my own possible dinner for that day – my oyster can full of coffee and a quarter ration of hard-tack and sow-belly comprised the menu” wrote one soldier in a book titled The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War, 1861-1865.
President Abraham Lincoln and his family celebrated Christmas during the first year of the war by holding a Christmas party at the White House. During the Christmas season in 1862 and 1863, he visited injured soldiers in a various hospitals. Mary Todd Lincoln raised money for Christmas dinners and their son Tad sent gifts to wounded soldiers he met during his father’s holiday hospital visits.
One of the most famous Christmas gifts was when General Sherman captured the city of Savannah, Georgia in December of 1864, a significant military achievement that marked the beginning of the end of the war, and sent Abraham Lincoln a telegram that read: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 100 and 50 guns and plenty of ammunition, also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”
Telegram from General Sherman
presenting Savannah as a Christmas presentSources:this information was found at
the Civil War Saga
“Thanksgiving in Camp” - Winslow Homer, Harper's Weekly, November 29, 1862
On October 3rd of 1863
Expressing gratitude for a pivotal Union Army victory at Gettysburg, President Abraham
Lincoln announces that the nation will celebrate an official Thanksgiving holiday
on November 26, 1863.
here's some links about the history
along with some period recpies from Godey's Lady's book
Civil War's Trust about Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving recipes, Godey’s Lady’s Book
Jefferson Davis reaping the harvest, October 1861 Harpers Weekely
please remember there is a board meeting
October 26th at 5pm in Reno - address sent via email
We will also being in the Nevada Day Parade
for the 150th Aniversy of Nevada
November 1st Carson City
Comstock Civil War Reenactors
are pleased to welcome its newest members who
joined us in Fallon,
Nevada and thank those who helped make this a wonderful event which was blessed
photo Courtesy of Alexander Gardner 1821 - 1882
As the living descendants and historians of President Lincoln
and one of his primary generals shook hands, the newly formed Pinkerton
Detective Agency Brigade ensured their safety..
the actual descends of the men they represent as living historians, thanking each other for their service