J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Christmas After Fredericksburg

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“After the battle of Fredericksburg [December 11-15, 1862] the fine  weather, clear, cold and bracing, which we had been having, changed into a real Virginia winter with a good deal of the Northern thrown in. It snowed, froze, thawed and rained by turns, with here and there bright days. All military operations were brought to a close, and both armies went into winter quarters.”

The Christmas of 1862 was cheerless indeed; the weather was frightful, and a heavy snowstorm covered everything a foot deep. Each soldier attempted to get a dinner in honor of the day, and those to whom boxes had been sent succeeded to a most respectable degree, but those unfortunates whose homes were outside the lines had nothing whatever delectable partaking of the nature of Christmas.

“Well! It would have puzzled [anyone] to furnish a holiday dinner out of a pound of fat pork, six crackers, and a quarter of a pound of dried apples. We all had apple dumplings that day, which with sorghum molasses were not to be despised. Some of the men became decidedly hilarious, and then again some did not; not because they had joined the temperance society nor because they were opposed to the use of intoxicating liquors, but because not a soul invited them to step up and partake. One mess in the Seventeenth did not get so much as a smell during the whole of the holidays; and a dry, dismal old time it proved.

“We read in the Richmond papers of the thousands and thousands of boxes that had been passed en route to the army, sent by the ladies of Richmond and other cities, but few found their way to us. The greater part of them were for the troops from the far South who were too distant from their homes to receive anything from their own families. The Virginians were supposed to have been cared for by their own relatives and friends; but some of them were not, as we all know.”

(Painting: The Christmas After Fredericksburg, Civil War Christmas Album, Philip Van Doren, editor, Hawthorne Books, 1961, page 23)

(Courtesy of Southern Comfort, SCV #1452 Private Samuel A. Hughey Camp newsletter, December 2013, pp. 3-4)

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