J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Civil War”

Cancel Culture Just Keeps Coming

This article is another example of how cancel culture just can’t leave well enough alone, and how it keeps coming after our history. Falsehoods about how Confederate monuments were erected during the Jim Crow period, and how they are racist, are completely wrong and inaccurate. In reality, these monuments were erected decades after the Civil War ended because it took that long for Southern groups to fund them. Monuments were erected in honor of missing and deceased ancestors, and had nothing to do with racism. In reality, the War Between the States was not about slavery. It’s shameful that certain states are doing away with their history instead of teaching it appropriately.

IN THE VOLUNTEER STATE

Upset by the Tennessee Historical Commission’s March 8 vote to remove the state Capitol’s bust of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, some GOP legislators are pushing to cancel appointments of all 29 commissioners on the panel — members who were mostly named by scalawag governor Bill Lee because he knew they would vote to remove Confederate monuments.

The reconstituted commission would be reduced to 12 members, and Lee would have four picks. Fellow Republicans Senate Speaker Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton would also get four appointments each.
Senate Government Operations Committee members last week voted 5-4 to give Senate Bill 600 a “positive” recommendation, signaling support for the commission changes. Sponsored by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, the bill says the current 29-person board’s membership would be “vacated” and replaced with the 12 new appointees.


“In our culture today, it seems there is a desire to cancel history, cancel culture, cancel narratives that are just based on fact. I think that that’s a dangerous precedent,” said Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, in supporting the overhaul.

(Nathan Bedford Forrest was not a founder of the KKK and was cleared in a Congressional hearing.)

(Article courtesy of the Dixie Heritage Newsletter, March 26, 2011 ed.)

Featured Interview With The Dixie Heritage Show

Recently, I was featured on an edition of the Dixie Heritage Newsletter. This was my third interview with Dr. Edward DeVries. Dr. Ed is a wonderful person with amazing credentials. According to his newsletter, “Dr. Ed is a pastor, college president, historian, the author of over 40 books, an in-demand public speaker, and the host of three radio shows. He is an active lobbyist, tirelessly petitioning city, county, state, and federal officials on behalf of our Southern monuments and heritage. He started Dixie Heritage in March of 2015.”

Our interview started out with a discussion about the current state of things, most notably, the Covid situation, but then evolved into a conversation about my nonfiction book, Horses in Gray. Have a listen., and I hope you enjoy the interview.

Awesome Review for A Rebel Among Us

I received the March/April 2021 edition of the Confederate Veteran. Inside was a review for my novel, A Rebel Among Us. What an exciting surprise! I sent the book to the magazine about two years ago for a review, and I finally received one. However, since the time I sent a copy of the novel for review, I acquired a new publisher for the book, Westwood Books Publishing. The novel also has a new cover. Here it is:

Because the magazine is mailed out to Sons of Confederate Veterans members, it isn’t published on a website. So I copied the review and am posting it here. Thank you, Cathy Hanford West, for your nice review! (Spoiler alert: much of the plot is revealed in this review.)

Another Excellent Review

This review of my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, is short and sweet, but it gets right to the point! Thank you so much, Kevin Marsh, for your flattering review.


A novel set in the American Civil War which was historically accurate, very readable and enjoyable. My first time reading of any of this author’s work and, given the book is the first in a series, will not be the last.

Another Rave Review

I recently received another review for my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. Thank you so much, Pamela Loose, for your flattering review!

Review of A Beautiful Glittering Lie

This is a well written story with vivid descriptions of the lives of Confederate soldiers during the American Civil War. The comparison between their lives and those of the people left behind is fascinating. 

A Beautiful Glittering Lie on Librarybub

I recently advertised my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, on Librarybub. I strongly advise other authors to participate in this program in order to gain excellent exposure for your book!

During the week before Christmas, 2551 librarians saw my book. Here are the links:

My book was also featured in press releases on these outlets:

CBS

https://markets.financialcontent.com/wral/news/read/40702916/thrilling_teen_fiction_highlighted_in_librarybub_selection_for_december

NBC

https://www.wfmj.com/story/42988409/thrilling-teen-fiction-highlighted-in-librarybub-selection-for-december

I’m hoping lots of libraries will pick up my book during their next purchasing round. Thank you, everyone, for your continued support!

Happy New Year!

While going through some old papers today, I came across this interesting article. I hope you enjoy it! (I had to post the original article because I jammed my finger last night and am having a hard time typing!)

(Article courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Pvt. Samuel A. Hughey Camp 1452, SCV, & Pres. Jefferson Davis Chapter, MOSB, volume 35, issue no. 5, May 2011 ed.)

Excerpt From A Beautiful Glittering Lie

I love Christmas. It’s one of my favorite holidays. I love the music, the magic, the mystery and of course, Santa Clause! This year is extra special because of the rare Christmas Star.

Here is an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. It gives a glimpse of what life was like in north Alabama during the Civil War. I hope you enjoy it. Merry Christmas to all!

The day of Callie’s Christmas party arrived. Rena and Josie had primped for a week, repeatedly trying on the five dresses they owned between them, until they finally came to a decision. David didn’t give it much thought, since Callie’s charms had worn off with time, but he did carve a beautiful broach for her. 

They reached the Copeland’s as dusk was setting in. It was an unseasonably warm evening, and Caroline remarked about how the weather seemed to be cooperating with the party. Pulling into the yard, they saw several other carriages and wagons parked outside. David directed Joe Boy to an open area. He jumped down, tied the draft horse to a shrub, greeted Percy, who was tending the horses, and after assisting his mother and sisters down from the wagon, he escorted them up the steps to the house. The stylings of festive violin music floated through the air. Caroline tapped on the door. Momentarily, Mr. Copeland answered, dressed in a waistcoat with matching black trousers. 

“Why, there y’all are!” he greeted them happily. “Please do come in!” 

Extending his hand to David, the two shook and followed the ladies into the parlor, which was aglow with glittering lights. Candles flickered on brass candlesticks, reflecting off blown-glass decorations that adorned an enormous pine Christmas tree regally standing in a corner. The women were attired in festive, colorful dresses, and the men wore fine suits. David thought the entire sparkling room was enchanting. 

Josie and Rena saw some friends, so they went off to mingle. Mr. Copeland took Caroline’s arm and led her over to his wife, leaving David awkwardly alone. He gazed around for a familiar face, and finally found one. Jake ambled across the room in his direction, with Callie on his arm. She was radiant in a shimmering, bronze-colored, hooped gown. Her golden hair was drawn up and confined within a snood that matched the hue of her dress. Jake appeared similarly attractive in his best suit. 

“Glad to see you could make it!” he exclaimed, giving his friend a playful punch on the arm. 

“Y’all knew we couldn’t miss this.” 

“Well, I should certainly hope not!” exclaimed Callie. “Everyone knows mine is the most extravagant party in the county this season. And we have cause for celebration, this bein’ the first yuletide since the start of the war.” Releasing Jake, she clamped onto David. “Jake, would you be a darlin’ and go fetch me some punch?” 

“It would be my pleasure, Miss Callie,” he said with a smile. Giving David a wink, he strolled off into the crowd. 

“Now, Mr. Summers, if you please, I would like you to come with me,” she said, giving his arm a tug, so he obediently followed along like a puppy. 

The violinist, joined by a pianist, delved into a tender rendition of “Silent Night.” Callie stopped momentarily to listen, so David took his opportunity. 

“Miss Callie, I made you a token,” he bashfully admitted. Withdrawing a small wrapped package from his pocket, he handed it to her. 

“Well, I do declare! David, darlin’, you shouldn’t have!” She tore open the wrapping and pried open the box, revealing the broach he had painstakingly carved for her. “Why, it’s absolutely breathtakin’.” She pinned it onto the front of her gown. “I shall wear it always.” 

Taking his hand, she leaned over to give him a gentle kiss on the cheek, barely missing his mouth. 

He shied away, embarrassed. Clearing his throat while his face flushed, he muttered, “What did you want to show me, Miss Callie?” 

“I would like to present you to some friends who are out back.” 

He followed her to the garden, but immediately wished he hadn’t, for as soon as they were outside, he saw several faces he recognized. 

“David, you know Owen Ridgeway, and his brother, Lemuel.” 

“Hey, Summers,” said Lemuel in a friendly manner, but his older brother only glared. 

“Hey, y’all,” David responded genially, for Callie’s sake. 

Jake arrived, and handed Callie a glass filled with sparkling red fluid. Seeing the tension, he said, “Zeke, go on in and git yourself some punch.” 

“Don’t mind if I do,” he said, taking his chance to escape the scene. He knew Callie was unaware of the conflict, but he was riled, and he didn’t wish to spoil her party, so he went inside to the food table. 

The spread temporarily distracted him from a possible confrontation. Ham, turkey, stuffing, cornbread, pickles, garden vegetables, bread pudding, and assorted pies were displayed on gold leaf china. His mouth watered as he absorbed the sight. 

Rena appeared beside him. “Are you enjoyin’ yourself?” she asked, taking a plate. 

“I was, till Callie took me outside. That scoundrel Owen Ridgeway is here.” 

“He is?” 

“Yeah, and so is his brother. I don’t have a quarrel with him, though.” 

“Jist avoid him, David,” she advised. 

He looked over to see the seriousness in her gaze. “I’ll be on my best behavior for Ma’s sake, but if he tries to make a fuss, well …” 

“Jist don’t.” Rena glared insistently at him before moving on. 

Once he had filled his plate, he walked across the kitchen, sat at the table, and began eating. Soon, several guests joined him, and struck up a conversation about his father. Isabelle scurried about to accommodate the partygoers, as did the Copeland’s five slaves, and a few others the neighbors had brought along to help support them. 

After lingering for half an hour, David excused himself. He walked into the parlor, where he saw Jake and Callie talking to Alice Walker, so he joined them. 

“Oh, David, Miss Alice has jist informed us of the most dreadful news!” Callie leaned against Jake for support. 

“What is it, Miss Alice?” he asked. 

“We’re movin’ to California,” she announced. A broad smile spread across her young porcelain-like face. 

“Californee is a right far piece away!” Jake exclaimed with a chuckle. 

She nodded. “My pa has an uncle out that way who struck it rich, so we’re fixin’ to go next year sometime. Perhaps after spring thaw.” 

David smirked through a flash of jealousy. “I wish I could go out to Californee and strike it rich,” he muttered. 

Callie smiled at him. “Perhaps we can all go out for a visit later on,” she suggested hopefully. Turning toward the wall, she decided to change the subject. “David, have you seen the paintin’ my ma jist acquired?” 

“No.” He drew closer to have a look. 

“Pa bought it for her for Christmas. Ain’t it magnificent?” 

“It surely is.” He gazed at the landscape, noticing how the bluish-purple colors of twilight were accurately represented. 

“My ma says that it’s right fittin’ and all. She says that this paintin’, Twilight, symbolizes the transitions we’ve all been goin’ through—the 

new Confederacy and two new presidents, talk of freein’ the slaves, and the country splittin’ in two. It’s like the dawnin’ of a new day.” 

David stared at the painting, reading her description into the swirls left by the artist’s brushstrokes, and reckoned she was right. 

Mrs. Copeland’s high-pitched voice cut through the din. “May I have your attention, please?” 

Callie’s father tapped on a crystal champagne glass with a piece of silverware, causing it to ring out. The participants grew quiet. 

“We would like for all of our guests to please assemble out back in the garden!” she exclaimed, and motioned invitingly, so the partygoers followed her. 

As David walked outside, he noticed the entire backyard had been redecorated. Paper lanterns strung across the length of the yard illuminated the setting, and musicians were gathered on a platform near the back. The violinist had transformed himself into a fiddle player. He was joined by a banjo player and a percussionist, who sat poised atop a stool with spoons in his hand. 

“For our first song,” the banjo player announced, “we’re playin’ a fine tune by Stephen Foster, called ‘O Lemuel.’” 

Owen guffawed at the reference, jabbing his little brother with his elbow. The music started, and the crowd coupled up. Walking out into the center of the straw-covered yard, they began swirling to the music. The chill in the air seemed to dissipate as the dancers moved in synchronized harmony across the makeshift dance floor. 

David watched while a schoolmate, Thomas Halsey, escorted Rena. Jake and Callie took to the floor, as did their parents, even though Mr. Kimball’s injured leg prevented him from dancing with much elegance. Like he usually did at gatherings such as these, David partnered with his mother and younger sister, dancing to the lively melodies of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and “Jim along Josie.” He danced with Alice, and once, timidly, with Callie, who complimented him on his stylish grace. When the music changed to a waltz, she stated that she thought he would easily fit into high society with his fancy footwork. 

After the musicians took a break, he strolled into the house for refreshment. Owen followed, confronting him in the kitchen. 

“Think you’re quite the rooster, don’t you? Dancin’ with every gal at the party.” He stared provokingly with penetrating green eyes, his blond hair tussled atop his head. 

David whirled around to face him. Owen had always been a showoff, and was constantly teasing him because he was left-handed, and trying to outdo him at every opportunity. 

“That ain’t none of your concern. Savvy?” 

Owen snorted. “You’re worthless. You ain’t nothin’ but a weasel. All you can do is hide behind them skirts!” 

Rena entered to see her brother bristle at his adversary. “David …” she warned. 

“Not now, Rena,” he growled back. 

“Recall what we discussed.” She could see from across the room that her brother’s eyes were darkening from hazel to brown, which to her was a bad indication. 

“I want to have a word with you out on the veranda, Ridgeway,” David stated. 

He tromped off through the house. Owen grinned, traipsing behind. David heard his mother’s voice as she entered the kitchen. 

“What’s goin’ on in here?” she asked. 

“Dere’s ‘bout to be trouble out front, Miss Caroline,” Isabelle explained as she gathered a trayful of dirty dishes. 

“It’s Owen Ridgeway again, Ma,” added Josie. 

Caroline growled, “I’ll put a stop to this.” 

“No, Mrs. Summers,” Jake intercepted. “Allow me.” He sauntered through the house as voices outside escalated, and went outside to see David and Owen glaring intensely while throwing verbal spears at each other. 

“I know it was you who killed my dog last winter!” David roared. “You did it jist to spite me, because you were jealous!” 

“Why would I be jealous of you?” Owen mocked a laugh. 

“Because I’m smarter than you, and you know it.” 

“You cheated on those school exams so you could graduate! You lied about your pa fightin’ at Manassas, too! You’re spoiled and soft!” 

“I’ll have you take that back!” 

“Now, boys,” Jake interrupted, “there ain’t no need for—” 

Suddenly, Owen lurched at David, who threw a punch into his attacker’s face. They were immediately wrestling on the veranda, tumbling over each other while grunting, cursing, and yelling. Members of the party dashed outside, alarmed by the commotion. Jake managed to break the two apart, and held his friend’s arms behind his back. Lemuel seized his brother in the same manner. The two opponents snorted like bulls, their faces red with vehemence. A trail of scarlet blood trickled from Owen’s nose. 

“Take it easy!” Jake hollered. 

Mr. Copeland stepped in. “What is the meaning of this?! I will not have you two behave this way at my gatherin’!” He stomped over to Owen and took him by the ear. “I’m throwin’ you out, young man! You’re no longer welcome here!” Leading Owen to the steps, he thrust him toward the yard. Lemuel meekly scurried after his brother. “Off with you now, and don’t come back!” 

The brothers staggered toward their wagon, climbed in, and rode off down the lane. 

Turning toward David, who was panting to catch his breath, Mr. Copeland sighed. “David, I thought better of you than this.” He walked past him and went inside. 

The words stung more than any expulsion could. Frowning, he looked at his startled family, at Jake, who simpered at him, and at Callie, who scowled at him. He knew what he had done, although it was unintentional, and he felt deeply ashamed. He had ruined Callie’s Christmas party. 

Soon, the family decided it was best to leave. Barely speaking to each other, they returned home and retired to their bedchambers. The next morning, on their way back from church, Josie broke the silence. 

“How come Owen Ridgeway don’t like you?” she asked straightforwardly. 

David shrugged. “He never has, and I don’t cotton to him, neither.” 

She chuckled faintly. “I reckon you would if he was nice to you.” 

He shrugged again. It was a situation he assumed he would likely never know. 

On Christmas Eve, he hitched Joe Boy to the wagon before leading him into a thicket. With much consideration, he chose a pine tree that would suit his family, cut it down, tossed it into the wagon bed, and drove down the hill to where the saddlebag house sat nestled in the valley. The sun shone brightly, giving no indication it was a winter’s day, other than the fact that the hardwood trees were bare. 

He arrived home, extracted the tree, and struggled to carry it into the house. Wrestling it through the door while it poked him with pine needles, he finally squeezed it through. He set it in the stand he had prepared, and stood back to admire his accomplishment. The tree was glorious. In his eyes, it rivaled Callie’s. Freshly cut pine instantly scented the air. 

The family proceeded to decorate it, using what few ornaments they had accumulated over the years, most of which were handmade from wood, as well as strands of dried berries. They placed tiny candles in tin holders on the boughs and lit them. The tree glowed with inviting luminosity. 

“I wish your pa was here to see this,” Caroline sighed. 

She gathered her clutch into the front room, where she read the story of Christ’s birth from the Bible, just like Hiram did every Christmas Eve. As she drew to a close, her voice broke, and she sniffed back tears. 

“It’ll be all right, Ma,” David assured her, gently stroking her arm. “Pa’s thinkin’ of us right now, too, I reckon.” 

She nodded in agreement. “Well, let’s git to bed. Santa Claus won’t be able to come if y’all are up late.” 

The children sniggered. They had been told the truth about Santa years ago, but they played along for their mother’s sake, and promptly went to their rooms. David lit a fire in the fireplace and crawled into bed, but he couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned, staring at the gauze-covered window. Pale moonlight cast an eerie glow, enticing him to investigate. He arose and peeked out into the empty yard, but it was too dark to distinguish anything, so he climbed back into bed, folding himself in the covers. He thought of past Christmases spent with his family, and 

imagined what his father must be going through, camped in a tent in the middle of nowhere. 

At least Bud is there with him, he thought. Finally, he dozed off.

Christmas in the Confederate White House

Here is a flashback to what it was like at Christmastime during the Civil War. Confederate First Lady, Varina Howell Davis, describes the scenes.

Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, wrote this article describing how the Davis family spent the Christmas of 1864 in the Confederate White House. It was published in The New York World, December 13, 1896 and has since been reprinted often. This excerpt was obtained via the website “The American Civil War, 1861-1865.”

Varina Davis, wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Library of Congress

…Rice, flour, molasses and tiny pieces of meat, most of them sent to the President’s wife anonymously to be distributed to the poor, had all be weighed and issued, and the playtime of the family began, but like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided, as well as one pretty prize for the most orderly girl among the orphans. The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years. The ladies dispersed in anxious squads of toy-hunters, and each one turned over the store of her children’s treasures for a contribution to the orphans’ tree, my little ones rushed over the great house looking up their treasure: eyeless dolls, three-legged horses, tops with the upper peg broken off, rubber tops, monkeys with all the squeak gone silent and all the ruck of children’s toys that gather in a nursery closet.

Makeshift Toys for the Orphans

Some small feathered chickens and parrots which nodded their heads in obedience to a weight beneath them were furnished with new tail feathers, lambs minus much of their wool were supplied with a cotton wool substitute, rag dolls were plumped out and recovered with clean cloth, and the young ladies painted their fat faces in bright colors and furnished them with beads for eyes.

But the tug of war was how to get something with which to decorate the orphans’ tree. Our man servant, Robert Brown, was much interested and offered to make the prize toy. He contemplated a “sure enough house, with four rooms.” His part in the domestic service was delegated to another and he gave himself over in silence and solitude to the labors of the architect.

My sister painted mantel shelves, door panels, pictures and frames for the walls, and finished with black grates in which there blazed a roaring fire, which was pronounced marvelously realistic. We all made furniture of twigs and pasteboard, and my mother made pillows, mattresses, sheets and pillow cases for the two little bedrooms.

Christmas Eve a number of young people were invited to come and string apples and popcorn for the trees; a neighbor very deft in domestic arts had tiny candle moulds made and furnished all the candles for the tree. However, the puzzle and triumph of all was the construction of a large number of cornucopias. At last someone suggested a conical block of wood, about which the drawing paper could be wound and pasted. In a little book shop a number of small, highly colored pictures cut out and ready to apply were unearthed, and our old confectioner friend, Mr. Piazzi, consented, with a broad smile, to give “all the love verses the young people wanted to roll with the candy.”

A Christmas Eve Party

About twenty young men and girls gathered around small tables in one of the drawing rooms of the mansion and the cornucopias were begun. The men wrapped the squares of candy, first reading the “sentiments” printed upon them, such as “Roses are red, violets blue, sugar’s sweet and so are you,” “If you love me as I love you no knife can cut our love in two.” The fresh young faces, wreathed in smiles, nodded attention to the reading, while with their small deft hands they gined [?] the cornucopias and pasted on the pictures. Where were the silk tops to come from? Trunks of old things were turned out and snippings of silk and even woolen of bright colors were found to close the tops, and some of the young people twisted sewing silk into cords with which to draw the bags up. The beauty of those home-made things astonished us all, for they looked quite “custom-made,” but when the “sure enough house” was revealed to our longing gaze the young people clapped their approbation, while Robert, whose sense of dignity did not permit him to smile, stood the impersonation of successful artist and bowed his thanks for our approval. Then the coveted eggnog was passed around in tiny glass cups and pronounced good. Crisp home-made ginger snaps and snowy lady cake completed the refreshments of Christmas Eve. The children allowed to sit up and be noisy in their way as an indulgence took a sip of eggnog out of my cup, and the eldest boy confided to his father: “Now I just know this is Christmas.” In most of the houses in Richmond these same scenes were enacted, certainly in every one of the homes of the managers of the Episcopalian Orphanage. A bowl of eggnog was sent to the servants, and a part of everything they coveted of the dainties.

At last quiet settled on the household and the older members of the family began to stuff stockings with molasses candy, red apples, an orange, small whips plaited by the family with high-colored crackers, worsted reins knitted at home, paper dolls, teetotums made of large horn bottoms and a match which could spin indefinitely, balls of worsted rags wound hard and covered with old kid gloves, a pair of pretty woolen gloves for each, either cut of cloth and embroidered on the back or knitted by some deft hand out of home-spun wool. For the President there were a pair of chamois-skin riding gauntlets exquisitely embroidered on the back with his monogram in red and white silk, made, as the giver wrote, under the guns of Fortress Monroe late at night for fear of discovery. There was a hemstitched linen handkerchief, with a little sketch in indelible ink in one corner; the children had written him little letters, their grandmother having held their hands, the burthen of which compositions was how they loved their dear father. For one of the inmates of the home, who was greatly loved but whose irritable temper was his prominent failing, there was a pretty cravat, the ends of which were embroidered, as was the fashion of the day. The pattern chosen was simple and on it was pinned a card with the word “amiable” to complete the sentence. One of the [missing] received a present of an illuminated copy of Solomon’s proverbs found in the same old store from which the pictures came. He studied it for some time and announced: “I have changed my opinion of Solomon, he uttered such unnecessary platitudes — now why should he have said ‘The foolishness of a fool is his folly’?”

On Christmas morning the children awoke early and came in to see their toys. They were followed by the negro women, who one after another “caught” us by wishing us a merry Christmas before we could say it to them, which gave them a right to a gift. Of course, there was a present for everyone, small though it might be, and one who had been born and brought up at our plantation was vocal in her admiration of a gay handkerchief. As she left the room she ejaculated: “Lord knows mistress knows our insides; she jest got the very thing I wanted.”

Mrs. Davis’ Strange Presents

For me there were six cakes of delicious soap, made from the grease of ham boiled for a family at Farmville, a skein of exquisitely fine gray linen thread spun at home, a pincushion of some plain brown cotton material made by some poor woman and stuffed with wool from her pet sheep, and a little baby hat plaited by the orphans and presented by the industrious little pair who sewed the straw together. They pushed each other silently to speak, and at last mutely offered the hat, and considered the kiss they gave the sleeping little one ample reward for the industry and far above the fruit with which they were laden. Another present was a fine, delicate little baby frock without an inch of lace or embroidery upon it, but the delicate fabric was set with fairy stitches by the dear invalid neighbor who made it, and it was very precious in my eyes. There were also a few of Swinburne’s best songs bound in wall-paper and a chamois needlebook left for me by young Mr. P., now succeeded to his title in England. In it was a Brobdingnagian thimble “for my own finger, you know,” said the handsome, cheerful young fellow. After breakfast, at which all the family, great and small, were present, came the walk to St. Paul’s Church. We did not use our carriage on Christmas or, if possible to avoid it, on Sunday. The saintly Dr. Minnegerode preached a sermon on Christian love, the introit was sung by a beautiful young society woman and the angels might have joyfully listened. Our chef did wonders with the turkey and roast beef, and drove the children quite out of their propriety by a spun sugar hen, life-size, on a nest full of blanc mange eggs. The mince pie and plum pudding made them feel, as one of the gentlemen laughingly remarked, “like their jackets were buttoned,” a strong description of repletion which I have never forgotten. They waited with great impatience and evident dyspeptic symptoms for the crowning amusement of the day, “the children’s tree.” My eldest boy, a chubby little fellow of seven, came to me several times to whisper: “Do you think I ought to give the orphans my I.D. studs?” When told no, he beamed with the delight of an approving conscience. All throughout the afternoon first one little head and then another popped in at the door to ask: “Isn’t it 8 o’clock yet?,” burning with impatience to see the “children’s tree.”

David Helped Santa Claus

When at last we reached the basement of St. Paul’s Church the tree burst upon their view like the realization of Aladdin’s subterranean orchard, and they were awed by its grandeur.

The orphans sat mute with astonishment until the opening hymn and prayer and the last amen had been said, and then they at a signal warily and slowly gathered around the tree to receive from a lovely young girl their allotted present. The different gradations from joy to ecstasy which illuminated their faces was “worth two years of peaceful life” to see. The President became so enthusiastic that he undertook to help in the distribution, but worked such wild confusion giving everything asked for into their outstretched hands, that we called a halt, so he contented himself with unwinding one or two tots from a network of strung popcorn in which they had become entangled and taking off all apples he could when unobserved, and presenting them to the smaller children. When at last the house was given to the “honor girl” she moved her lips without emitting a sound, but held it close to her breast and went off in a corner to look and be glad without witnesses.

When the lights were fled, the garlands dead, and all but we departed” we also went home to find that Gen. Lee had called in our absence, and many other people. Gen. Lee had left word that he had received a barrel of sweet potatoes for us, which had been sent to him by mistake. He did not discover the mistake until he had taken his share (a dishful) and given the rest to the soldiers! We wished it had been much more for them and him.

Officers in a Starvation Dance

The night closed with a “starvation” party, where there were no refreshments, at a neighboring house. The rooms lighted as well as practicable, some one willing to play dance music on the piano and plenty of young men and girls comprised the entertainment. Sam Weller’s soiry [sic, soiree refers to a party or reception held in the evening], consisting of boiled mutton and capers, would have been a royal feast in the Confederacy. The officers, who rode into town with their long cavalry boots pulled well up over their knees, but splashed up their waists, put up their horses and rushed to the places where their dress uniform suits had been left for safekeeping. They very soon emerged, however, in full toggery and entered into the pleasures of their dance with the bright-eyed girls, who many of them were fragile as fairies, but worked like peasants for their home and country. These young people are gray-haired now, but the lessons of self-denial, industry and frugality in which they became past mistresses then, have made of them the most dignified, self-reliant and tender women I have ever known — all honor to them.

So, in the interchange of the courtesies and charities of life, to which we could not add its comforts and pleasures, passed the last Christmas in the Confederate mansion.

(Courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Private Samuel A Hughey Camp 1452/ Military Order of the Stars and Bars, Jefferson Davis Chapter, Volume 66, Issue No. 12, Dec. 2020 ed.)

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – Victorian Style

With Christmas less than a week away, I wanted to share some interesting history about the holiday and Victorian traditions. I hope you enjoy!

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Image by Winslow Homer entitled “The Christmas-Tree.” Harper’s Weekly, December 25, 1858.

The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree for the delight and amusement of young and old dates back to 16th century Germany. Still, many of us find ourselves asking, “How should I trim my tree this year?” or “How should I decorate my home for the holidays?” I thought it might be fun to share some of the ways our Victorians friends decorated their Christmas trees and homes. Who knows? Maybe some of us will decide to have a Victorian Christmas theme this year.


“The first Christmas tree was introduced into England in the early 19th century. In 1841, the German Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, decorated a large Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, reminiscent of his childhood celebrations in Germany (the Christmas tree had been a deep-rooted German tradition since the 18th century).

Soon after, it became a Victorian Christmas tradition in England to set up a large tree at Christmas and decorate it with lighted candles, candies, and fancy cakes hung from the branches by ribbon and by paper chains.

Sophia Orne (Edwards) Johnson (1826-1899) better known as “Daisy Eyebright”, was an American author. She wrote for many periodicals of her day and began a journal entitled “Daisy Eyebright’s Journal” for the Country Gentleman. In athe 1870’s Christmas issue, “Daisy Eyebright” explains how to set the Christmas tree up. According to Daisy,

“If you can obtain the tree from some pine woods near at hand, select a finely shaped fir balsam or spruce, with firm branches, and about nine or ten feet in height. Then spread a large sheet over one end of the parlor carpet, and put a good-sized tea chest in the center of it.

The lower limbs of the tree must be sawn off so that it can be firmly fixed into the box; and any small heavy articles, like weights and flatirons, can be put in for ballast, to keep the tree firmly in place. Then fill up the box with hard coal. The chest must be concealed with some pretty material; old curtains will answer the purpose, or the American flag; and a white furry robe is also suitable. Drape these articles close to the tree, and let them trail a little on the floor, to make a graceful sweep.”

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Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, & their family from the 1848 Illustrated London News. 

In 1847, Prince Albert wrote: “I must now seek in the children an echo of what Ernest (his brother) & I were in the old time, of what we felt & thought; & their delight in the Christmas-trees is not less than ours used to be.” He would decorate the trees himself with sweets, wax dolls, strings of almonds & raisins, & candles, which were lit on Christmas Eve for the distribution of presents, relit on Christmas Day, after which the tree was then moved to another room until Twelfth Night (January 6).

The Queen’s journal of 1850 describes the scene: ‘We all assembled & my beloved Albert first took me to my tree & table, covered by such numberless gifts, really too much, too magnificent.” “The 7 children were taken to their tree, jumping & shouting with joy over their toys & other presents; the Boys could think of nothing but the swords we had given them & Bertie of some of the armour, which however he complained, pinched him!” 

Holly, Ivy, and everyone’s favorite ~ Mistletoe! Used for decoration around the house.

“These common plants all produce winter berries and were held to be “magical” long before Victorian times. The holly berries were said to repel witchcraft and a berry-laden sprig would be carried into the Victorian house by a male and used to decorate the Christmas pudding.

Mistletoe had pagan origins and in Victorian times it was not allowed in churches. However, kissing under the mistletoe was popular in Victorian homes. After each chaste kiss a white berry had to be removed from the sprig until there were none left – and no more kisses were to be had.”

Sneaking up from behind ~ a common and often successful maneuver.

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The old “I say. Will you look at that. I’m under the Mistletoe. You’re under the Mistletoe. It’s fate.”

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Mistletoe “victim”

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And finally…not even sure Mistletoe is in this image. Don’t care. (Edit: I found it! Yes, indeed…Mistletoe has been located and is being used appropriately. Good for you, sir!)

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Daisy Eyebright” also explains how to properly decorate the Christmas tree up. According to Daisy,

“Now the tree is planted, and we must proceed to decorate it. Make chains of popped corn, strung together with needle and thread; at least a dozen yards will be none too much for a large-sized tree, and the pure white festoons entwined amid the dark green branches of the tree produce a fine effect.

“We must also have chains made either of glazed scarlet, gilt or silver; cut the paper into small strips, four inches long and not half an inch in width; fasten the two ends of each strip together with flour paste, and make half of them into rings; then take the rest and make into similar rings, but first slip each strip through two of the dried rings before joining the ends. In this manner all the slips of paper are interlaced, and we have a chain of rings which will greatly adorn our tree. They must be festooned in long, graceful loops from limb to limb, and the effect is very charming.”

 

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Flower And Fruit Festoon clip art​

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Of course there was plenty for the children to do. Their activities added to the entertainment of the long evenings during the Christmas season. The children assisted in covering English walnuts with tinfoil or gilt paper and in filling small apples with cloves. The latter served to keep moths from the drawers of bureaus. They also made inexpensive, but acceptable presents.

Originally published in The Cottage Hearth, December 1876

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(Article courtesy of Civil War Talk, December 17, 2020 ed.)

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