J.D.R. Hawkins

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

Archive for the tag “Santa Claus”

A Christmas Dilemma

Merry Christmas! In this wonderful time of the year, I would like to share with you an excerpt from my novel, A Rebel Among Us. In this excerpt, David Summers learns that, although his intentions are sincere, they aren’t taken that way, and he is still considered to be the enemy. I hope you enjoy this, and I hope you have a very  happy holiday season.

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The little girls were up before dawn, pounding on doors, rousing everyone awake, and gleefully yelling “Merry Christmas!”

David groggily sat up. He heard Maggie’s voice on the other side of the door.

“Where’s the fire?” she asked.

“There’s no fire. Santa’s been here,” squeaked Claudia.

He heard Anna say something and pulled himself out of bed. The group had already gone downstairs, so he followed after them and entered the parlor. Rubbing sleep from his eyes, he saw Sarah lighting a fire.

“What time is it?” he yawned.

“Fifteen minutes past five,” said Grace. She tightened her robe around herself. “Oh! It looks as though Santa has been here, all right.”

The girls ran to the fireplace, yanked down their stockings, and dumped the contents out onto the rug, gasping at the sight of their bounty. Each one had received two peppermints, a gold coin, and a licorice.

Maggie had already started distributing gifts from under the tree. She called out the name on each package while Claudia and Abigail took turns delivering them to their recipients. Handing her aunt the last remaining present, she seated herself beside the fireplace. Everyone began opening gifts.

With a smile on his face, David watched the sisters, Grace, and Claudia exchange gifts with each other.

“Go on, David. Open yours,” Sarah coaxed him.

He drew the boxes toward him and eagerly tore into them. A package from Maggie and Abigail contained new boots. Amazed, he humbly thanked them. Another gift contained everyday clothes Sarah had sewn for him, and still another held a new pair of calf-skin gloves from Claudia and her mother. Anna gave him a book and several pair of socks.

She opened his gift. David held his breath, hoping she would be impressed by his handiwork. He had specially crafted for her a comb and hand-held looking glass made of Cherrywood with intricately carved angels on them.

“Oh, David,” she gasped. “I don’t know what to say.”

He didn’t either, so he nervously waited for her to continue.

“They’re absolutely breathtaking!” She dragged the comb through her long blonde hair, gazing at her likeness in the mirror.

David thought he could watch her do that for hours on end and smiled at his accomplishment. He had managed to impress her. His heart soared.

“Oh, it’s lovely.” Sarah smiled. She held up the broach he’d carved for her. Tiny birds adorned the front of it.

“Glad you like it, Miss Sarah,” he replied with a shy grin.

He gave a similar one to Grace. Abigail and Claudia opened their gifts from him: miniature carousels with interchangeable animals. They happily thanked him and traded animals, seeing if one would fit into the other’s carousel.

Maggie opened the gift he had created for her to reveal a three-dimensional wooden carving of a girl sitting in a chair with a cat curled around her feet. “It’s a girl with a cat,” she flatly remarked.

“It’s beautiful,” Anna breathed, smiling at him.

He grinned back at her.

Maggie turned the wooden carving in her hands for a moment. Glaring at David, she threw it into the fire. 

Sarah gasped.

David watched in shock. His jaw dropped in disbelief, and his eyes grew wide. The carving he had spent hours on, created especially for her, was quickly consumed by flames.

“Maggie, how could you?” Anna scolded.

He gaped at her, stunned. Maggie glared back at him. Coming to his senses, he scowled and jumped to his feet. Hurt and anger flared up inside him.

“Pardon me, ladies,” he said, quickly walking toward the kitchen.

He heard Anna holler at her sister. The screen door slammed behind him. Dawn was just beginning to illuminate the yard. Anxious to distance himself, he sprinted toward the barn.

“David,” Anna yelled as she ran after him. “David, wait!”

She screamed. He turned to see she had fallen onto the cold, snow-covered ground. His heart lurched.

“Anna!”

She started sobbing and grabbed her ankle.

He ran back to her. Without a second thought, he knelt down to comfort her.

“It’s all right,” he said. “I’ve got you.”

Gently, he picked her up. He noticed how light she was in his arms as he carried her into the house. Returning to the parlor, he carefully set her on the sofa and gazed down at her concernedly. The sight of her in pain tore at his heartstrings so badly it hurt.

“What happened?” Sarah inquired sternly.

“It’s nothing, Aunt Sarah,” Anna replied, wiping away her tears. “I think I twisted my ankle.”

“Go fetch some ice from the basement,” Sarah said to Maggie, who left the room without a word.

David knelt beside Anna and held her hand. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “This is all my fault.”

“No,” she sniffed. “No, it isn’t.”

Maggie returned with an ice pack and handed it to her older sister.

“You owe David an enormous apology,” Anna said to her sister.

Maggie scowled at him. “I appreciate that you went to all the trouble,” she stated malevolently, “but I regret nothing.” She turned and stomped upstairs.

“She doesn’t mean it, David,” Anna mewled.

“Yes, she does, Miss Anna,” he forlornly responded. “She despises me, and nothin’s gonna change that, no matter how hard I try.”

He stood and walked toward the kitchen. Deciding he should get on with his chores, he took an extra-long time in doing so.

When he had finished bringing in firewood, Sarah pulled him aside.

“I didn’t have the opportunity to give this to you earlier,” she said and presented him with a book titled Wild Man of the West.

“Thank you kindly, Miss Sarah.” 

He went upstairs to his room, threw himself onto the bed, and began reading. Ever since he was a small boy, he had dreamed of going out West into undiscovered Indian Territory. The thought terrified and thrilled him at once. Setting it aside, he picked up the book Anna had given him, Gulliver’s Travels. Just like Gulliver, he felt alone in a strange land, surrounded by people with small minds.

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Stories of Christmases Past

Here are some stories about what the South experienced during the War Between the States. By 1862, inflation in the South was rampant, as the following article describes.

CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT CELEBRATES CHRISTMAS IN MISSISSIPPI

Confederate President Jefferson Davis celebrated Christmas in his home in Mississippi.

“After an absence of nearly two years,” he said, “I again find myself among those who…have ever been the trusted object of my affection.”

But Confederate Christmas celebrations in the area were cut short by reports of Union troop movements on the Mississippi threatening Vicksburg.

In the fall of 1862, Confederate refugees from the fighting in the areas surrounding the capital began to flood into the city. They included those who fled farms and towns now in Union-held territory, wives of Confederate soldiers looking for employment, and the destitute.

This influx of refugees drove rent prices much higher than they’d been previously, and wartime inflation sent prices on everyday goods skyrocketing. In the city, ten pounds of bacon, which cost $1.25 in 1860, now cost $10. Four pounds of coffee jumped from $0.50 to $20.

Richmond diarist and author Sallie Brock Putnam wrote about the sadness of Christmas for families who had lost soldiers in the war:

The Christmas dinner passed off gloomily. The vacant chairs were multiplied in Southern homes, and even the children who had curiously questioned the cause of the absence of the young soldier brother from the festive board, had heard too much, had seen too much, and knew too well why sad-colored garments were worn by the mother, and why the fold of rusty crape placed around the worn hat of the father, and why the joyous mirth of the sister was restrained, and her beautiful figure draped in mourning. Congratulations were forced, and tears had taken the place of smiles on countenances where cheerfulness was wont to reign.

Christmas of 1862 saw an important cultural development with the emergence of the modern image of Santa Claus. Famed illustrator FOC Darley published an edition of Clement Clark Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) featuring drawings of Santa as a plump man with a pipe, furry coat and pointed hat.

Santa

Thomas Nast, who in the late 19th century produced what came to be regarded as the definitive representations of St. Nick, published his first Santa drawing in Harper’s Weekly, January 3, 1863. “Santa Claus in Camp“ showed a star-spangled Santa in his reindeer-drawn sleigh handing out presents to jubilant soldiers.

Santa in camp

General Robert E. Lee in Gordonsville reported 40,000 soldiers watched a baseball game at Hilton Head, S.C., between the 165th New York Zouave regiment and a picked team from other units. One of the players was Abraham Gilbert Mills, later president of the National League.

Across the South there were movements of troops. Confederate General John Hunt Morgan engaged in his famous Christmas Raid in Kentucky; on that single day, Morgan’s men destroyed everything they possibly could of the improvements that the Louisville & Nashville Railroad had made along 35 miles of track from Bacon Creek to Lebanon Junction.

Robert E. Lee wrote his wife, “What a cruel thing is war. To separate & destroy families & friends & mar the purest joy and happiness God has granted us in this world…. I pray that on this day when ‘peace & good will’ are preached to all mankind that better thoughts will fill the hearts of our enemies & turn them to peace.”

Meanwhile, along the Rappahannock River, the two armies faced each other, probing their opponent’s lines looking for weak spots and capturing prisoners and supplies. Soldiers in both armies did what soldiers normally do during the winter. They rested and refitted. They entertained themselves with games and tournaments. They exchanged supplies with their fellow Americans across the river.

 

(Written by Peter Doré – English Friends of the South)

THE CHRISTMAS GIFT

Time was short as final preparations were underway for General Thomas J. Jackson’s famous Stonewall Brigade. Jackson had received orders from General Robert E. Lee to move his corps east from the Shenandoah towards the Rappahannock River. The Federal army under the command of General Burnside was gathering in great numbers across the Rappahannock River at Fredericksburg in an attempt to sweep around Lee’s eastern flank and attack Richmond.

Jackson’s corps numbered over 38,000 soldiers, the largest command he had ever had. Among these troops were his old reliable, tried and true, Stonewall Brigade, also referred to informally as “Virginia’s First Brigade”. Organized and trained personally by Jackson at Harper’s Ferry in April 1861, the brigade would distinguish itself at the Battle of Manassas, and become one of the most famous combat units in the war.

Snow lay on the ground in Winchester at the Frederick County Courthouse as new volunteers were organized and drilled for their march to meet the enemy. A young soldier was given a Christmas gift made by his sweetheart. Like so many couples, they did not know what the future held.

A Winchester resident watching the men pass through the town remarked how poor looking the soldiers were. “They were very destitute, many without shoes, and all without overcoats or gloves, although the weather was freezing. Their poor hands looked so red and cold holding their muskets in the biting wind….They did not, however look dejected, but went their way right joyfully.”

 

THE CHRISTMAS CAROL

The years of 1861 and 1862 had been momentous for Thomas J. Jackson. He had gone from being an unknown VMI professor with a Major’s commission, to the rank of Lieutenant General commanding the II Corps in General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. In battle after battle Jackson’s army had defeated those who opposed them. “Stonewall” was now one of the most famous and feared generals of the war.

Snow blanketed the countryside on November 22 as Confederate divisions gathered in Winchester. General Lee’s communiqués to Jackson made it clear that it was time to consolidate the army, preparing for the Union Army’s next move. Jackson’s Corps numbered 33,000 troops, the largest he had ever commanded. The task of organizing and preparing the new II Corps was daunting, but the General was up to the challenge and kept on the move.

On an early November morning at the Opequon Presbyterian church, members of the choir practiced a favorite Christmas carol for the passing Stonewall Jackson and his men. With the fate of his army and possibly the South to be decided in the coming days, the beautiful melody of a Christmas carol in the distance uplifted General Jackson and his men as they prepared to leave for Fredericksburg.

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“The Christmas Carol”
Opequon Presbyterian Church, Kernstown, Virginia – Winter of 1862
Artwork by John Paul Strain

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“The Christmas Gift”

Men of the Stonewall Brigade, Frederick County Courthouse – Winchester, Virginia Winter of 1862

Artwork by John Paul Strain

(Articles courtesy of The Southern Comfort, Samuel A. Hughey Sons of Confederate Veterans camp 1452, vol. 42, issue no. 12, Dec. 2018 ed.)

Christmas Past: A Civil War Sampler

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Christmas morning a fine one. The boys began to take their Christmas last night. A good deal of drunkenness in camp. In the morning the captain gave us a treat of egg nogg. One-half the boys very tight by nine o’clock…Never saw so many drunk men before. It might be said with propriety that the 7th  regiment was drunk on the 25th.

–  David Phillips, 7th Tennessee Infantry

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Wednesday, Dec. 25, 1862. Camp near Manassas.

Pleasant weather. Since we do not have a chaplain, this morning we held a hymn-service instead. I enjoyed the music – reminded me of Papa’s and Edward’s singing at home. I enjoyed the hymns with the familiar tunes, as On Jordan’s Stormy Banks, When I Can Read My Title Clear, Rock of Ages, Silent Night. I don’t know why sermons at Christmas are necessary. Bible reading and hymn singing are sufficient – in time of war perhaps more meaning ful than sermons.

– Franklin L. Riley, Co. B, 16th Mississippi Infantry

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I am truly sorry that I cannot spend Christmas in Yazoo…Perhaps I could get something more palatable to eat than corn bread, or pleasant to drink that muddy water. I am sure the visit would be a pleasant one if I could get neither. I would love the visit on account of the society. The presence of some of my friends would be both meat and drink to me.

–  Robert James McCormack, 3rd Mississippi Infantry, Canton, Mississippi

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Sunday, December 25, 1864

We all went down last night to see the tree and how pretty it looked. The room was full of ladies and children and Cap. gave us music on the piano and tried to do all he could to make us enjoy ourselves and we did have a merry time. All came home perfectly satisfied. This has ben a cold dark day but we all went down to see how the tree looked in the day time but it was not as pretty as at night.

– Carrie Berry, a 10-year-old living in Georgia

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Dec. 25th Christmas day, but “nary holiday for the soldier boy, far away from the sweet home where of the watched with intense eagerness for the coming of Christmas, expecting to see “Old Santa Claus.”

December 27th. Santa Claus got here at last. Several boxes for W.L.A. arrived today with eatables and other good things sent by those at home to let us know that though we are far from them they still remember us. Many blessings from Him be upon those loved ones at home.

  • George Albert Grammer, Warren () Light Artillery

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Fort Gaines, December 24th [Tuesday, 1861]

A Merry Christmas! I wish my darling! Oh! That I had a furlough to share it with you tomorrow we would both get “tight” on egg-nog wouldn’t we? You think you wouldn’t do  you? but I say if I were home I’d make you take enough to exhilarate you for once in your life well! well! if I am not home with you I won’t make a funeral of my Christmas, but will be as merry as can be, we have a merry party in the “Bazaar” mess and if only receive a jug of good old rye whiskey by this boat, which we expect confidently, we will make a “welkin ring” tomorrow…

May this be the last Christmas that I spend away from your side!

– James M. Williams, Co. A, 21st Alabama Infantry

ChristmasBlessing

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December 25th [1864]

Christmas Day, and very very cold. Have been moving about some of late, but are again in our old quarters, We have had very unpleasant weather for several weeks, The rain had almost washed us away. The whole country around about here appears to be under water it is almost impossible to get about at all. All military movements will have to stop until the roads improve, It is said that Ladies of Richmond intend giving us a New Years dinner hope it may prove true would like right will to get something good to eat. The health of the Regt continues good. There is no news of any importance

January 1st [1865]

The long talked of Christmas dinner has come at last. Three turkeys, two ducks, one chicken and about ninety loves, for three hundred and fifty soldiers. Not a mouth full apiece where has it all gone too, where [did] it go The commissar or quarter masters no doubt got . May the Lord have mercy on the poor soldiers

  • John Kennedy Coleman, Co. F, 6th South Carolina

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It is a sad Christmas; cold, and threatening snow. My two youngest children, however, have decked the parlor with evergreens, crosses, stars, etc. They have a cedar Christmas-tree, but it is not burdened. Candy is held at $8 per pound. My two sons rose at 5 A.M. and repaired to the canal to meet their sister Anne, who has been teaching Latin and French in the country; but she was not among the passengers, and this has cast a shade of disappointment over the family. A few pistols and crackers are fired by the boys in the streets—and only a few. I am alone; all the rest being at church. It would not be safe to leave the house unoccupied. Robberies and murders are daily perpetrated. I shall have no turkey to-day, and do not covet one. It is no time for feasting.

– John Beauchamp Jones, Richmond, Virginia

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Camp near Fred’burg

Dec 25th, 1862

My dear Sister

This is Christmas Day. The sun shines feebly through a thin cloud, the air is mild and pleasant, [and] a gentle breeze is making music through the leaves of the lofty pines that stand near our bivouac. All is quiet and still, and that very stillness recalls some sad and painful thoughts. This day, one year ago, how many thousand families, gay and joyous, celebrating Merry Christmas, drinking health to absent members of their family, and sending upon the wings of love and affection long, deep, and sincere wishes for their safe return to the loving ones at home, but today are clad in the deepest mourning in memory to some lost and loved member of their circle. If all the dead (those killed since the war began) could be heaped in one pile and all the wounded be gathered together in one group, the pale faces of the dead and the groans of the wounded would send such a thrill of horror through the hearts of the originators of this war that their very souls would rack with such pain that they would prefer being dead and in torment than to stand before God with such terrible crimes blackening their characters. Add to this the cries and wailings of the mourners – mothers and fathers weeping for their sons, sisters for their brothers, wives for their husbands, and daughters for their fathers – [and] how deep would be the convictions of their consciences. Yet they do not seem to think of the affliction and distress they are scattering broadcast over the land. When will this war end? Will another Christmas roll around and find us all wintering in camp? Oh! That peace may soon be restored to our young but dearly beloved country and that we may all meet again in happiness.

– Tally Simpson, Co. A, 3rd South Carolina

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While on the subject of Christmas cheer I will mention a toothsome delicacy which had a ready sale. It was ginger bread, or ginger cakes. An enterprising squad had gone into the business of baking. They had built an oven on a hill over against our camp and secured some baking pans about three feet square. They bought flour and bacon from the commissary, bought a lot of sorghum molasses in the country, and got the grease they needed by frying it out of the bacon. They had numerous customers, who bought and criticized freely; but as I had been paid $840, seven months wages, all the Confederacy ever paid me, I concluded to invest some of my wealth in ginger cakes. I had a good many one-dollar Confederate bills. They were red-backed and about six inches by three in length and breadth. I remembered boyhood days when the old cake man came to town on court days with his basket of cakes and five cents would buy a square eight or nine inches by six inches, and I supposed that one of my dollars, or at most two, would buy half of what the big baking pan contained. But when I handed him my dollar, saying “Give the worth of that,” he just laid the bill on the big square of cake and cut out the size of it and gave it to me for my money. I was so surprised that I did not object, but took my little piece of cake and went away sorrowing that our currency had sunk so low as to be measured in terms of gingerbread.

– James H. McNeilly, Chaplain, Quarles’ Tennessee

(Courtesy of Jim Woodrick: http://andspeakingofwhich.blogspot.com/2013/12/christmas-past-civil-war-sampler.html)

Excerpt From A Beautiful Glittering Lie

The following excerpt is from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie. It takes place during the Christmas season, but in 1862, Christmas was anything but joyous.

A Beautiful Glittering Lie Cover Art

The following morning, David and his family attended church, where they received a grand reception, for the congregation had heard about Hiram’s homecoming, and bestowed well-wishes upon them. That afternoon, David busied himself by getting caught up on chores he had let slide over the past few months. He wanted his father to be proud and impressed with his efforts to take care of the place, just like he had promised. Even though it was the Sabbath, a designated day of rest, he worked through it anyway, reasoning that he had only four days to finish his tasks.

The next few days were filled with anticipation and last-minute preparations for Christmas. While the girls decorated, David worked diligently to finish his handmade gifts, and Caroline cooked. The family spent every waking moment getting ready to receive their loved one.

Soon, it was the day before Christmas. David awoke to discover that it was drizzling, which wasn’t unusual for that time of year. Pulling himself from his warm bed, he dressed, ate a quick bowl of grits, and went outside to tend to the livestock. By the time he had finished, he was cold and damp, so he returned to his room, changed, and sat down on the bed with his guitar. Although he hadn’t played it in quite a while, he decided to learn a few carols, so he practiced “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” several times. While he worked out the chords to the “Boar’s Head Carol,” he heard a knock at his door. Josie entered, wearing a brown coat over her green calico dress.

“Ma says it’s time to go fetch the tree!” she announced, barely containing her excitement.

Grinning at her exuberance, he laid the guitar down across his bed. “All right, li’l’ sis. If you insist.”

Throwing on his coat and hat, he followed her outside to the barn. He saddled Renegade, gave her a foot up, and led the colt out toward the woodlot. Noticing that it had stopped drizzling, he clucked to Renegade, who responded by prancing.

“Your horse is the funniest critter!” Josie giggled. “He must know it’s a holiday!”

“Reckon so. He’s mighty high-strung today.”

“He’s like this every day!” she exclaimed, bouncing atop the colt.

“That’s fine if he is. It jist makes him more competitive. He already won those two races I ran him in last month, and I’m fixin’ to run him a heap more this spring.”

Renegade slowed to a walk as brother and sister approached the woods.

“Reckon tonight ole Santee Claus will be makin’ his appearance,” David remarked casually.

To their amusement, Renegade blew in response. Caleb and Si came loping up, eager to find out what they were missing, and the two hounds nearly tumbled over each other in their rush.

Josie laughed at them. “Let’s find the purtiest tree out here for Pa,” she suggested.

“That’s a right good idea.” He grinned up at his sister, who smiled back down at him.

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