Say What Saturday: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
thumbnail.jpeg

This song written for the 1944 film “Meet Me in St. Louis”
originally featured the lyrics above.
It was re-written when it was rejected
as being too “hysterically lugubrious”.
{7}
Sadly this was a sentiment all too common during the Civil War.
(Photo - LOC - Public Domain)

Christmas 1861 - December 22 finds Nathaniel Dawson serving in the Confederate Army. Before leaving for the war Dawson had surprised Elodie Todd (the youngest half-sister of the First Lady Mary Lincoln) with a proposal of marriage. She accepted and thus began their relationship via letters. On their first Christmas apart Dawson wrote the saddest nine words a sweetheart heard at Christmas: ​

fullsizeoutput_1add.jpeg


His letter continued to his fiancée​

the festal season, where age is rejuvenated and lives again in the merry carols of youth.” . . [after Christmas he wrote of the celebration with his regiment] . . “Bad whiskey is abundant and pleasure and sorrow drowned in large potations.” {3}

On May 15, 1862 Elodie became the wife of Nathaniel Dawson. Upon her death in 1877 the former Confederate Colonel buried his third wife. His first wife Anne Eliza died in 1855 and second wife Mary Elizabeth in 1860.​
*

2nd Lieutenant Robert Gould Shaw was serving in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry during the first Christmas of the war. He was stationed near Frederick, Maryland serving guard duty when he wrote home his thoughts {2} on the season:​

fullsizeoutput_1c71.jpeg


Colonel Robert Shaw died during the Second Battle of Fort Wagner July 18, 1863

* * *

Christmas 1862 - December 14, Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Today is the wedding day of the newly crowned Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan to Mattie Ready. The thirty-seven year old Morgan was described as a tall and handsome man with sandy hair and gray eyes. His bride, at twenty-one, was a raven-haired Southern beauty.

On the evening of their wedding the Ready home is decorated for the Christmas season. Guests are treated to decorations of holly and other winter berries amidst the soft glow of candlelight. Leonidas Polk an Episcopal bishop and Confederate General will perform the ceremony. Within days General Morgan is off to fight. A few days after he leaves his bride; he writes the following note:​

fullsizeoutput_1ad5.jpeg

(Photo - LOC - Public Domain)

General Morgan was killed on September 4, 1864, his daughter Jhonnie Hunt was born April 7, 1865.

*

On December 25 Corporal J.C. Williams of the 14th Vermont wrote home

fullsizeoutput_1c67.jpeg

He concludes: “I think of the many lives that are endangered, and hope that the time will soon come when peace, with its innumerable blessings, shall once more restore our country to happiness and prosperity.” {2}

* * *

Christmas 1863 - Cuban born Lieutenant Colonel Federico Fernández-Cavada (1831-1871) would always remember this Christmas for he was a prisoner in Libby Prison. He was captured at Gettysburg and wrote this during this captivity:​

fullsizeoutput_1b25.jpeg

Libby Prison as it appeared on August 23, 1863
(LOC - Public Domain)

He soberly concluded: "The north wind comes reeling in fitful gushes through the iron bars, and jingles a sleighbell in the prisoner's ear, and puffs in his pale face with a breath suggestively odorous of eggnog - - Christmas Day!” {2}

He left Libby in 1864 part of a prisoner exchange and in 1865 he wrote “Libby Life: Experiences of a Prisoner of War in Richmond, Virginia”. In 1869 he joined the Cuban resistance against Spanish Rule in the Cuban Ten Year War. He had survived Libby prison but he was not so fortunate in this war. Captured by Spanish forces he was executed by firing squad on July 1, 1871.​

*

Key West Florida native, Robert Watson had seen fierce action at Chickamauga and two months later he was in Dalton Georgia celebrating Christmas Day, 1863. He wrote this entry in his diary.​

fullsizeoutput_1aed.jpeg

“Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, September 19, 1863”
Artist: Adloph Metzner
(Photo - LOC - Public Domain)

* * *

Christmas 1864 - The country is in the fourth year of the war and in the south supplies are dwindling. In 1853 West Point Graduate and Confederate Civil War General Josiah Gorgas was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal in Alabama and it was here he heard the sweet singing voice from the neighbor’s yard and knew it was a voice he wanted to hear the rest of his life. During the war Amelia Gayle Gorgas is home tending to their six children and receives the following Christmas message from her husband:

“A despondent Christmas has just passed, yet people contrived to eat hearty and good Christmas dinners. The soldier unfortunately have not even meat, and have had none for several days.”

fullsizeoutput_1c6a.jpeg

The Mount Vernon Arsenal
(LOC - Public Domain)

He continues “The food must be brought here, and the means to so provided and organized.” {2}

*

For some soldiers happiness at Christmas came amidst disappointments
as General John B. Gordon wrote of the 1864 Christmas season:​

"The one worn-out railroad running to the far South could not bring us half enough necessary supplies: and even if it could have transported Christmas boxes of good things, the people at home were too depleted to send them." {4}

However it was the little things that brought him happiness. Not only did he share that Christmas with his beloved wife Fanny she also gave him the perfect gift for Christmas:​

fullsizeoutput_1b02.jpeg


*

During the siege at Petersburg the Union soldiers could see the spires of the Second Presbyterian Church. Confederate Captain Henry Chambers of the 49th North Carolina had visited the church several times and enjoyed the service. On Christmas Day of 1864 he attended the service. He wrote:

“The church presented a magnificent spectacle. The gorgeous evergreen decorations, the Gothic architecture, the brilliant gaslight, the finely dressed ladies and Conf. officers, the splendid robes of the officiating clergyman, the exquisite singing of the choir, the solemn responses of the congregation all combined to make one of the most impressive scenes I ever witnessed.” {5}

At the conclusion of his missive he added the sad reality of that Christmas​

fullsizeoutput_1b09.jpeg

Fort Mahone (Confederate) Petersburg Trenches

Captain Henry Chambers lived to celebrate many Christmases with his wife and son.
He died in 1925 at eighty-four years of age.

* * *

Christmas 1865 - On this first Christmas after the great war the eastern seaboard is digging out from a massive storm that blew through five days earlier. The storm destroyed ships and killed residents. By Christmas the weather had cleared although there was heartbreak for some that morning. The country had a plentiful food supply with turkeys selling a 23 cents a pound and prime beef at 35 cents.

A week before Christmas Secretary of State William Seward issued a Proclamation announcing the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially ending slavery in the United States.​

thumbnail.jpeg


*

For many families Christmas was never the same after the war. Wives now widows; children now orphans; parents lost sons; siblings lost siblings; sweethearts were left at the altar with only their dreams and memories. Soldiers came home with battle scars they carried for the rest of their lives as they began the process of rebuilding. Christmas came in 1865 filled with memories of loved ones, fear of an uncertain future and the hope that is Christmas.​

fullsizeoutput_1c31.jpeg

Thomas Nast’s - Christmas Eve
published in Harper’s Weekly December, 1862
Alfred Bell Quote {8}

* * * * * * *




Sources
1 https://www.history.com/news/civil-war-christmas
2. http://dburgin.tripod.com/cw_xmas/cwarxmas2.html
3. http://rutherfordtnhistory.org/mattie-ready-morgan-the-hardships-of-war/
4. https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic/fortward/default.aspx?id=39996
5.
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/12/08/petersburgs-second-presbyterian-church-and-the-final-christmas-of-the-war/
6. https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/index.html?dod-date=1218
7. https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/mary-schmich/ct-met-have-yourself-a-merry-christmas-mary-schmich-20171215-story.html
8. https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/holy_night_peaceful_night-2.html
All Photos - Public Domain unless otherwise noted
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
View attachment 384923
This song written for the 1944 film “Meet Me in St. Louis”
originally featured the lyrics above.
It was re-written when it was rejected
as being too “hysterically lugubrious”.
{7}
Sadly this was a sentiment all too common during the Civil War.
(Photo - LOC - Public Domain)

Christmas 1861 - December 22 finds Nathaniel Dawson serving in the Confederate Army. Before leaving for the war Dawson had surprised Elodie Todd (the youngest half-sister of the First Lady Mary Lincoln) with a proposal of marriage. She accepted and thus began their relationship via letters. On their first Christmas apart Dawson wrote the saddest nine words a sweetheart heard at Christmas: ​

View attachment 384924

His letter continued to his fiancée​

the festal season, where age is rejuvenated and lives again in the merry carols of youth.” . . [after Christmas he wrote of the celebration with his regiment] . . “Bad whiskey is abundant and pleasure and sorrow drowned in large potations.” {3}

On May 15, 1862 Elodie became the wife of Nathaniel Dawson. Upon her death in 1877 the former Confederate Colonel buried his third wife. His first wife Anne Eliza died in 1855 and second wife Mary Elizabeth in 1860.​
*

2nd Lieutenant Robert Gould Shaw was serving in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry during the first Christmas of the war. He was stationed near Frederick, Maryland serving guard duty when he wrote home his thoughts {2} on the season:​

View attachment 384925

Colonel Robert Shaw died during the Second Battle of Fort Wagner July 18, 1863

* * *

Christmas 1862 - December 14, Murfreesboro, Tennessee: Today is the wedding day of the newly crowned Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan to Mattie Ready. The thirty-seven year old Morgan was described as a tall and handsome man with sandy hair and gray eyes. His bride, at twenty-one, was a raven-haired Southern beauty.

On the evening of their wedding the Ready home is decorated for the Christmas season. Guests are treated to decorations of holly and other winter berries amidst the soft glow of candlelight. Leonidas Polk an Episcopal bishop and Confederate General will perform the ceremony. Within days General Morgan is off to fight. A few days after he leaves his bride; he writes the following note:​

View attachment 384926
(Photo - LOC - Public Domain)

General Morgan was killed on September 4, 1864, his daughter Jhonnie Hunt was born April 7, 1865.

*

On December 25 Corporal J.C. Williams of the 14th Vermont wrote home

View attachment 384927

He concludes: “I think of the many lives that are endangered, and hope that the time will soon come when peace, with its innumerable blessings, shall once more restore our country to happiness and prosperity.” {2}

* * *

Christmas 1863 - Cuban born Lieutenant Colonel Federico Fernández-Cavada (1831-1871) would always remember this Christmas for he was a prisoner in Libby Prison. He was captured at Gettysburg and wrote this during this captivity:​

View attachment 384928
Libby Prison as it appeared on August 23, 1863
(LOC - Public Domain)

He soberly concluded: "The north wind comes reeling in fitful gushes through the iron bars, and jingles a sleighbell in the prisoner's ear, and puffs in his pale face with a breath suggestively odorous of eggnog - - Christmas Day!” {2}

He left Libby in 1864 part of a prisoner exchange and in 1865 he wrote “Libby Life: Experiences of a Prisoner of War in Richmond, Virginia”. In 1869 he joined the Cuban resistance against Spanish Rule in the Cuban Ten Year War. He had survived Libby prison but he was not so fortunate in this war. Captured by Spanish forces he was executed by firing squad on July 1, 1871.​

*

Key West Florida native, Robert Watson had seen fierce action at Chickamauga and two months later he was in Dalton Georgia celebrating Christmas Day, 1863. He wrote this entry in his diary.​

View attachment 384929
“Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, September 19, 1863”
Artist: Adloph Metzner
(Photo - LOC - Public Domain)

* * *

Christmas 1864 - The country is in the fourth year of the war and in the south supplies are dwindling. In 1853 West Point Graduate and Confederate Civil War General Josiah Gorgas was stationed at the Mount Vernon Arsenal in Alabama and it was here he heard the sweet singing voice from the neighbor’s yard and knew it was a voice he wanted to hear the rest of his life. During the war Amelia Gayle Gorgas is home tending to their six children and receives the following Christmas message from her husband:

“A despondent Christmas has just passed, yet people contrived to eat hearty and good Christmas dinners. The soldier unfortunately have not even meat, and have had none for several days.”

View attachment 384930
The Mount Vernon Arsenal
(LOC - Public Domain)

He continues “The food must be brought here, and the means to so provided and organized.” {2}

*

For some soldiers happiness at Christmas came amidst disappointments
as General John B. Gordon wrote of the 1864 Christmas season:​

"The one worn-out railroad running to the far South could not bring us half enough necessary supplies: and even if it could have transported Christmas boxes of good things, the people at home were too depleted to send them." {4}

However it was the little things that brought him happiness. Not only did he share that Christmas with his beloved wife Fanny she also gave him the perfect gift for Christmas:​


During the siege at Petersburg the Union soldiers could see the spires of the Second Presbyterian Church. Confederate Captain Henry Chambers of the 49th North Carolina had visited the church several times and enjoyed the service. On Christmas Day of 1864 he attended the service. He wrote:

“The church presented a magnificent spectacle. The gorgeous evergreen decorations, the Gothic architecture, the brilliant gaslight, the finely dressed ladies and Conf. officers, the splendid robes of the officiating clergyman, the exquisite singing of the choir, the solemn responses of the congregation all combined to make one of the most impressive scenes I ever witnessed.” {5}

At the conclusion of his missive he added the sad reality of that Christmas​

View attachment 384932
Fort Mahone (Confederate) Petersburg Trenches

Captain Henry Chambers lived to celebrate many Christmases with his wife and son.
He died in 1925 at eighty-four years of age.

* * *

Christmas 1865 - On this first Christmas after the great war the eastern seaboard is digging out from a massive storm that blew through five days earlier. The storm destroyed ships and killed residents. By Christmas the weather had cleared although there was heartbreak for some that morning. The country had a plentiful food supply with turkeys selling a 23 cents a pound and prime beef at 35 cents.

A week before Christmas Secretary of State William Seward issued a Proclamation announcing the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution officially ending slavery in the United States.​



*

For many families Christmas was never the same after the war. Wives now widows; children now orphans; parents lost sons; siblings lost siblings; sweethearts were left at the altar with only their dreams and memories. Soldiers came home with battle scars they carried for the rest of their lives as they began the process of rebuilding. Christmas came in 1865 filled with memories of loved ones, fear of an uncertain future and the hope that is Christmas.​

View attachment 384934
Thomas Nast’s - Christmas Eve
published in Harper’s Weekly December, 1862
Alfred Bell Quote {8}

* * * * * * *




Sources
1 https://www.history.com/news/civil-war-christmas
2. http://dburgin.tripod.com/cw_xmas/cwarxmas2.html
3. http://rutherfordtnhistory.org/mattie-ready-morgan-the-hardships-of-war/
4. https://www.alexandriava.gov/historic/fortward/default.aspx?id=39996
5.
https://emergingcivilwar.com/2016/12/08/petersburgs-second-presbyterian-church-and-the-final-christmas-of-the-war/
6. https://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/index.html?dod-date=1218
7. https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/mary-schmich/ct-met-have-yourself-a-merry-christmas-mary-schmich-20171215-story.html
8. https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/holy_night_peaceful_night-2.html
All Photos - Public Domain unless otherwise noted
@DBF ,

What an EXCELLENT post!

Thank you so much for taking the time and effort to pass down this thoughtful bit of history.

It is much appreciated.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

Beckyjo

Cadet
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
I love this thread which shows much of the emotion we are feeling today as we shelter in place from Covid.
 
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murphyfun

Cadet
Joined
Jul 16, 2014
Location
New Mexico
I noted in you Christmas 1865 entry the price of turkey in 1865 at 23 cents a pound. I remember paying only 49 cents a pound for turkey in the mid nineteen seventies a hundred and ten years later. Thank you for an informative post.
 
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