The Last Confederate Christmas

Ole Miss

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Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Dec 9, 2017
North Mississippi
I ran across this reminiscence in Volume 2 of The Southern Bivouac September 1883 — August 1884 and wanted to share with everyone. As dedicated as this woman was, it is even more interesting to read about the food shortages such as drinking Corn Coffee! I shudder to imagine how tasty that beverage must had been.

"For some time previous I had been revolving in my mind various plans for the celebration of Christmas, by making some addition to the diet of the sick and wounded soldiers then under my charge. But, plan as I would, the stubborn facts in the case rose up to con front me. and I failed to see just how to accomplish my wishes. We were then located at Lauderdale Springs,(Miss.) I, with my servant, Tempe, occupied one room of a small, double house, built of rough- hewn logs, and raised a few feet from the ground; a sort of hall, open at both ends, separated my room from one on the opposite side occupied by Dr. and his wife. All around, as far as one could see, amid the white snow and with lofty pine trees towering above them, extended the hospital tents, and in these lay the sick, the wounded, the dying. Hospital supplies were scarce, our rations of the plainest. Articles which, during the first years of the war, were considered absolute necessaries had become priceless luxuries. Eggs, butter,chickens, came in such small quantities that they must be reserved for the very sick. The cheerfulness, self-denial, and fellow-feeling shown by those who were even partly convalescent, seemed to me to be scarcely less admirable than the bravery which had distinguished them on the battle-field. But this is a digression; let me hasten to relate how I was helped to a decision as to Christmas "goodies."

One morning, going early to visit some wounded soldiers, who had come in during the night, I found in one tent a new-comer, lying in one of the bunks, his head and face bandaged and bloody. By his side sat his comrade — wounded also, but less severely — trying to soften for the other some corn-bread which he was soaking and beating with a stick in a tin cup of cold water. He explained that the soldier with the bandaged head had been shot in the mouth, and could take only soft food. I said, " Don't give him that. I will bring him some mush and milk, or some chicken-soup." He set down the cup, looked at me with queer, half-shut eyes, then remarked, " Yer ga-assin' now, ain't ye?"

Having filially convinced him that I was not, I retired for a moment to send the nurse for some food. When it came, and while I was slowly putting spoonfuls of broth into the poor, shattered mouth of his friend, he stood, looking on complacently, though with his lip quivering. I said to him, "Now, what would you like ? "
moment's hesitation, he replied, " Well, lady, I've been sort of han- kerin' after a sweet potato pone, but I s'pose ye couldn't no ways get that?" " Then" thought I ; "that's just what I will get, and give them all for Christmas dinner."

Hastening to interview the surgeon in charge, I easily obtained permission to go on the next day among the farmers to collect ma terials for my feast, and an ambulance was placed at my disposal.

My foraging expedition was tolerably successful, and I returned next evening with a quantity of sweet potatoes, several dozen eggs, and some country butter. Driving directly to the door of my cabin, I had my treasures securely placed within, for although holding my soldier friends in high estimation, I agreed with the driver of the ambulance, ' 'them taturs has to be taken in out of the cold." My neigh bor's wife, Mrs. Dr. , entered heartily into my plans for the morrow, and promised her assistance. My night round of visits to the sick having been completed, I was soon seated by my own fireside, watching the operation of making and baking a corn hoe-cake, which, with some smoked beef of my own preparation and a cup of corn coffee, made my supper on this Christmas eve. It was so bitterly cold that I did not undress, but wrapping a blanket around me, lay down on my bunk. Tempe also rolled herself up and lay down before the fire. In order to explain what followed, I must here say that the boards of my floor were only laid, not fastened, as nails were not to be had. I was awakened from "the first sweet sleep of night," by an unearthly yell from Tempe, who sprang unceremoniously upon my bunk, rasping me tightly and crying: "O Lord, Miss , yearthquate (earthquake) dun ***!" Sitting up I was horrified to see the boards of the floor rising and falling with a terrible noise. A moment later I realized the situation. A party of hogs had organized a raid, having for its object my precious potatoes. A sure enough "yearth- quate" would have been less appalling to me, as I have always been mortally afraid of hogs. Just then one of the invaders managed to knock aside a board and get his head in full view. I shivered with terror, but Tempe now grasped the state of the case, and being "to the manner born," leaped forward to execute dire vengeance on the unfortunate hog. Seizing a burning stick from the fire she rushed upon the intruder, who had gotten wedged so that advance or retreat was alike impossible. Her angry cries and the piercing squeals of the hog roused all in the vicinity. Help soon came ; our enemies were routed and quiet was restored. My pones were a great suffcess. All who were allowed by their surgeons partook of them. I had two immense panfuls brought to my cabin, where those who were able brought their plates and cups, receiving a generous quantity of the pone and a cup of sweet milk."
by Violetta.

The Southern Bivouac September 1883 — August 1884
Volume 2 273-275