Saturday, December 18, 2010

Civil War Christmas on the Web

"Christmas Eve, 1862" Harper's Weekly, January 3, 1863 (drawing by Thomas Nast, courtesy of

As we approach the Christmas holiday, I thought that readers might be interested in how Christmas was celebrated at the time of the Civil War.  There is an abundance of material concerning the Civil War and Christmas available on the Internet.  Rather than reinvent the wheel based on these secondary sources, I thought that I would share links to some of the more interesting sites out there on this topic:

The Smithsonian Civil War Studies Institute has published an article entitled "Christmas North and South," which examines Christmas in America during the 1860s.  The Smithsonian describes how the holiday was evolving from a day of somber reflection to a more festive celebration.

The Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site provides a relatively detailed look at Christmas for each year of the Civil War.  The article, "Ought it not be a Merry Christmas? Holiday Observances During the American Civil War," is based on the book We Were Marching on Christmas Day: A History and Chronicle of Christmas During the Civil War by Kevin Rawlings. Although wartime Christmas was marked by hardship and sadness across the North and South, soldiers still found ways to celebrate the holiday in camp.

Finally, the Civil War blog TOCWOC ("The Order of Civil War Obsessively Compulsed") has published a post entitled "Christmas in the 1860's," which illustrates some differences in how Americans celebrated Christmas in the mid-19th century.  Particularly outlandish is the quote from the head of a nativist Know-Nothing lodge, who commented, "we’ll have . . . no Popish ceremonies like a Christmas Tree." Talk about a Scrooge!

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