23 Dec 2017

Christmas in the Civil War

Christmas in the Civil War

Many of America’s most beloved holiday traditions have been celebrated since the time of the Civil War. Often posted far from home, soldiers sought solace in customs like caroling, gift exchanges, and decorating. One soldier, Alfred Bellard of the 5th New Jersey Infantry Regiment, recalled a small tree, “decked off with hard tack and pork, in lieu of cakes and oranges,” that added festivity to life in a winter camp. Another soldier, from the 17th Maine, recorded that he and his fellow troops eagerly awaited the “sundry boxes and mysterious parcels” directed to them “with feelings akin to those of children expecting Santa Claus.”

Yet, despite troops’ best efforts to partake in holiday celebrations on the front, the season also served as a reminder that soldiers were separated from their loved ones and the comforts of home. Soldiers preparing for the bloody Battle of Stones River in late December 1862, or shivering in the trenches outside of Petersburg in 1864, found little respite on Christmas or New Year’s Day. As we approach the end of 2017, please take a few moments to learn about how soldiers in both blue and gray celebrated the holiday season.

Christmas in Wartime 

Learn more about how Americans experienced the Christmas holiday during the wars that defined the United States.

Christmas Bells

Did you know that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1863 poem “Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” has its origins in the American Civil War?

Christmas in the Confederate White House

You can help save battlefield land while shopping for apparel and other gifts. Proceeds from the sale of goods in our online store will be used to purchase more of our nation’s hallowed ground.

Christmas Night of 62

Confederate soldier William Gordon McCabe sat down on Christmas night 1862 to write his thoughts and remember his family far away. 155 years later, his words are still poignant.

Christmas on the Rappahannock

This story was published in Harper's Weekly in 1886 by the Rev. John Paxton, a veteran from the 140th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Paxton's account takes place on Christmas Day, just weeks after the Battle of Fredericksburg, while performing often-miserable picket duty.

Triple your impact through 2017

As the year comes to a close, we have a special opportunity for you to triple your impact. Thanks to an extremely generous match made available by our donors, any gift made between now and the end of the year will be tripled, up to $125,000! Max a tax-deductible gift today.


American Battlefield Trust

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