What Was Christmas Like During the Civil War in Hopewell and Prince George County, Virginia?
Although removed in time, in spirit there are many similarities between families who lived during the Civil War and those living in the United States today. For many, the Christmas season is a reminder of family ties, traditions, and missing home.
Not much has changed traditionally since the Civil War, and much like soldiers today, many displaced family members laid awake Christmas Eve missing loved ones.
William Downer, an imprisoned Confederate soldier, wrote in his diary in 1864: “This is Christmas Eve and oh how lonely I feel…The thought of home and my dear wife and children being so far away … confined in prison makes me feel as if I had not a friend on earth.”
During the Civil War many women spent their Christmases making clothes for soldiers, tending to the sick and wounded in hospitals, or preparing holiday food boxes. Soldiers anxiously anticipated gifts from home. This Christmas Eve entry from John Haley’s diary illustrates just how excited soldiers felt waiting to open a Christmas gift:
“It is rumored that there are sundry boxes and mysterious parcels over at Stoneman’s Station directed to us. We retire to sleep with feelings akin to those of children expecting Santa Claus.”
The times may have changed, but people’s hearts have not, and that’s a true Christmas miracle!
Quotes, images, and info found: https://www.civilwar.org/learn/articles/christmas-during-civil-war