Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas 1864

Battle lines around Richmond and Petersburg in Fall 1864

By December of 1864, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia had been entrenched around Richmond and Petersburg Virginia since June. Grant's stranglehold of these cities has taken its toll.

The following is an excerpt from "Reminiscences of War" by John B. Gordon.

"Christmas (December 25, 1864) came while we were fighting famine within and Grant without our lines. To meet either was a serious problem. The Southern people from their earliest history had observed Christmas as the great holiday season of the year. It was time of times,  the longed-for period of universal and innocent but almost boundless jollification among young and old. In towns and on plantations, purse strings were loosened and the restraints relaxed.
The holiday, however, on Hatcher's Run, near Petersburg, was joyless enough for the most misanthropic. 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. They had already impoverished themselves to help their struggling Government, and large areas of our territory had been made desolate by the ravages of the marching armies. The brave fellows at the front, however, knew that their friends at home would gladly send them the last pound of sugar in the pantry, and the last turkey or chicken from the barnyard. So the facetiously wished each other "Merry Christmas!" as they dined on their wretched fare. There was no complaining, no repining, for they knew their exhausted country was doing all it could for them.
At my headquarters on that Christmas day there was unusual merrymaking. Mrs. Gordon, on leaving home four years before, had placed in her little army trunk a small package of excellent coffee, and had used it only on very special occasions- "to celebrate," as she said, "our victories in the first years, and to sustain us in the defeat at the last." When I asked her, on the morning of December 25, 1864, what we could do for a Christmas celebration, she replied, "I can give you some of that coffee which I brought from home." She could scarcely have made an announcement more grateful to a hungry Confederate. Coffee- genuine coffee! The aroma of it filled my official family with epicurean enthusiasm before a cup was passed from the boiling pot.If every man of us was not intoxicated by that indulgence after long and enforced abstinence, the hilarity of the party was misleading."

Reminiscences of the Civil War by John B. Gordon. Ch 26 pg 378-379.

defensive works outside Petersburg. Va

Contemporary map of Petersburg by Capt Jed Hotchkins

13" siege mortar outside Petersburg Va. Nicknamed  "The Dictator."
This 17,120 lb gun fired a 197 lb shell a maximum range of 4,300 yrds.

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