Christmastime during the American Civil War (1861-1864)--- A family split apart...

    Turn your speakers on ... Barbara Taylor, pianist, and young friends, the Cedamont Kids, join together in performing  what is one of only a handful of Christmas Carols having an American origin ... "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"  

Recently I have been doing some research on what it must have been like during the Civil War at Christmastime.  In "Raisins and Almonds ---A Civil War Story"  I intend to contrast what Christmas was like for John and Emily Ellen Clarke Whitehead during what was to become their last Christmas together in December 1863, with Christmas spent in separation just a year later in December 1864 when John was separated from his family by the walls of Libby Prison.


In doing my research I recently came across this Thomas Nast original painting, which he called "Civil War Christmas."  I share this with you here because it illustrates what Christmas was like for all American families of that period--- "A family split apart."  And I do so to the music of a truly American Christmas Carol, the words to which were written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1864: "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day"    

Originally written as a poem, "Christmas Bells," two stanzas containing references to the American Civil War have since been omitted.

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Thomas Nast's Original "Civil War Christmas" Print   (as found on the Internet)

This original 1863 Thomas Nast print shows a touching scene of husband and wife on Christmas Eve 1862. This picture is from the January 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly. This leaf is a stunning illustration and is over 140 years old!

The image shows a family split apart by the Civil War. The left image shows a scene of a woman, late at night on Christmas Eve, on her knees in earnest prayer. She is at the window looking up at the night sky, obviously distressed about the absence of her husband.  In the background can be seen a small bed with her two children in it. On the wall, a picture of the woman's husband can be seen hanging.  On the matching inset image on the right, the woman's husband can be seen sitting with his rifle around a lonely campfire. In his hand is a small album with photographs of his wife and children. He is obviously lonesome, missing his family on a cold winter's night somewhere far from where he longs to be.

Surrounding these two main images are a variety of scenes.  In the upper left corner, an image of Santa Claus can be seen.  Santa is crawling into a chimney.  In the lower left is an image of soldiers marching in the snow.  The upper right corner has another image of Santa, in a sleigh, being pulled by reindeer.  This is one of the earliest images of what have long been popular American traditions of Christmas.  The lower right corner shows ships being tossed about in a sea of cannon fire.  And finally, as a fitting conclusion, the lower center shows an image of the graves of soldiers lost in the war.

All in all, this is a very dramatic and moving Nast print that tells us a lot about Christmas and the Civil War --- A family split apart.  Aah, were I able to do as well in my depictions of Christmastime inside the pages of "Raisins and Almonds---A Civil War Story" --- but I shall most certainly try.

...Bruce, an occasional Presbyterian*******

***Photo, remarks, and music presented here from scratch in html coding written by Bruce***

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