This week's issue just happens to fall on Christmas Day. So I am actually putting it together on Wednesday, December 23rd because I do not know if I will have time to do so in the midst of all of the family festivities. Our sincere hope is that you are enjoying a blessed day today as you reflect on the birth of our Saviour.
Our country, its culture, and our everyday lives are so different from those of our ancestors. With so many conveniences and modern technology, it can be difficult to relate to our ancestors and to the the men and women of the WBTS era. Despite the extraordinarily different circumstances in which they found themselves, however, we can connect with our ancestors and heroes through traditions such as the celebration of Christmas.
By the mid-19th century, most of today's familiar Christmas trappings - Christmas carols, gift giving and tree decoration - were already in place.
Charles Dickens had published "A Christmas Carol" in 1843. The early 1860's gave us the first introductions to the modern image of a jolly and portly Santa Claus.
Soldiers in camp and their families at home drew comfort from the same sorts of traditions that characterize Christmas today. One soldier wrote home that:
"In order to make it look as much like Christmas as possible, a small tree was stuck up in front of our tent, decked off with hard tack and pork, in lieu of cakes and oranges, etc."
Another wrote that on Christmas Eve:
"It is rumored that there are sundry boxes and mysterious parcels over at Stoneman's Station directed to us."
In one amusing letter, a Confederate prisoner relates how the realities of war intruded on his Christmas celebrations:
"A friend had sent me in a package a bottle of old brandy. On Christmas morning I quietly called several comrades up to my bunk to taste the precious fluid of...DISAPPOINTMENT! The bottle had been opened outside, the brandy taken and replaced with water...and sent in. I hope the Yankee who played that practical joke lived to repent it and was shot before the war ended."
For many, the holiday was a reminder of the profound melancholy that had settled over the entire nation. Soldiers in bleak winter quarters were reminded, more acutely than ever, of the domestic bliss they had left behind.
On the Confederate home front, Sallie Brock Putnam of Richmond wrote:
"Never before had so sad a Christmas dawned upon us...We had neither the heart nor inclination to make the week merry with joyousness when such a sad calamity hovered over us."
For the people of Fredericksburg, Virginia, which had been battered only a matter of days before Christmas, or Savannah, Georgia, which General Sherman had presented to President Lincoln as a gift, the holiday season brought the war to their very doorsteps.
In 1870, Christmas became an official Federal holiday when President Ulysses S. Grant made it so in an attempt to unite north and south. Perhaps this was also done in some small measure as Grant's way of apologizing to the South for the way that the Yankee propaganda machine had used Christmas as a weapon in its wartime propaganda war against the South.
The image of Santa that we take for granted today was actually drawn by a Union propagandist named Thomas Nast. It appeared for the first time in the Christmas 1862 issue of Harper's Weekly. It featured a a white-bearded Santa handing such gifts as socks to Union soldiers, while also holding a Jefferson Davis dancing puppet with a rope tied around its neck to perfectly insinuate a lynching.
It was also during the war that Santa's "naughty or nice" list came into existence. And you guessed it, the Northern children and soldiers were on the "nice" list and received toys and gifts from Santa while the Southern children and soldiers were on the "naughty" list and received coal.
In 1864 Lincoln called Nast's use of Santa Claus, "the best recruiting sergeant the North ever had."
In the South,The Richmond Examiner described Santa to its young readers as "a Dutch toy monger" who was a New York/New England "scrub" and Hottentot that had nothing to do with traditional Virginian celebrations of Christmas.
Not all Northern expressions of Santa towards Southerners were as nasty as Nash's drawings and cartoons that appeared in Harper's Weekly, The New York Herald, and other publications. In one incident on December 25, 1864 ninety Union soldiers from Michigan, led by their captain, dispensed "food and supplies" to poor Georgians, with the mules pulling the carts decorated to resemble reindeer.
For children on both sides, Christmas was altered during the war. Presents were fewer, especially in the devastated South. Excuses for a lack of Santa included santa being unable to cross through the Union blockade of the Southern States or reports that Santa had been killed, the Yankees having shot him.
Soldiers would use salt pork and hardtack to decorate Christmas trees. In some units the soldiers were treated to special meals. In others, soldiers received no special treats or privileges.
Sometimes fathers on both sides were allowed furlough, and children were said to react to their fathers as if seeing "near strangers."
Carols, hymns, and seasonal songs were sung during the period, with some, such as "Deck the Halls", "Oh Come All Ye Faithful", and Mendelssohn's "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" (1840), still sung today.
American musical contributions to the season include "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (1850), "Jingle Bells" (1857), "We Three Kings of Orient Are" (1857) and "Up on the Housetop" (1860).
Although popular in Europe at the time, Christmas cards were scarce in the United States, and would not enjoy widespread use until the 1870s.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his pacifist poem, "Christmas Bells" on Christmas Day 1864 at the news of his son Lieutenant Charles Appleton Longfellow having suffered severe wounds in November during the Mine Run Campaign. The poem was set to the tune "Waltham" by John Baptiste Calkin sometime after 1872. The carol as we sing it today does not include two stanzas from the original poem that focused on the war.
Christmas during the War served both as an escape from and a reminder of the awful conflict.
Back about 10 years ago I was asked by an SCV camp commander to do a program for his camp on Christmas in the Confederacy during the war. I titled the 45-minute presentation "How the Yankees Stole Christmas." If you would like a copy of this talk on DVD please click to visit our Dixie Heritage Bookstore.
A Mississippi Heritage Hero deserves our appreciation and recognition.
We are fortunate that Mr. Raphael Sanchez has offered his service to our mission in keeping our beloved Mississippi Flag. Raphael is not a member of the SCV, nor is he eligible.
In June, just days after noted and powerful Mississippi politicians called for the changing of our flag by this upcoming legislature, Mr. Sanchez, on his own, started an online petition to the Honorable Phil Bryant concerning the flag. It was a huge success.
Raphael immediately became an active and productive member of the Coalition to Save the State Flag. The first time I met him was when he spoke at the Mississippi Heritage Campaign rally on the steps of the Mississippi Capital in July.
When the Executive Committee of the Coalition decided to go ahead with making application for an Initiative to place our flag in the Mississippi Constitution to settle the heritage war, once and for all, we decided the petitioner must not be a SCV member.
Two extremely bright Southern ladies with impeccable reputations petitioned the Secretary of State and Attorney General only to be treated as second-class citizens by both. Then Raphael made his plea to the same politicians and filed the extensive paperwork in his name.
Raphael refused to be pushed around and flooded both Mississippi government bureaucracies with questions and challenges. He prevailed. Raphael Sanchez is the official petioner for INITIATIVE 58.
The achievements listed are but a few of his accomplishments to the success of our mission.
Please take a minute and find a way to tell Raphael THANK YOU.
Thank You to Pastor John Battell of Georgia for sharing the image at the top of today's newsletter with us. Pastor John also shared the following YouTube link with us and asked that I pass it along for you to watch:
Long before all of the politics, back in 2009, Trump, while renovating a golf course in Virginia erected a memorial, overlooking the Potomac, to fallen WBTS soldiers. The memorial is between the 14th hole and the 15th tee of one of the club's two courses. "Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot," the inscription reads.
CONFEDERATE FLAGS AT TRUMP RALLY (AP news report)
Donald Trump received a warm southern welcome this week while campaigning in Macon, Georgia.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, approximately 6,000 supporters attended the Macon Centreplex Coliseum event to hear the bombastic Republican candidate share his plan to "make America great again."
Photographers for the newspaper captured images of enthusiastic supporters displaying the controversial Confederate symbol.
The following hit the AP wire this morning:
JACKSONVILLE (AP) - A woman accused of placing a Confederate flag on a black co-worker's desk...58-year-old Susan Thompson faces a possible five-year prison sentence.
Prosecutors say Thompson, who is white, placed an image of the flag on the desk of a co-worker with whom she'd had a contentious relationship at their Jacksonville office for the Army Corps of Engineers. That was in June, one week after nine people were killed at a historically black church in Charleston,
...Thompson later resigned and has admitted to placing the flag. She denied it was racially motivated.
Virginia Schools Could Lose Their Confederate Names
The tenth largest school district in the nation took the first step toward joining a national effort to rename K-12 and college campus buildings named after slaveowners, Confederate soldiers, and known white supremacists. Fairfax County, Virginia's school board will now consider changing the names of three of its high schools: two named after Confederate generals and one after an opponent of desegregation.
The school board unanimously voted to change the school-naming policy, so that the board can change if they have a "compelling reason." Before, officials could only change names if the buildings were being repurposed.
Some local residents and students argue the change is necessary since the names were given to signal the school district's resistance to desegregation efforts, and forces students to celebrate the Confederacy, according to the Washington Post.
Two high schools are named after the Confederate generals J.E.B. Stuart and Robert E. Lee, and a third is named after W.T. Woodson, a superintendent who fought desegregation. The discussion over renaming schools began when students put together a petition to rename J.E.B. Stuart High School in June, shortly after after a white supremacist shot nine black people while they sat in church. It has since been signed by over 1,250 people.
....Advocates for the celebration of "Southern heritage" oppose the renaming efforts, saying they erase, saying it erases Southern history.
Fairfax County's school board is not alone. According to an analysis by Vocativ, 188 schools are named after Confederates or places named after them.
In Austin, Texas, the school board voted to allow for the name change of schools after community members and students spoke out in the wake of the Charleston shooting. One of the school names up for consideration also includes Robert E. Lee Elementary School.
In San Antonio, Texas, the North East Independent School District trustees voted against changing the name of another school named after Robert E. Lee. One trustee, Shannon Grona, said she voted against the name change because, "Slavery was wrong, but we can't rewrite history or change that it happened," according to the San Antonio Express News.
College campuses are also moving to change the names of school buildings after student have protested the very visible legacy of slavery on college campuses. Princeton University students protested through a sit in to demand Woodrow Wilson's name beremoved from campus buildings. Georgetown University decided to rename two of its campus buildings - Mulledy Hall and McSherry Hall - which were named after slaveowners, after students protested. The University of Maryland also recently changed its stadium name from Byrd Stadium to Maryland Stadium after students said the stadium should not be named after a former president, Harry Clifton "Curley" Byrd, who tried to deny admission to black students.
Students are making similar objections at Yale University and Harvard University.
VISIT THE DIXIE HERITAGE BOOKSTORE
We obviously can no longer guarantee that purchases made from the bookstore will ship in time for Christmas. But Christmas pricing will remain in effect through the holiday!
WE WILL CLOSE WITH A CHRISTMAS SUBMISSION FROM ONE OF OUR READERS:
It was nearly half a lifetime ago, in the mid-1970's. I was still on active duty, in the middle of one of my many military assignments, stationed in Yankee land at New York City; it had became clear very early on that I was stranded in what seemed like a foreign country. A leave of absence was applied for and thankfully approved! The morning of my departure finally arrived and none to soon for sanity sake!
When just before departing a Yankee fella who was planning to head south on a new assignment, asked if he might ride approximately half the distance to my Florida home. Since he insisted on sharing the expenses, it seemed mannerly to accommodate a fellow traveler, particularly given this the time, so we both entered my then blue1976 Dodge, figuring he being Yankee, he would surely love the color..
Anyhow we departed west on route 84 out of the oversized metropolis, known as the Big Apple! Then turned south on route 8l, which would take us straight down the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. While I knew this particular Yankee fairly well, still, what does one say to a Yankee, when there are few if any points of mutual interest?
We had little in common, we didn't like the same food, music, literature, and certainly our politics were as different as night and day. We disagreed on just about every aspect of life! As for myself, I never did understand how 'those people' got their heads so screwed on backwards.
Somewhere in their history or genetic code, which ever of these or both, those people got turned around in the worse possible way. I figured it would take more wisdom then was possessed by King Solomon himself to put them back on course! Anyhow, this being the season for commemorating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I thought it proper to show a little Southern Hospitality, so I decided to keep the conversation light and on the topic of Christmas. Nonetheless a few hours later we were nearing the Mason-Dixon Line, and about to cross into what I believed to be God's Country. My Yankee co-traveler couldn't help notice my spirits rising by the minute!
So he had to ask, "What is it about the South and you Southerners that no matter what the calendar says or the changing times, you are still so different?" I thought for a moment, then answered with a question, in answer to his question! "Please tell me if you would, how far is it to the nearest battlefield from your home in upstate New York?"
We ain't got any battlefield anywhere near where my family lives!" "How about cotton fields, cornbread or traditional country music and whalin' guitars?" "You got to be nuts man," he said, "You know we ain't got any of them things, New York is a northern city!" "How well do I know that my Yankee friend!" I said..
"That's why the South is so far south, cause it ain't anything like up north! When the Almighty God walked across heaven and earth, he took it slow and careful down in Dixie. He put his entire heart into creating the land of Dixie! It's a place that is truly our home my friend, in every sense of the word!"
"I thought you said your home is in Florida?" "It most certainly is, but you Yankee folks just don't understand; when a returning Southerner crosses the Mason-Dixon Line and reenters the Southland, he or she is already home."
While we spent the hours heading further south, the Yankee continued to ask questions about my Southern Homeland, the kind of questions not found in any of their history books, and I done my best to answer. Finally I began to open up my heart just a wee bit, as much as one could in the company of foreigners!
"My homeland is not just mud, grass, flowers, trees, cotton fields and buildings, it's all that clear enough, and might I say that when God created Dixie, he did His finest work. But the Southland is also a state of mind! Oh the years have exacted a heavy price upon the South, but the essence of what it means to be southern remains unique to our homeland.
And it still shines through, even in the midst of our modern day political and social smog, waiting for that hour when it will be reborn in all her splendor. "Our Southland is a storybook land of knights in shining armor, Christian Gentlemen Warriors and Ladies Fair, a land where grace and charm rides together with honor.
A place where little boys can still carry a cane fishing pole down a dirt road, and enjoy an old time fishing hole or ride an imaginary chariot to the stars. We produce more preachers, priests, singers, teachers, writers, and poets than the rest of the world combined. Our people can tell more stories, create more laughter, as well as tears, and do so with more gusto than any people who ever lived.
We still produce more and better military officers and men of valor, than any other civilization upon earth, based on the percentage of our population. The Southland also produces an abundance of heroes with tactical genius and prowess, and then instills within them a sense of grace and humbleness.
Heroes who, in spite of all the modern day political correctness and anti-Christian sentiments, still bow the knee at the feet of the King of Kings, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. "My home sir, is a place where religion isn't a Sunday morning exercise, but a way of life, and we don't mind at all quoting the Holy Scripture and speaking His precious name.
The Southland is a place where our Confederate and Anti-bellum Southern history, heritage, culture and nationhood are still center stage issues; all these generations after northern armies aggressively conquered and subjugated us. A land that if free and independent today, would stand among the top three nations on earth, in economic terms, and within five years we'd be top nation among the military powers.
If the thirteen Southern States were allowed to depart in peace today, it would cause the United States to be reduced to a third-world status, merely by our absence from their Union. Such is our contribution, and thus the reason we are not permitted to regain our independence and national identity!
My home sir is a land, which flows with milk and honey, but most of all a land bathed in the blood of our forefathers, and they did so in defense of our right to be a free and independent nation and people. Were this not the case, the crowds of tourist and Yankee immigrants would be flocking north, rather than crowding our highways heading south.
And highway 95 running from the heart of Yankee Land to Miami would never have been built! Since two thirds of the highway was constructed so as to accommodate northerners who dislike us so much, they have chosen to up root and relocate their homes among us.
"My homeland has been abused, over built and over populated, then paved, and concreted over by illegal northern as well as Mexican immigrants, even so its loveliness shines through. The Southern States created the greatest civilization ever to exist in 2000 years, and buried deep within the heart of every Southerner is the collective memory of a time and a place, a paradise not really present and not completely gone.
Our people wait that glorious day wherein our just and honorable cause, shall have been vindicated! After which, our land shall once more be restored to her splendor, charm, grace and rightful place among the nations of the earth. "My Yankee friend, this is my home and to walk across her soil, is to walk on holy ground!
It is upon this precious Southern soil where I will live my life, make my stand, and should our Lord tarry in his coming, I will take my final rest." My Yankee guest could only gaze at me in amazement at what he had heard! "You Southerners really believe these things deep within your hearts don't you?" he questioned? "Yes Sir, this is why as you also properly stated, no matter what takes place, we really are as different as night and day!
These things are the summation and contents of my heart, for my roots like the oak tree, grow deep in the history of the Southland and of the Confederacy. For being Southern and Confederate is not only born with me, but is also my state of mind. And this sir, is why we still honor the Almighty God, in Christ Jesus, the Holy Scripture and Prayer, and it all centers around the babe, born in a manger so long ago" And to that, my Yankee friend could only say, Amen!
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YES, we are still giving a FREE eBook (PDF) copy of the book The Truth About the Confederate Flag to everyone who visits the website - so tell your friends - and your enemies!
Until next week,