Diary of Orrin Brown, Savannah, Georgia
The old saying is that Christmas comes but once a year and here it is which makes the 28th Christmas that I have seen. There was a general fireing of musketry last evening through all of the camps in celebration of the coming Christmas day. We heard that Gen. Sherman told some of the boys that we would all be mustered out of the service in the course of three months but that is hard to swallow although it may be so. I picked up a Harpers Weekly the other day and I find some very interesting reading in it. Tho it is a monthly of August 1858. We have an inspection of arms every sunday morning at 9 AM. The weather is a little warmer today but it is a little cloudy it rained a very little this morning about daylight. Read 4 Chapt. in Testament.
Many Christmas traditions we know today were common by the time of the Civil War. Americans sang Christmas carols, decorated trees and awaited a visit from Santa Claus. German immigrant Thomas Nast was just then introducing the jolly round St. Nick in the pages of Harper’s Weekly. Santa just had a more difficult time reaching children, North or South, during those years. Nast’s cartoon for Christmas 1864 illustrated President Lincoln inviting the prodigal sons of the South back to the Union table.
There at Savannah, on this day in 1864, “about 90 Michigan men and their captain in turn gave a token of charity to Southern civilians living outside the city. On Christmas Day the soldiers loaded several wagons full of food and other supplies and distributed the items about the ravaged Georgia countryside. The destitute Southerners thanked the jolly Union Santa Clauses as the wagons pulled away under the power of mules that had tree-branch “antlers” strapped to their heads to turn them into makeshift reindeer.”
Out of the worst of times, some of us do show our better nature.