Civil War Christmas
The Civil War did not stop for Christmas. However, as was customary in 1861, major military activity usually had stopped for the winter months. (note: fighting did not stop in the East after Grant took over.)
Soldiers on both sides of the conflict did not receive special rations to celebrate Christmas. Many charitable groups sent holiday rations to their troops, though. Officers on both sides sometimes provided treats like foul, holiday fixings and even alcohol for their men.
Christmas trees found their way into tents. Such trees were often decorated with makeshift ornaments by soldiers. Church services were provided in camps to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of families on both sides were separated during the Christmas season. And, most every family had at least one empty chair at their Christmas dinner.
Military bands played Christmas music and soldiers sang traditional songs. The favorites were, “Deck the Halls, Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Hark the Herald angels, Jingle Bells, It came Upon a Midnight Clear, and We Three Kings.”
Sometimes, men would receive a package from home. usually these were shared with others in their unit. Southern children were told that Santa would not come for Christmas because of the Yankee blockade.
General Sherman sent President Lincoln a greeting in December of 1864 announcing the capture of the Southern city of Savannah, Georgia.