Everyone has finished their Christmas banquets, exchanged gifts, with families giving enough toys to children to fill a small store. The volume of toys given by parents and others to two little toddlers can make one almost feel guilty at the largesse, though happily so at the joy of children and teenagers alike.
And then our thoughts turn to Civil War days, with which there is no comparison. Families separated, loved ones dying and dead, news of absent family difficult to obtain. It made for a less than merry day in many households, particularly in the hard-hit South.
Consider this letter written by Varina Howell Davis, wife of President Jefferson Davis, the First Lady of the Confederacy. It was first published in the New York World in 1896 and has been republished many times since. It provides one of the best authentic recitations of how it really was during those dark, cold days, at the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia.
“Rice, flour, molasses and tiny pieces of meat, most of them sent to the President’s wife anonymously to be distributed to the poor, had all been weighed and issued, and the playtime of the family began, but like a clap of thunder out of a clear sky came the information that the orphans at the Episcopalian home had been promised a Christmas tree and the toys, candy and cakes must be provided, as well as one pretty prize for the most orderly girl among the orphans.”
“The kind-hearted confectioner was interviewed by our committee of managers, and he promised a certain amount of his simpler kinds of candy, which he sold easily a dollar and a half a pound, but he drew the line at cornucopias to hold it, or sugared fruits to hang on the tree, and all the other vestiges of Christmas creations which had lain on his hands for years.”
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