A Civil War Christmas
What Was Christmas Like during the Civil War?
In researching my Civil War ancestor, I wondered what Christmas was like for the soldiers in their winter camps and for their families back home without them. I searched a number of sources, including some diaries by soldiers.
Here's what I've found about Civil War Christmas time.
I hope it answers any questions you had about what Christmas was like in the 1860s during the War Between the States. If not, then leave your question in the guestbook and I will research it further.
Vintage Tree and Wooden Toys by vintagegiftmall
In this family both parents are there, but during the war, many families would be without a father at home. The trumpet and drum are typical gifts of that time. The rocking horse indicates a fairly affluent family. One child has a toy sword and there's a figure of a toy soldier on horseback as well. In the lower part of the picture are alphabet blocks and a small Christmas tree. One child has its hand in a stocking. Other gifts in the illustration include a doll, a storybook, and a sled.
You will also notice that the family has seven children. In this era, families were quite large though some of the children did not survive to become adults.
You Can Buy Similar Toys Today - from Amazon
Toys like the ones given to children in the 1860s for Christmas gifts. These could be store bought in the 1860s or you could make your own sled, set of blocks and wooden rocking horse yourself.
What Were the War Years Like for Children?
- A Child's Life during the Civil War
What was life like for children during the American Civil War? Learn about their clothing, their toys and games and other details of life at that time.
This classic educational toy still retains its popularity after all these years.
A Tin Drum for a Child
With so many men gone into the armies, toys relating to military themes were popular, like this drum.
A Civil War Christmas (YouTube Video)
My Civil War Ancestor Had a Little Daughter
Laura Ann Tower was almost 3 years old when her father enlisted in Company G, 93rd Indiana Volunteer Infantry. The war would continue on and three Christmases would pass before the little girl saw her father again.
Perhaps she wanted a china head doll like the one shown below. More likely her mother made her a rag doll for that Christmas.
A Doll for Christmas
If the family was comfortable, this might delight the daughter of the house on Christmas day. For families that could not afford such a doll, one made from corn husks or a rag doll could be made at home.
Here's a Vintage Doll Like a Child in the 1860s Might Have
Christmas During the War Years
- What Was Christmas Like During the Civil War? | Librarypoint
Find out more about Christmas during the years 1861-1864, by checking out the items in the library and the Web sites listed here.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing Was a Popular Christmas Song During the War Years
- Civil War Lyrics Hark! The Herald Angels Sing | Civil War Music
Civil War Lyrics to Hark The Herald Angels Sing - The original words to this favorite Christmas carol were published in 1739 as “Hymn for Christmas-Day” but changed for the war.
A Homemade Checker Board
More Civil War Christmas Gifts - Kaleidoscope
Unique with an old world map design on the outside. All ages find a kaleidoscope fascinating. As the patterns shift and change with each turn of the tube.
Sewing a New Dress for a Child Might Be Their Christmas Present
A sewing pattern from 1869, how cool is that. You can make a dress for a Civil War re-enactment.
This Game (Battledore and Shuttlecock) Could Be Played by Boys and Girls
Get a set and play a little battledore and shuttlecock just like in the 1800s.
Selections from the musical "A Civil War Christmas" - Watch these YouTube videos to learn more about Christmas during the Civil War
I'd love to see this musical performed in a theater.
Trailer for A Civil War Christmas
Santa Looked Different in the 1860s - Thomas Nast Drawings of Santa
- Thomas Nast Christmas Cartoons
Thomas Nast is today best known for his political cartoons, but in his time he was also well known for his yearly cartoons starring Santa Claus. Many of these date back to the Civil War era. His later illustrations show a jolly fat Santa.
A Civil War Christmas - theater clip
Harper's Weekly Print - The Wonders of Santa Claus - from 1857
This gives you some idea of how the legend of Santa Claus was developing in the mid-1800s. Christmas was not even a national holiday at the time though it was a popular celebration across the country. It was in 1870 that it was established as an official U.S. holiday.
Read an 1861 Newspaper Online about Christmas for the Soldiers
- Civil War Christmas
Winslow Homer's 1861 Harper's Weekly Cover Illustration of a Civil War Christmast, Christmas in Camp
Links to Information about Christmas in Civil War Times
- Civil War Christmas - Thomas Nast Illustration
This site features a Thomas Nast Illustation known as "Civil War Christmas", a famous Civil War Picture A Soldier's Christmas - Greeting Card by bontondesigns
- Civil War Christmas - Winslow Homers illustration of troops at Christmas
You found It! Winslow Homer's 1861 Harper's Weekly Cover Illustration of a Civil War Christmast, Christmas in Camp
- Christmas in Camp; Confederate
Confederate Christmas in Camp Printed inside: "May all that you dream of come home to you this Christmas." Cards are printed on ivory linen card stock measuring 6 7/8" x 5" when folded, and come with matching ivory linen envelopes.
- Holiday Tour of the Shriver House - decorated for 1860s Christmas
The house is a museum in Gettysburg, PA
- The American Civil War Started Some Christmas Customs
Many of today's American Christmas customs had their beginnings in the early nineteenth Century but many of these customs ironically did not reach their maturity until during the civil war with all the violence, loss of life, and chaos.
- Civil War Christmas Traditions | Video | C-SPAN.org
1/2 hour video of a program on Civil War Christmas Traditions and the development of the customs. Held at the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia
Read Louisa May Alcott's descriptions of Christmas - in the 1860s
The only complete collection of her Christmas stories.
A gift of a story from the author to a family of girls who wrote to her about Little Women.
Soldier's Diaries and Letters for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - during the Civil War
This gives you a first-hand account of what Christmas was like for the Union and Confederate soldiers in camp on the holidays.
I found a description by a soldier who was in Company G, 93rd Indiana Infantry with my great-great grandfather. Isadore Naviax's pension application described the activity of the regiment for Christmas 1862, saying that they marched from Holly Spring, Mississippi to Grand Junction, Tennessee. It was very rainy and bad weather, so Isadore became ill from exposure and measles. Obviously these soldiers did not have a pleasant Christmas.
- A Civil War Christmas - Words of the Soldiers
Excerpts from Civil War soldier's diaries and letters that mention how they celebrated Christmas.
- Civil War Diaries Digital Collection - Iowa Digital Library - The University of Iowa Libraries
Lot Abraham's diary, December 24 and 25,1864 It sounds like the soldiers spent a pleasant Christmas Eve celebrating.
- Civil War Diaries - Iowa Digital Library - The University of Iowa Libraries
William Titus Rigby journal, December 23, 24, & 25th, 1863 The troops were moving on rail cars and didn't seem to have any Christmas celebration.
- Christmas Past: A Civil War Sampler
This includes a great selection of soldiers' diaries and letters telling about their Christmas Day.
Sometimes a Soldier Would Make It Home for Christmas - This sketch depicts such an event in the Civil War
Look how joyful the family is to have their soldier home for Christmas. The wife embraces her husband, while a youngster clings to his father's leg. Grandparents watch from the doorway.
During the winter the troops would set up winter camps. You can see an example of one in the Civil War Museum in Petersburg, Virginia. It was too difficult to move the troops around and hold battles during the winter.
Civil War Themed Christmas Ornaments for Your Tree - Available from Zazzle
This look great on a Civil War buff's Christmas tree or give one to a Civil War re-enactor. There are many more of these for different battles or featuring Civil War generals, flags and battle scenes. Once you go to Zazzle, browse around to see all the Civil War ornaments available. I'm just showing you a sampling here.
Zazzle Christmas Ornament for the Civil War
Scenes and Music Depicting the Civil War and Christmas
The first video, a clip from a documentary about Thomas Nast, is a very enjoyable story. I'd like to see the whole show. The clip is just a minute and a half.
The second video shows a southern Christmas as a slave tries to escape.
The third video is a reading from a Civil War soldier's diary.
The fourth video is a southern Christmas about the troops.
1864 - Civil War Christmas on DVD
A wonderfully authentic looking story of a Christmas long ago. Acted out by National Park Rangers.