Christmas was a special time for all people in America -northern or southern.
1864 Christmas in the Civil War Confederate White House
With the blockade and Federal raids on southern farmlands and towns, having any sort of celebration at Christmas was difficult in the south. Even in Richmond, food and simple pleasures were in scant supply.
Just before Christmas, considerate persons brought bits of food to the White House – rice, flour, molasses. They knew the Davis’s would be feeding a multitude.
Then, Varina, Jefferson Davis’s wife, learned that the orphan children from the church had been told they would have a Christmas of gifts and toys.
Well, the Davis children and others went about finding what old toys could be made new or newer, for there were no toys in any shops in town. They put new feathers on a toy chicken and cotton to replace the wool on a sad toy sheep. Even ragdolls were re-plumped.
Varina convinced the local confectioner to make candies for the many kids at a dollar and a half a pound. But he refused to wrap the candies. Not to be put out, a number of young teens gathered around the Davis dining table and wrapped the candies and wrote little poems on the wrappers for the kids to see.
One boy and one girl from the orphanage were to receive a special gift for being the best child at the orphanage. One of the Davis servants declared he would make a genuine dollhouse. His name was Robert Brown. Varina’s sister set about painting the tiny pictures and frames for the house, and even a pretend roaring fire.
When the orphans arrived on Christmas, after first attending church, they received their gifts and were quite pleased. When Robert brought forth the doll house for the young girl, she was overcome with joy.
Even President Davis went all out in handing out the toys.
Two orphans plaited a hat out of straw for the Davis’s new baby.
While they were busy with the orphans, General Lee had stopped by and left a bright Christmas message. He left word that he had received a gift of a barrel of sweet potatoes that would soon be arriving, minus one dishful he had taken for himself.
That night, a number of the young officer beaus showed up, muddy up to their waists. Fortunately, more dress uniforms were available. They soon dressed and joined the young ladies and the whole Davis family for a “Starvation Dance” a neighbor’s house. No refreshments, just dancing to a single piano.
Christmas can be joyous if you look for ways to make it so.
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