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December 2014

Trail of Tears

On this day in History, December 29th, 1835,

The Treaty of New Ochota is signed ceding Cherokee territory to the United States.  The treaty was ratified despite the fact that a small minority of Cherokee supported the treaty, and the Cherokee National Council never approved of it.

According to the treaty, the Cherokee were to be compensated with $5,000,000, and any Cherokee person could stay behind if they became citizens of the states which took over their land, but these provisions were later struck out of the treaty by President Andrew Jackson.

Due to the treaty, the Cherokee were forced into internment camps, then later forced under armed guard to move to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, despite it being winter and the Cherokee having little food and provisions.  Many died on what would later become known as the “Trail of Tears”.

From peashooter85 on Tumblr

This week in the Civil War for December 28, 1864


On Dec. 24, 1864, a Union amphibious expedition under the command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler began shelling Fort Fisher, a Southern fortification defending Wilmington, North Carolina. The Northern objective: to shut down one of the last major seaports of the Confederacy still open in the South. But attempts by an infantry division that disembarked to probe the fort's stout defenses met with resistance and a Federal attack withered once Confederate reinforcements approached. Amid deteriorating weather conditions, Butler called off the expedition in late December 1864. A dispatch by The Associated Press dated Dec. 28, 1864, quoted reports as saying the fort was "much damaged" by the engagement with "all the barracks and storehouses burned" though Union forces failed to seize it. The dispatch noted that Northern infantry troops actually had gotten close enough to capture a rebel flag from the outer defense works before withdrawing.

The Eggnog Riot

By Carol S. Funck, U. S. Army Heritage and Education Center

Many holiday parties and celebrations at this time of year include social drinking of home-made eggnog and other spirituous beverages. Most participants do so responsibly and enjoyably, but serious situations can arise from too much of the "good stuff," as some West Point Cadets found out in 1826.

Continue reading "The Eggnog Riot" »

Christmas 1864


150 years ago, our Nation had witnessed nearly 4 years of human sacrifice and carnage in our American Civil War. Both sides had grown tired of killing each other. Over one-half million American lives had been sacrificed from both sides, North and South, but the end of war was finally in sight.

Nationally-known artist Thomas Nast had been commissioned to create this drawing for the Christmas 1864 issue of Harper’s Weekly magazine. It was entitled, “The Union Christmas Dinner … Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men”. It was an attempt to reach out and extend the olive branch of peace, and bring the nation back together during a most opportune time … this Holy time, when all men should humbly put down their differences, and come together in honor of their Savior.

In the upper left of the drawing, Lady Victory extends the olive branch to a humbled soldier, with a Church visible in the background.

Continue reading "Christmas 1864" »

Thomas Nast's Christmas 1863

Thomas Nast Early "Santa Claus" Illustration

Thomas Nast is perhaps most famous for creating the popular image of Santa Claus. Throughout his career, Nast created many illustrations of Santa, but here, for your consideration, is one of his earliest images of Santa.

The illustration is titled, "Christmas 1863" with banners reading "The Furlough" and "Christmas Morning". The image is a leaf from the original 1863 Christmas edition of Harper's Weekly.

This illustration is classic Nast. It has a number of captivating inset images. On the left is an image of a little children, sound asleep in bed. Then we see Santa coming from the fireplace, with a bag of gifts on his shoulder. This image represents the original presentation of Santa as we know him today.

The center image shows a Civil War Soldier, on furlough, coming home for Christmas. The family is ecstatic, and is celebrating his return with Hugs and Kisses. To the right, the Children can be seen opening their presents. Stockings can be seen hanging on the fireplace.

This is a heartwarming image, and one that brings back memories of Christmas's past.

Thomas Nast's Original Santa Claus

Thomas Nast's Original Civil War "Santa Claus In Camp" Print

This is Thomas Nast's earliest published picture of Santa Claus. Nast is generally credited with creating our popular image of Santa. This illustration appeared in the January 3, 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly, and shows Santa Claus visiting a Civil War Camp. In the background, a sign can be seen that reads "Welcome Santa Claus." The illustration shows Santa handing out gifts to Children and Soldiers. One soldier receives a new pair of socks, which would no doubt be one of the most wonderful things a soldier of the time could receive. Santa is pictured sitting on his sleigh, which is being pulled by reindeer. Santa is pictured with a long white beard, a furry hat, collar and belt. We can see that many of our modern perceptions of Santa Claus are demonstrated in the 140 year old print.

Perhaps most interesting about this print is the special gift in Santa's hand. Santa is holding a dancing puppet of none-other-than Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. The likeness to Jefferson Davis is unmistakable. Even more interesting, Davis appears to have the string tied around his neck, so Santa appears to by Lynching Jefferson Davis! This is a classic Thomas Nast illustration. This is Nast's first published picture of Santa Claus, and we can see many of our present images of Santa demonstrated in this Civil War illustration.


This week in the Civil War for December 21, 1864

Sherman's Troops in Savannah's%20Troops%20in%20Savannah.jpg

Union forces led by Maj. Gen. William Sherman reached Savannah near the Georgia coast in December 1864, and the news spread quickly throughout Northern newspapers this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. "Savannah Occupied by Gen. Sherman" read one headline on a dispatch from The Associated Press dated Dec. 25, 1864. It said Sherman had recently taken 800 prisoners, guns and ammunition. And in a famous line remembered long after, Sherman wrote President Abraham Lincoln: "I beg to present to you as a Christmas gift the city of Savannah, with one hundred and fifty guns and plenty of ammunition, also about twenty-five thousands bales of cotton." AP dispatches said Confederate ironclad vessels were blown up and the navy yard burned at Savannah. The dispatch said the city of some 20,000 was quiet, and one officer called it an "almost bloodless victory."

This week in the Civil War for December 14, 1864


Union forces smashed into a sizable Confederate force in the Battle of Nashville on Dec. 15-16, 1864. The fighting 150 years ago during the Civil War came as a Confederate army led by Gen. John Bell Hood sought to make a last attempt to drive Union forces from the region. Fighting raged until nightfall on Dec. 15, 1864. The next day, fighting seethed along a hastily erected Confederate line before federal forces overran the Confederate positions. The Southern army, driven off, was forced into retreat toward Mississippi with Union forces in pursuit.

From the Associated Press and the Washington Post

Fredericksburg tolled 3 a.m. on December 11, 1862

Church bells in Fredericksburg tolled 3 a.m. on December 11, 1862, as Union engineers wrestled pontoon boats toward the river's edge. They intended to use the boats to construct two of the six floating bridges that the Army of the Potomac would need to cross the Rappahannock. For two hours the engineers toiled in darkness, trying to complete the spans before Confederate sharpshooters on the opposite bank spotted them.

At 5 a.m. Confederate musket fire burst from cellars and windows across the river. Those engineers not shot down scrambled for cover on the shore. Union cannon atop Stafford Heights responded with an eight-hour-long bombardment that ravaged the city but failed to silence the Confederates. Only by ferrying troops across the river under fire was the Union army able to drive the Confederates from the town and complete the bridges.


This week in the Civil War for December 7, 1864


This week 150 years ago in the Civil War, the Union army led by Gen. William Sherman reached the major port city of Savannah, Georgia, near the Atlantic coast. Sherman’s soldiers, after capturing Atlanta in a decisive Union victory earlier in the year, had spent weeks crossing Georgia while destroying farms and property in their path. The arrival of the Union forces at Savannah in early December of 1864 as they wrapped up their “March to the Sea” would prompt Confederates to hastily retreat. The Union troops would eventually move on in February 1865 into South Carolina during the culminating months of the conflict.

From the Associated Press and the Washington Post