January 2015: Holiday History & Craft

Happy New Year! And welcome to our first Holiday History & Craft. (This article and craft is designed for younger children and is written accordingly). Did you or your mom get a new calendar for the new year? I did…I’m lucky; one of my brothers always gives me a new calendar book for Christmas. But I realized I need a wall-hanging calendar for my office cubical where I volunteer. So I thought it would be fun to make a calendar – then I started wondering where calendars came from. What’s their history?


Did you know most societies and civilizations throughout history (even way back in Abraham’s time) had some form of calendar? Calendars count days and group them into periods, usually called months. A Lunar calendar groups days based on the lunar phases (this refers to the time between full moon); there are about 12 lunar phases in a year. There is also the Solar calendar which groups days based on seasons; the ancient Persians (the civilization where Queen Esther lived) developed this time of calendar. The Julian Calendar was introduced by Julius Caesar in 46 BC (about 46 years before Jesus was born). It divided years into 365 and a 1/4 days. How do you have 1/4 day? That’s why we have a leap year every 4 years. In that fourth year there is an extra day in the month of February. Pretty cool, huh?

Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar with 365.25 days

Julius Caesar introduced the Julian Calendar with 365.25 days

The most used calendar today is the Gregorian Calendar which was introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII. It is very, very similar to the Julian Calendar, but has a few technical refinements. Most countries and cultures have adopted this calendar style, but a few continue to use other calendar forms unique to their religion or society.


Let’s make a calendar! (Suggestion: first, ask your mom or dad if it’s okay – this might get a little messy and you might need their help)

What You’ll Need:

Calendar Pages (can be made on a personal clip art program or searched for on-line)

Extra Paper


Something sticky (glue stick, rubber cement, double sided tape)

Pens, pencils, markers, or other drawing/writing devices

Old magazines or other art materials (stamps, drawing materials, stickers, etc. etc. etc.)

Stapler Supplies for January 2014 Holiday Craft Organize your calendar pages; stack them in order, so January is on the top. Lay a blank sheet of paper over the January calendar page (trim to size if necessary). Next you’ll need to decide how you’re going to decorate your calendar. If you are a wonderful artist you might enjoy drawing pictures. Stamping is fun or stickers are super easy. However, I decided it was time to use some magazine that had been around since 2009. I cut some pretty pictures that I like out of the magazines and got to work! January Craft 2014 Fold back the blank page covering January and decorate the part now above the January calendar page. Try to choose something wintery if you can. (If the page needs to dry, set it aside).

Now pick up the January page and lay it above February (make sure it is laying correctly). Decorate February’s page. Continue turning and decorating the pages. Let them dry if you’re using glue.

Remember you don’t have to use magazines. Be creative. Personalize your calendar with things you like and most of all, have fun! If you want, you can decorate around the magazine pictures with handwritten quotes or fun designs.

Now carefully gather your calendar pages. Check one last time to make sure they are in the correct order! Make sure they are laying together neatly and, with mom or dad’s help, staple the top of the calendar pages together.

Now you’ve got a personal calendar! If want to leave a comment below, I’ll enjoy reading about your project.

Exciting New Year


It’s 2015! I’m launching a couple new features here on Gazette665.

#1. The History Learning Center Students and Teachers have been asking for booklists and resources. Well, your wishes are about to come true. I’ve complied lists of my favorite books (history and fiction) from all eras of American History and it is available for FREE! My goal is to provide helpful resources for students, teachers, and folks who (like me) just love history or a good story.

#2. Holiday History & Craft This feature is geared toward younger folks and hence these posts will take a slightly different tone in writing style. Parents (grandparents, siblings, anyone) do kids ever ask you: why do we celebrate this holiday? Answers are coming to your inbox (if you’ve signed up for blog post emails). Read a short history of some of the most popular holidays throughout the year. Look for a post and craft idea each month. Holiday Crafts will be shared on the first Monday of each month.

#3. Gazette665 on Facebook Yep, I finally bit the bullet. You can follow Gazette665 and all the Historical Information and Inspiration on Facebook. Come on over and LIKE it today!

#4. Gazette665 on Pinterest After hearing about this network, I decided to jump in and share photos I like, inspiration for stories, and other fun stuff. Come take a look at the “boards” of our favorite things! Find some historical inspiration.

Wow…Four new features! Yes, yes, yes! Gazette665 is growing and this is going to be an exciting year. Find more Historical Information and Inspiration at your fingertips when you need it.

Gazette665 is only a click away from helping you with research, trivia questions, or argument winning. 😉 And, as always, drop a comment or send a request if you have thoughts, concerns, or requests.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Next Friday starts our first history series of the year “To Cross The Alps: The Leadership of Hannibal” – see you then (or sooner on Facebook)

Merry Birthday

December. Christmas Season. So many choices for the history theme for this month. However, I’ve decided to share the history of some interesting events that actually happened on Christmas Day. December 25 is a very historic day, and I think we sometimes forget the world/nation changing events which happened on that day because we’re busy admiring our gifts or visiting with family.

Today we’re going to play a guessing game. You see, there’s a famous American who was born on Christmas Day, 1821.

Can you guess who it is by the following hints?

  • She grew up in Massachusetts and was known as a shy girl.
  • Her brothers taught her survival skills, including horseback riding which later saved her life.
  • She was known for her compassion and care for other, particularly sick or injured individuals.
  • She taught school and was known to conquer bullies with her kindness and understanding attitude.
  • She worked as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office and was one of the first women to hold a U.S. government job.
  • During the American Civil War she organized the collection of supplies for Union soldiers.
  • She went to battlefields to bring supplies and help care for the wounded; she was known as “The Angel of the Battlefield”
  • She was appointed “lady in charge” of hospitals belonging to the Union’s Army of the James.
  • After the Civil War she oversaw the “Office of Missing Soldiers”, helping families learn about their soldier’s fate.
  • She was active in the early social movements for civil rights and women’s suffrage.
  • In 1881 she started the American Red Cross and was the organization’s first president
  • She died in 1912.

Did you guess who this famous people was?

The answer: Clara Barton. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross, an organization which has helped save lives and the reduce the devastation of natural disasters. She was a woman with amazing energy and a desire to serve others in need. And, yes, her birthday was Christmas Day.

Clara Barton, photo taken in 1866 (Public Domain)

Clara Barton, photo taken in 1866
(Public Domain)

Merry Birthday, Clara Barton!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Can you think of any other historic people born on December 25? Share in a comment!

If you have a birthday on this day, my best wishes for a fun celebration.

The Valley of the Shadow

“Now at the end of this valley was another, called the Valley of the Shadow of Death; and Christian must…go through it…now this valley is a very solitary place. …Thus he went on, and I heard him here sigh bitterly; for besides the danger…the pathway was here so dark, that ofttimes, when he lift up his foot to go forward, he knew not where, nor upon what he should set it next…”  John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress   

The Shenandoah Valley  (Attribution: http://www.ForestWander.com)

The Shenandoah Valley
(Attribution: http://www.ForestWander.com)

This week we lay aside the discussion of ethics in The Burning of the Shenandoah Valley and focus only the some of the effects on the civilians. There’s a time for long-winded debate, but there’s also a time to reflect on the loss and sacrifices caused by war.

The following quotations will speak for themselves, telling the story of the civilian experience in the Shenandoah Valley during the autumn of 1864.

Laura Lee, a Confederate resident of Winchester, made the following entries in her journal: September 20, 1864 – Again our town is one vast hospital….All day the streets have been filled with ambulances and wagons of their wounded. They have been taken to the Taylor Hotel and six churches besides other houses. They brought in 4,000 [wounded] without doubt, and over….The citizens are indefatigable in attending to our wounded, but of course there must be a terrible amount of suffering in the confusion of such a time, and many must die for want of proper attendance….The Yankees moved up the Valley [going South] early this morning and there has been skirmishing.     September 27, 1864 – We know nothing in these dreadful days but Yankee rumors of their progress up the valley….

The next quote comes from “A Youth’s History of the Great Civil War, 1866” and, though written and published after the conclusion of the war, contains a vivid description of the civilian experience. “And now General Sheridan, with the instincts of savage warfare, determined to utterly devastate this beautiful valley. He therefore set his troops at work, and all the way from Staunton to Winchester was soon one scene of desolation. He burned every house***, every barn, every mill, all the corn cribs, haystacks, and the entire food crops of all kinds for the year. Not only this, but he seized all the ploughs, harrows, spades, and every description of farm implement, and putting them into piles, made his soldiers burn them. He then drove off all the cows, horses, oxen, cattle, sheep, pigs, and every living animal for the use of man in all that wide valley. In fact nothing that devilish ingenuity could invest was left undone to transform the loveliest and most fertile valley in the world into a desolate and howling wilderness. Not less than ten thousand innocent women and children were by this savagery reduced to starvation, and thrown, in the fall of the year, out of comfortable homes, to perish in tents and caves by the cold of the winter.”

(***Not every house in the Valley was burned, but maybe in the writer’s area this was the experience.)

Henry K. Douglas, a Confederate Officer, wrote: “I try to restrain my bitterness at the recollection of the dreadful scenes I witnessed. I rode down the Valley with advance after Sheridan’s retreating cavalry beneath great columns of smoke which almost shut out the sun by day, and in the red glare of bonfires, which, all across that Valley, poured out flames and sparks heavenward and crackled mockingly in the night air; and I saw mothers and maidens…shrieking to Heaven in their fright and despair, and the little children, voiceless and tearless in their pitiable terror. I saw a beautiful girl, the daughter of a clergyman standing in the front door of her home while its stable and outbuildings were burning, tearing the yellow tresses from her head, taking up and repeating the oaths of passing skirmishers and shrieking with wild laughter, for the horrors of the night had driven her mad… …It is an insult to civilization and to God to pretend that the Laws of War justify such warfare.” 

The Civilians of the Shenandoah Valley could have truthfully said they lived in a valley shadowed by death in the year 1864. It was a time of uncertainly, bitterness, pain, and fear.

However, returning to the phrasing and imagery borrowed from Pilgrim’s Progress… In the allegorical tale the Pilgrim emerges from the valley victorious because of his trust in God and he sees a new day dawn. The same is true for many of the Shenandoah Valley’s civilians. They were stronger people because of the trials. Their faith was strengthened. They survived.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Your thoughts on the Shenandoah Valley experience of 1864?

Was It Right?

How do you answer those hard questions? I prefer to study a situation and make a decision for myself…because rarely is there an easy answer which everyone will agree on. In the past four weeks we’ve been discussing the Autumn Campaign in the Shenandoah Valley during 1864 and The Burning. So…was The Burning right?

Let’s try hear both sides of the case and then try to form our own opinion.

1. The Prosecution (The Confederate Story) The crops and fields are destroyed. It will take years for the agricultural community to recover. In some instances homes have been burned, leaving civilians without shelter. Food supply will be limited in the coming winter, and many may face starvation. There wasn’t any reason for this destruction – all we civilians did was grow our crops and sell them to the Confederate army, which, by the way, is only defending our homeland from invasion. Then there is the factor of mental fear and physical danger. The Yankee commanders can say that civilians were not to be molested, but let’s be honest: verbal abuse was common, possibly along with serious threats. Physical injury may have been more common than reported or recorded. Thus, the civilians were innocent, and The Burning was malicious and without specific military cause.

2. The Defense (The Union Story) The Shenandoah Valley is “the breadbasket of Virginia.” Farmers are growing crops and selling them to the Confederate army. If we’re going to win the war, we have to cut the supply lines. In an effort to bring the war to a rapid conclusion the commanders are using the strategy of Total War; this strategy acknowledges that the civilian population is supporting the army and limits their effectiveness, thereby reducing the strength of the army. This strategy is harsh, but will bring the war to a quicker end. The Confederates are in rebellion against the United States government and thus ending the rebellion as quickly as possible is desirable. Maybe at the end we will help the communities rebuild…and maybe we won’t. We’re accused of frightening or maybe harming civilians – scared people don’t want to continue a war. And, by the way, the civilians sold their crops to the Confederate quartermasters even during The Burning, so not all of them were “poor farmers.” Thus, the Union implements a total war strategy in hopes of ending the war, and civilians are involved in the destruction because they are involved in the war.

I highly recommend reading this in-depth blog post to gain perspective on the situation of selling crops and destroying crops during 1864: Shenandoah Burning Raids (Shared with permission from MarkerHunter’s blog author).

Confederate Children watching Union Cavalry near Sudley Ford (c. 1861). This photo summarizes the silent conflict between soldiers and civilians. (Public Domain).

Confederate Children watching Union Cavalry near Sudley Ford (c. 1861).
This photo summarizes the silent conflict between soldiers and civilians.
(Public Domain).

3. Judgment (this is my opinion) There’s right and wrong on both sides. (I know, I know…never a simple answer). The “military necessity” strategy employed by the Union for the destruction of the crops has some level of justification when it is considered that they were doing it to bring a hasty end to the war. However, when we evaluate the broader effects and destruction of other personal property, the Union definitely falls into the “bad guy category.” Now the Confederates weren’t necessarily wise in their actions either; seriously, what did you expect would happen when you sell crops to the army when the enemy is in the vicinity? (Ultimately, the whole argument could end up redirecting to state’s rights, coercion, etc., but let’s not get into that discussion today…)

4. Summary You get to make your own opinion, but here’s my conclusions. The destruction caused by the burning was devastating and long remembered by the Confederates. There is great cultural and societal impact as individuals are (or believe) they are wronged. The Union used an un-deniably harsh strategy which did target civilians who were supporting the war effort. Perhaps I could partly justify the destruction of the crops which would be sent to the armies, but other actions calculated to complete the devastation and instill fear are not excusable. Thus, the whole scenario reflects the larger conflicts and questions surrounding the Civil War and will accordingly be interpreted though your belief lens on the entire war.

5. What To Learn?  #1. Unfortunately, civilians are not immune to the destruction of war. #2. It must be admitted that the total war strategy used by Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan was effective. They realized that to win the war they had to cripple the support system of the Confederate army (the farms, factories, and civilian morale). There is something to be learned from the Win Mentality: we’re gonna win quickly which will ultimately result in less loss of life. (Seriously, if McClellan or Burnside had still been the commander in 1864 the war could’ve dragged on five more years).

Well, maybe this helped to answer some questions, maybe it prompted more. As I admitted at the beginning, the “was it right?” questions are very difficult to answer and everyone is probably going to have a different approach or opinion.

Next week we’ll lay aside the tough questions and simply focus on The Burning’s effect on the civilian population.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. So what do you think… Was it right? Who was right? Share your thoughts… I’m interested in your opinions on the topic.