1863: “Get Into A Battle With Snowballs”

January 20 1863.

I have almost given up writing in my journal for the fact that I have nothing in the world to record. There is too much sameness about this kind of soldier life. One day is the repetition of the duties of the day before, and I can always tell what (in all probability) I will be doing on the same day one month ahead. Capt. Crow is often on other duty, Cannon and Chandler on detached services, and I am generally in command of the Company. Every fifth day at three o’clock P.M. I go on picket and remain twenty four hours. We stand on our side of the river and look at the Yanks. They stand on their side and look at us. Sometimes we exchange papers, though in violation of orders, and sometimes the boys trade them tobacco for coffee. Just below the dam the water is not more than three feet deep, and the boys wade out to a little shoal of rocks in the middle of the stream and meet and take a drink together, make such trades as they wish, then each returns to his own side again. I have to visit some other post in the meantime, or make it convenient to have business in another direction, for it would not do for me to see these violations of orders. And yet I like to read a New York or Philadelphia paper. Continue reading

1862: “We Had No Christmas”

[Christmas Day was not even] a holiday, much less a Christmas. No, we had no Christmas, merely the 25th of December come and gone. No chimes of gladness at the recurring anniversary of the advent of the Prince of Peace – no outward recognition of the fact that anything was commemorated by the day – only incessant work of the army which brought in the regular routine of the day – a pause of only two hours with a better dinner than usual – a glance of surprise to see our table garnished with oysters & turkey – a hearty meal, a great joke & Christmas was gone, and we in camp watching the Yankees, and only anxious as to the duration of the war. Continue reading

With Gladness: Valley Forge

with-gladness-coverThe story Patriot Dreams is the only tale in With Gladness that isn’t set around or on Christmas Day. Why? (And why is it in a Christmas book?) We’ve got answers…

Patriot Dreams is a winter story. It’s set early in 1778. Why not Christmas 1777? Because the Continental Army arrived at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, and the officers’ wives did not visit the encampment until several weeks later. Thus, if I’d set the story at Valley Forge Christmas, it would be a big historical mistake to have Mrs. Patton arriving to visit a well-established camp.

This blog post shares some of the historic winter setting of the story. There wouldn’t have been Christmas decorations at Valley Forge in 1777, but, if you’re curious, Revolutionary War Era decorations would have been pretty much the same as the colonial era and you can catch those details in last week’s post. Continue reading