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Civil War Round Table of Arkansas

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    Our 41th Year 
    Meets Fourth Tuesday, January-November/Founded March 1964 
    Fletcher Branch Library, H & Buchanan (East of University Ave.), 
    Little Rock 
    Program at 7 p.m. 
    VOL. XLI, No. 10,
    Randy Baldwin, President  /  Charles O. Durnett, Editor, 
    Dues $15 Per Year VISITORS WELCOME! 



    I am sure that as a Civil War student you have a set of favorite generals -- certainly Confederates and perhaps some Union candidates also.   I have mine and I feel that the “Big Four” on the Confederate side are Lee, Jackson, Forrest, and Cleburne -- not necessarily in that order. To my mind the example, set by Patrick Cleburne represents all the best of the South and the Confederacy -- devotion to duty, faithfulness to friends and concern for his men, never expecting them to do what he was not willing to do himself. 

    His life is regarded as an example of all the good and noble aspects of the South.  He lived in a time when many of his contemporaries were more interested in advancing their own agendas than those of their country irrespective of which side of the Mason Dixon Line they were on.  At the Battle of Franklin, he gave the last full measure to his country.  His needless death has come to symbolize, to me, the tragedy of the Confederacy.

    As an Arkansan, I feel that we are fortunate to have someone of Cleburne’s stature for which to be proud.  The only problem is that in these times of political correctness, we have done very little here in Arkansas to honor him or, indeed, even to acknowledge him.  We have named a county for him at least and thankfully, his final resting place is in Helena.  But, who here in Arkansas really knows anything about him outside of the Civil War community, which, we must admit, is a very small minority. 

    I attend several Civil War events every year -- reenactments, battlefield tours, or collector shows.  I have been pleased to find at collector events an ever increasing interest and display of items relating to Cleburne.  In 2000, I attended the Nashville Civil War Collector’s Show and at one of the tables, I learned about the Patrick Cleburne Society.   The headquarters is in Birmingham, AL and the fee to become a member is quite modest.  The purpose and mission of the organization is quite simple and straightforward.  First, it is to memorialize and honor Cleburne’s life and accomplishments. Secondly, is to contribute to the preservation of the battlefields on which he fought.  So, I joined the Cleburne Society on the spot at Nashville show. 

    In the summer of 2001, I learned of plans by the Cleburne Society to lead a Civil War tour to Ireland to visit many of the sites that are significant in Cleburne’s early life before coming to America. These locations included his birthplace at Bride Park, the Ronayne Estate of his mother’s family, St Mary’s Church Athnowen Parish where he attended church, was baptized, Ballencollig Royal Gunpowder Mill where his father was the military surgeon and several military barracks where Cleburne was stationed after he ran away from his family, and joined the British Army. 

    The program I will give is a slide show of locations visited on this trip and the story of the hard life he had as a Private in the Army; and how it brought him thoughts and ideas that contributed to his success as a great battlefield commander.

    Dave was born and raised in the Little Rock area, and attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. He served on active duty in the Army Artillery during Korea. He is a professional engineer and recently retired from Southwestern Bell Telephone. He is active in various environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. He is a civil war enthusiast: past president of Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas, supporter of civil war battlefield preservation efforts nationwide, and an avid collector of civil war period artifacts.




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    Annual Cleburne Memorial

    At noon on March 18, 2006, the 21st Annual Cleburne Memorial is to be held in the Maple Hill Cemetery at Helena. This annual ceremony brings together civil war buffs from Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The short memorial ceremony brings the traditional laying of the flowers, while also having a three-gun salute from rifle and canon. Mark your calendars.

    Honorable Heritage of the South

    Ron Kelley has set the date for a special evening at the Aerospace Education Center's IMAX Theater for all of Civil War buffs. Jim Ikerman, who gave a lecture at the Civil War Roundtable on the Rape of Athens, has agreed to give a 40-minute program entitled Honorable Heritage of the South- Heritage Not Forgotten.

    There is no admission charge for this event. The program will begin at 7:00 p.m. on December 13, followed by a special viewing of Ride With The Devil on the IMAX screen. Tell all your friends and fellow Civil War buffs! This will be a night you will surely remember!


    The Shelby Foote family sent a nice response to our sympathy card on the occasion of his death.
    November is the month we choose the officers for the coming year. People who were not at the meeting have a high probability of being elected to office, so attendance is usually high at this meeting.
    Nominees so far are:
    President – Don Hamilton
    Vice President – open
    Secretary – Chas. Durnett
    Treasurer – Brian Brown
    CACWHT – Mike Loum
    Anyone who would like to put their name in for Vice President (or any of the offices) please contact Don Hamilton.
    In addition, it is time for THE DUES, Brian has reminded us. The dues are $15.00 for a family membership, contact Brian Brown to make your payment or bring it to the meeting.
    Brian Brown, Treasurer
    Civil War Roundtable of Arkansas
    P.O. Box 25501
    Little Rock, Ark. 72221
    The due help us pay a small stipend to those speakers that come some distance to be with us, and supplements the newsletter.

    This coming year we are working to bring Bobby Horton to the state. He is the music historian with a large repertoire of civil war songs (Confederate and those other guys). If we are able to pull this off, we will need to get a grant or raise a considerable amount of money for his fee. We may be able to do this jointly with other groups.

    Randy Baldwin, President
    Don Hamilton, Vice President
    Brian Brown, Treasurer
    Chas. Durnette, Secretary/editor

    Christmas During the Civil War

    Many of today's American Christmas customs are rooted in the early 19th century. Perhaps ironically, they came to maturity during the Civil War, when violence, chaos, and staggering personal losses seemed likely to drown out the choruses of  "Peace on Earth."
    Many of the artists of the period, Winslow Homer, Thomas Nast, and Alfred Waud created visual chronicles of the spreading influence of many holiday traditions we enjoy today, including Santa Claus Christmas trees, gift-giving, caroling, holiday feasting, and Christmas cards.
    Nast and Homer drew scenes of the wartime practice of sending Christmas boxes filled with homemade clothes and food items to soldiers at the front. The war made an impact on the nation, both North and South, in the ways Christmas was observed.

    Christmas boxes like the ones Homer and Nast pictured gave their recipients a much-needed mental and physical boost. When in 1861, for the first Harper's Weekly Christmas cover of the war, Homer drew overjoyed soldiers reveling in the contents of Adams Express boxes from home.
    The most beloved symbol of the American family Christmas--the decorated Christmas tree--came into its own during the Civil War. Christmas trees had become popular in the decade before the war, and in the early 1860s, many families were beginning to decorate them. Illustrators working for the national weeklies helped popularize the practice by putting decorated tabletop Christmas trees in their drawings.
    On the home front, the homes were mostly decorated with different kinds of pines, holly, ivy, and mistletoe.    While there were many families who spent lonely Christmases during the war, they still had a Christmas tree that was the centerpiece for the home. Most trees were small and sat on a table.
    The decorations were mostly home made, such as strings of dried fruit, popcorn, pinecones.  Colored paper, silver foil, as well as spun glass were popular choices for making decorations.  Santa brought gifts to the children.  Those gifts were home made, such as carved toys, cakes or fruits. 
    It was only a matter of time before the Christmas tree made its way into military camps. Alfred Bellard of the 5th New Jersey remarked about the arrival of the newly popular Christmas icon to his camp along the lower Potomac River.
    "In order to make it look much like Christmas as possible, a small tree was stuck up in front of our tent, decked off with hard tack and pork, in lieu of cakes and oranges, etc".
    Christmas carols were sung both at home and in the camps. Can you imagine how homesick the soldiers would become singing these songs.  Some of the most popular ones were "Silent Night”, "Away in the Manger," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful”, and "Deck the Halls".
    By 1863, the Union blockade of the Southern coasts had made it nearly impossible for Santa Claus to visit homes in the South; scarcity of goods and the consequent high prices put both store-bought presents and raw materials for homemade gifts out of the financial reach of many Southern consumers. Quite a few mothers explained to their children that even Santa Claus would not be able run the formidable blockade.
    Ella Gertrude Clanton Thomas of Augusta, Georgia, told how a simple act of faith on the part of her children caused her to dig deeper for a holiday offering on Christmas Eve:
    "I have written so much that it is now after 9 o'clock and yet I have said nothing of Turner's and Mary Bell's party which we gave them last week in lieu of the Santa Claus presents. Mary Bell has been told that Santa Claus has not been able to run the blockade and has gone to war--Yet at this late hour when I went upstairs Thursday night of the party I found that the trusting faith of childhood they had hung their little socks and stockings in case Santa Claus did come. I had given the subject no thought whatever, but invoking Santa Claus aid I was enabled when their little eyes opened to enjoy their pleasure to find cake and money in their socks."

    Santa Claus apparently had a much easier time visiting homes in the North than those in the South that Christmas. According to a letter Sarah Thetford sent to her brother George, "Santa arrived in here in Michigan dressed in a buffalo coat with presents fastened to his coat-tail...and a corn-popper on his back." She continued that she had "often heard Santa Claus described, but never before saw the old fellow in person."

    Sometimes Santa Claus worked behind the scenes of wartime savagery to bring a bit of Christmas cheer to those who otherwise had little reason to celebrate. Following General William T. Sherman's capture of Savannah, Georgia, and presentation of it as a Christmas gift to Lincoln in 1864, about 90 Michigan men and their captain in turn gave a token of charity to Southern civilians living outside the city. Christmas Day, the soldiers loaded several wagons full of food and other supplies and distributed the items about the ravaged Georgia countryside. The destitute Southerners thanked the jolly Union Santa Clauses as the wagons pulled away under the power of mules that had tree-branch "antlers" strapped to their heads to turn them into makeshift reindeer.
    As the war dragged on, deprivation replaced bounteous repasts and familiar faces were missing from the family dinner table. Soldiers used to "bringing in the tree" and caroling in church were instead scavenging for firewood and singing drinking songs around the campfire. Therefore, the holiday celebration most associated with family and home was a contradiction. It was a joyful, sad, religious, boisterous, and subdued event.

    Corporal J. C. Williams, Co. B, 14th Vermont Infantry, December 25, 1862:

    "This is Christmas, and my mind wanders back to that home made lonesome by my absence, while far away from the peace and quietude of civil life to undergo the hardships of the camp, and may be the battle field. I think of the many lives that are endangered, and hope that the time will soon come when peace, with its innumerable blessings, shall once more restore our country to happiness and prosperity."
    * * * * *
    Gilbert J. Barton, Company I of Charlotte, recorded some of the hardships of camp that day:
    "Dec 25th Christmas. Had hard Tack soaked in cold water and then fried in pork Greece [sic]. Fried in a canteen, split into[sic] by putting into the fire & melting the sodder[sic] off. We pick them up on the field left by other soldiers, also had coffee & pork. Ordered up at 5 this morning with guns ready, as it is reported that there are 400 Rebel Cavalry not far off prowling around. Foggy morning."
    * * * * *
    Robert Gould Shaw, then a 2nd lieutenant in the 2d Massachusetts Infantry, writes in 1861, about guard duty near Frederick, MD. He would later earn fame as the commander of the heroic African American unit, the 54th Massachusetts.
    "It is Christmas morning and I hope a happy and merry one for you all, though it looks so stormy for our poor country, one can hardly be in merry humor."
    * * * * *
    On December 24, 1861, Captain Robert Goldthwaite Carter of the 22nd Mass. Vol. Inf. 4th U.S. Cavalry wrote: 
     "Christmas Eve, and I am on duty as officer of the day, but I am not on duty to-morrow.  As much as I desire to see you all, I would not leave my company alone...I give my company a Christmas dinner to-morrow, consisting of turkey, oysters, pies, apples, etc.; no liquors."
    * * * * *
    John H. Brinton, a Major and Surgeon U.S.V. wrote:
    "During the days preceding Christmas, I received some boxes from home, full of nice comfortable things, and the letter which came to me at that time, you may be sure, made me feel homesick.  On Christmas night, I left for St. Louis as my teeth were troubling me, and greatly in need of the services of a dentist.  I was fortunate in finding a good one, and in a day or two the necessary repairs were made."
    * * * * *
    From the diary of Private Robert A. Moore, a Confederate soldier:
    Tuesday, Dec 24th, 1861, camp near Swan's...
    "This is Christmas Eve but seems but little like it to me"
    Wednesday, Dec. 25th, 1861, camp near Swan's...
    "This is Christmas & and very dull Christmas it has been to me. 
    Had an egg-nog to-night but did not enjoy it
    much as we had no ladies to share it with us."

    * * * * *
    One of the dreariest accounts of Christmas during the Civil War came from Lt. Col. Frederic Cavada, captured at Gettysburg and writing about Christmas 1863 in Libby Prison in Richmond:
    "The north wind comes reeling in fitful gushes through the iron bars, and jingles a sleighbell in the prisoner's ear, and puffs in his pale face with a breath suggestively odorous of eggnog...."
    "...Christmas Day! A day which was made for smiles, not sighs - for laughter, not tears - for the hearth, not prison."
    * * * * *
    From the diary of Robert Watson of Key West, Florida.
    December 25, 1863 at Dalton, Georgia after action at Chickamauga
    "Christmas day and a very dull one but I find a tolerable good dinner.  I had one drink of whiskey in the morning.  There was some serenading last night but I took no part in it for I did not feel merry as my thoughts were of home..."
    * * * * *






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