As the winter of 1862 sets in and the men from northeast Ohio begin to settle into camp around Washington, D.C., the Christmas holiday takes front and center. For many of the men this was a time to reflect the past year and the terrible turmoil in which they had passed. They were still in doubt as to who would become the "leader" and step forward to make the difference in the Union Army. Mr. Lincoln was about to bring the Emancipation Proclamation into law and the nation would have to react to its repercussions. 1863 must be a better year for the Union Army or it could see England and France begin to waiver their support to the Confederacy.
In a letter from the camp of the Ohio 7th Regiment we find a festive atmosphere where the men enjoyed their feasts for Christmas.
December 27, 1862
Christmas in the Seventh Regiment
Editor Herald: Thinking that your readers who have friends in the Ohio Seventh might feel some interest in knowing how we enjoyed ourselves on Christmas, I devote a few moments to a brief account of how we fared.
Well, on the evening previous to Christmas a tree was planted in the center of our camp, and its branches richly laden with hard bread, bits of pork, strings of beans, in short, samples of all the different kinds of food with which "Uncle Samuel" furnishes his troops. A dozen or two of candles were also placed up among the branches, and, when the band were called out, and when they began to play, nearly a whole regiment gathered around and had a grand Jubilee over the aforesaid good things. But at the sound of "Taps" the crowd dispersed, owing to their respective quarters to pass the night, and dreamed that they were with their little loved ones at home.
At an early hour in the morning we all were astir, busying themselves preparing a Christmas dinner. I will only give a description of dinner in "mass." Number one, Company A, of which I am a member, and hope that all the masses in the Regiment were equally provided for on this occasion. Our union friends in this vicinity, supplied us with turkeys, chickens and pies at a rate that would break up a New York merchant; while a few of our members who had been home on furlough, and just returned, brought with them "lots" of good things in the shape of cake, butter, preserves, pickles, canned fruit, etc. Added to all these we had half a dozen cans of oysters, which we obtained from a Sutler.
At 12 o'clock, noon, we set our table, a couple of boards fixed on boxes, spread on the cloth, old copies of the Herald, and placed the chairs - boxes of knapsacks - around, and "whet in," and imagined ourselves at the Waddell house. Immediately after dinner the boys were all hunting needles to sew on the buttons that it dropped off well eating.
At 7 p.m. we got up a very good supper from the things that remained at noon and after all had eaten, were filled. After supper the evening was spent in singing, telling stories and joking; all feeling so happy that we hardly realized that we were "soldiers" far away from home, and within a short distance of thousands of the enemy. But we were brought to a sense of our whereabouts, and that we were Uncle Sam boys, when we arose the next morning, and found our breakfast - hard bread and pork - spread around on our tent floors as usual. But counseling ourselves with the thought that Christmas would be around again in a year, and trusting that the unhappy national affairs of our country will soon be adjusted, and that the new year which is just dawning upon us will be one of national peace and plenty, we shouldered our guns, and with light hearts, began the duties of the day.
I will conclude my letter by saying that we had a hard windstorm last night, which cause a general collapse among the tents, boxes, etc. No lives lost. The base drum belonging to the band, being left outside of the tent without a guard, went off on a beat of its own, stopping half a mile from camp.
LHC, Company A
Seventh Regiment, OVI
This is a portion of a letter from the commander of the 7th while in camp on Christmas.
Camp of 7th Regt., O.V.I.
Dec. 24th, 62
My Own Dear Wife,
Here I am this beautiful Christmas Eve sitting in my tent all alone. My Boy John is laying sleeping soundly on the ground by my feet. I am writing on the old Mess Chart and it is about 12 O'clock, thus I am spending my Christmas Eve. Our commissions have come and I have just got through assigning them. ... Gov. Todd says this regiment will not be consolidated, so I rather guess I will be in the war some time yet. Oh, how I wish it was over.
Col. William R. Creighton.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.