December 2000 Weekly Firesides

Hear Ye....  Hear Ye!!

American Civil War History

Submitted by HOST GFS Jim, HOST GFS Jayne, HOST GFS TEG, and HOST GFS Amy

(The following is gleaned from three of the most recent issues of "The Weekly Fireside," a newsletter of the American Civil War History Special Interest Group.)


Our Focus:  the history of the American (United States) Civil War

Our Goal: to enhance your genealogy activity, knowledge, and wisdom by talking about the history surrounding their lives and actions; specifically the Civil War that our ancestors lived through and died because of.

Captain Oliver Wendall Holmes of the 20th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment said it so well:

"I think it is a noble and pious thing
To do whatever we may by written
Word or molded bronze and sculpted
Stone to keep our memories, our
Reverence and our love alive and
To hand on to new generations
All too ready to forget."

Our Promise: to provide an online environment that is not judgmental and to address all aspects of this pivotal period in our history, with honesty and truth (as we know it).  

Welcome to First-Timers!  Every first-time visitor to the American Civil War History SIG gets put on the newsletter distribution list automatically because we like to send you a thank-you card for coming to visit.  We hope to give you an opportunity to jump right in with us.  If you desire not to receive the newsletter, then just drop us an e-mail saying unsubscribe and we will quickly remove your screen name from distribution.  Also many of you pass on the newsletter to others that don't subscribe to AOL.  We really want to thank you for spreading the word.  We would also like to let you know that we would be happy to add them to our list if they have an e-mail address of any sort.  We distribute everywhere to those who have requested it.

We encourage you to post any Civil War letters, stories, or articles that you have in our Civil War History Files.  There is also an area for you to upload photos if you desire to share those with the Civil War History community.  From keyword: ROOTS which takes you to the main screen of the Golden Gates Genealogy Forum on AOL, select "files," then selected "history and culture."  Here you will find the two upload areas mentioned.  Please note that our weekly newsletter, as well as regimental histories, and meeting logs can also be downloaded from this file library area.  


Here's how it works . . . If you are trying to get photographs of a gravesite or a battlefield to collect for your Civil War ancestor research and records, then send us a request and we will post it here.  Other members seeing your request and being in the near vicinity, are willing to assist and can e-mail you directly to work out the details.  (This protects your privacy.)  We highly recommend the requester pay for all film costs and any postage involved to the helping member.  This is intended to be a free assistance between members, with the exception of defraying film and postage cost.  "Do unto others . . . " as you know.   :)  Keep us posted on how this is working so we can share your experiences in the Fireside!  If you have any questions, please e-mail HOST GFS Jim.
Also, if you have received answers to your questions, be sure to let us know.  Thanks!

We think you will enjoy the following member inputs!

The following story came thru Moweq and while it is pre-Civil War, we think it's a great story!  It is about "Moweq's" maternal, 3rd great grandparents John and Jane "Jennie" (Roach) Armstrong. John Armstrong (1803-1883) and Jane Armstrong (1802-1877). In 1825 John Armstrong built their home in Flat Branch Township, Shelby County, Illinois. They are buried in the Tolly Cemetery about one mile from their original home place.

Celebrating Christmas in 1833 in Shelby County, Illinois

   Jane "Jennie" (Roach) Armstrong was the typical pioneer housewife and mother as indicated in Christmas on Flat Branch In 1833.
    "Christmas would be a busy time, so I started early to prepare. The elderberry and wild crab apple jelly had been stored away for that special occasion. Corn, apples, and pumpkin had been dried. The nuts were all gathered. We had crocks of good honey and molasses. All had been stored in the big safe or lean-to.
   "I had found time to make corn shuck dolls for Elizabeth who would be 8, Mary 4, and Catherine 2, and a soft sock doll for Aaron who would be 3 months on Christmas, Beverly, our big boy was 6 and John had made him a bow and arrow and a fine sling shot. I had also woven a warm woolen scarf to surprise John. All this I had hidden behind the loose bricks in the fire place where John had made a hidden compartment.
   "Our first school house, which was really a log cabin, had been erected in the summer of '33. Mr. Daniel Sloan was the first teacher and he lived with the Tolly's. Our two children in school had invited all the children, parents and teacher to spend Christmas with us.
   "We would have the Tollys, Caseys, Hills, Chadwicks, Gordons and the Dentons with us. Christmas was pay day. Everybody was trusted and everybody paid their debts. Having them together would make the settlement easier.
   "St. Louis was the nearest town where produce could be exchanged for needed supplies. That was 125 miles as the crow flies to the west and south. John and some of neighbors had gone down before Christmas. John had a supply of hides, pelts, moccasins, pants and hunting shirts ready to exchange for salt, coffee, and whiskey. I was in hope that he could barter for some fancy cups which could be filled with raisins for the children's Christmas treat. I'm sure all of our supplies will be gone before Christmas.
   "Our friends started to arrive on the 24th by ox wagons with their cows tied securely behind the wagons. The men and boys had plenty of buffalo robes so they could bed down in the wagons. The women brought quilts and comforts for pallets on the floor. The girls climbed the ladder to the loft and were bedded down on corn shuck pads. We had a difficult time getting the girls settled down.
   "After they were asleep, John brought in a cedar bough which all the women helped to decorate. Each woman had brought her cherished trinket to tie to the bough.
   "Our Christmas Day started with a good breakfast for all. Then our school teacher read from the Good Book. We were pleased that he had our Elizabeth read a few verses from Matthew, chapter 2. After that, all the children received a gift; the best we could afford.
   "Finally, it was all cooked and our table was laden with good eats: venison, wild turkey, prairie chicken, pork, mashed turnips, boiled corn, hominy, pans of corn bread with plenty of butter, jelly, honey, buttermilk for the children, coffee for the adults, hickory nuts, walnuts, chestnuts, plenty of dried apples, and pumpkin pie for dessert.
   "While the women finished the work, the small children played. The older boys had a tug of war, and wrestled, and talked about hunting and hound dogs. The men talked about the wolves killing the stock and then organized a hunting party. A water mill was also discussed and everyone hoped that it could be built. Remember, at this time there were no party politics to discuss and the following quote is a sign of the times: 'Men were pure in their thoughts, honest in their acts and mannerly in their deportment.'  The women talked about bee keeping, new quilt patterns, carding and spinning, and the new school and teacher, Mr. Sloan.
   "Before dark, our friends had to return to their homes, but sharing Christmas together in a one-room log cabin with 30 friends and relatives was living proof of 'peace on earth and good will toward
Jane Armstrong, age 31. [  ] The Moweaqua News, Dec. 25, 1975, Vol. 90, No. 52, p. 1.
   The above Christmas story was told to Ruth Campbell by her great grandmother Elizabeth (Armstrong) Housh (1825-1910) The original log cabin and lean-to that the Christmas of 1833 occurred in, stood until 1915 when it was razed.

Merry Christmas to all,

R. Garey Hodge aka "Moweq"

Websites We've Received 

TF 2-5 Cavalry Support Kuwait -- Winter 2000-2001
Please participate and refer others to the site for details.
(Received by HOST GFS Jayne and ZoomUp from JENN5CAV)

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System
(Received from SusiCP)

W.W.I & W.W.II Soldiers Who Fought for Us -- Lancaster Co., NE
(page 2)

Holiday Traditions from the staff of StateGenSites --
  Due to technical difficulties with the StateGenSites service provider, you can find their December columns at 

  Jayne says:  "HOST GFS Jim was very gracious and allowed me to use one of his favorite Christmas stories as my December column, "Along the Rappahonnock River -- December 13, 1862."
  (Archives of HOST GFS Jayne's column "Bits of Blue and Gray" can be found at StateGenSites --


HOST GFS Amy says:
  "Well, here we are at the holiday season again.  Seems like it came so fast!  This time also marks the end of my first year with the American Civil War History SIG.  I would like to thank everyone for welcoming me and making me feel so at home with the group!  I feel like I have gained a wonderful and large extended family. I have really learned a lot from the members.
  "As we travel through this holiday season, we should all take time out from the 'hustle and bustle' of shopping and preparation, to be thankful for our families and the true meaning behind whatever holiday your family is celebrating.  We should reflect on simpler times (like during the Civil War, of course!) when the holidays meant being with family, whether there were gifts available or not, and thanking God for what we do have.
  "I wish all of you a wonderful holiday and a prosperous New Year!  Thank you all for being such a special part of my life!"

HOST GFS Jayne says:
  "At this time of the year we all pause to count our blessings and to be thankful for family and the special folk who have touched our lives.  I had the good fortune this year to meet and talk with some of those special folk.  There was NEVassau/Eileen.  What a great time we had although that time was much too short!  While in Michigan we had lunch with FyrfytrBob and his wife.  I had a couple of great phone conversations with JRose10700 when she was in my neck of the woods and I, unfortunately, because of hubby's hospital stay, wasn't able to meet with her.  Amy, TEG, Bulldogtjr, and I all met in Gettysburg for the dedication of the Delaware Memorial, which was quite a memorable event in itself.  What fun it is to put faces and voices with friend we have gotten to know so well through the wonders of cyberspace!
  "To my three partners -- you are the best.  You are truly special to me!
  "To all of you, the 'faithful' -- you are like an extended family to me and I thank you for allowing me to come into your home every week.  I am wishing each and every one of you the blessings of a heart full of love and joy for the holidays and throughout the coming year."

HOST GFS TEG shares the following poem:

From Tom Gladwell

The look of wonder on a young
child's face when they see all
the lights and decorations.

The smile on a mother's face
as she holds her newborn for
the very first time.

The love a young couple have
for each other as they start
down the path of life together.

The special glow an older couple
has about them after many
years together

It's the beauty of the moon
glistening off fresh
fallen snow.

But most of all it's the birth
of a very special child in a
far off manger.

   "Jayne, Amy, Tom, and Jim are wishing that all of you have a great Christmas season and holidays.  We've lost some friends this year and gained many more.  It's a great time for family, and time together, and memories.  From us to you, we wish you all an incredible Christmas and New Year's." 


As the trumpet player signals for "Taps" on our monthly column and the Christmas season closes (it lasts until the 6th of January) we'd like to close with a story that is one of our host's all-time-favorites.

"Along the Rappohannock"

  It has been documented in many, many places, from diaries and letters of Civil War Veterans, to newspaper stories, about a tradition that occurred over and over in Federal and Confederate camps at the end of the day. At twilight, the regimental bands would begin their evening concerts. When the armies were bivouacked close to each other, the bands would play of an evening, and sometimes they would compete with each other or they would alternate playing different songs back and forth. Toward the end of their concerts the music would become tender and soothing calling up memories of home, family and better days.
  One such occasion, I would like to tell about. It's twilight in Virginia, along the Rappahannock River. The Union Army of about 100,000 is camped on one side of the river and the Confederate Army of 70,000 is camped on the other. It's bitter cold that night on the 13th of December 1862. A few weeks earlier they had fought the Battle of Fredericksburg, at that time in the conflict, the bloodiest battle ever fought on American soil. 12,000 Federals and 5,000 Confederates had been killed or wounded. The bands from both armies had been playing that night and they were coming to the close of their concerts. That night they had alternated back and forth, the music becoming more and more tender, bringing tears and longing to the hearts of the soldiers. Finally one Federal band started one of the Civil War's favorite tunes. The music floated over the river, while men and boys, were writing letters home. The moon was out and it's light shown down on thousands of campfires sending streams of smoke up into the cold night air. The music was so light, and haunting. No sooner had the Federal band started than a Confederate band joined in. One at a time, other regimental bands on both sides joined in, adding their "voice" to the music. Pens were put down, card games stopped; all talk and sounds of cleanup and preparing for bed stopped except for the music. Finally every regimental band had joined in to meld the music together into a harmony none had even heard. Still not a sound from 170,000 souls as they sat motionless with their frosty breath and the campfire smoke rising into the moonlit sky and listening to an "unearthly" song........

"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there's no place like home!
A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere;
Home! Home! sweet, sweet, Home!
There's no place like Home!
There's no place like Home."

The music slowly began to fade, until the last note just drifted off into the night, fainter and fainter, until...... nothing. Suddenly from that awesome silence, both sides "roared" up with a heart rending shout, and started cheering, jumping up and down, and throwing their hats in the air. In the words of one witness, Frank Mixson, Private, 1st South Carolina Volunteers; "Had there not been a river between them, the two armies would have met face to face, shaken hands, and ended the war on that spot."

(The song "Home Sweet Home" was written by John Howard Payne. Thank you to Ernest L. Abel for his article in the May 1996 edition of "America's Civil War" Magazine that reminded me of this incredible incident.)

.........and there you have it.

For AOL Members Only
We meet every Thursday night at 11:00 PM Eastern Time in the Golden Gates Chat Room (available only on AOL, through keyword:  ROOTS)  We do Fireside Stories about battles, the people, and the social happenings.  In addition, we dedicate one Thursday a month to the sharing of songs, poems, and letters from that era.  So come and visit!  We'll save you a seat at the fireside and keep the cider warm.  Here is a list of upcoming events for January:

01/04/2001 - OPEN CHAT

01/11/2001 - Letters, Songs and Poems Night.  Don't forget to email any that you want read to HOST GFS Jim, HOST GFS Jayne, HOST GFS TEG, or HOST GFS Amy

01/18/2001 - OPEN CHAT

01/25/2001 - To be announced

Also visit the War Between the States (Tracing Your Civil War Ancestors) with HOST GFS Amy and HOST GFS Wolford on Friday evenings at 9:00 PM EDT in Golden Gates.  

From your ever loving hosts HOST GFS Jim, HOST GFS Jayne, HOST GFS TEG, and HOST GFS Amy


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