Sunday, November 13, 2016

Honoring Veterans and Encouraging Those Serving Today

     Remembering those who have served our country is not just "a tradition", it is important for us as a nation.  It reminds us, and more importantly it challenges us to also bring dedication and service to whatever we do today.

     My Dad did not talk in great detail about what he did during his service during WWII.  But his honoring of those who served, his taking us to the Memorial Day parades, his marching in them with the other veterans, all instilled in me as a child a respect for our country -- that our country is worth sacrificing for.  My Dad did share some stories about his time in the service.  Some were funny and made me laugh. Some I really didn't understand until I got older.  And some challenged me about "what type of person should I become?" -- the stories help mold my character.
     At my Dad's funeral I shared some of the things he said that I remember as a child which challenged me and help direct my character.  One was a story about his time in the service.  Dad signed up after the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor.  He went off to basic training and during that time he got involved in the Army band at the base because they found out he was a talented baton twirler.  Back home in upstate New York he had won some honors in his high school for his talent.  Dad was offered the chance to stay in the states and become part of the Army band to help with the war efforts.  Dad's answer:  "I didn't join the Army to play in a band, I joined to defend my country."  Dad passed up an easy way to serve for one that he felt more directly helped achieve the goal of defending our country.  That example of not taking the easy way, of being willing to step up and do the more difficult/dangerous, of not being "political" but "practical" helped shape my attitude toward life and how I would do things.
     When we honor our veterans, when we listen to their stories, when we remember what they stepped up and did -- it will shape our lives if we only listen.  Yes times and challenges change, but the need for character and courage never ends.

An example of how creative children can be.
Kids have drawn pictures of flags, sunshine,
flowers, stick figure families, submarines,
airplanes, stick figure soldiers, rainbows.
Young children just scribble colors, and the
parent adds a "Thank you" note.

    As we have reenacted at Civil War events as the U.S. Christian Commission over the years, I have watched how "remembering history and sacrifice of soldiers long ago" has helped shape my children's character for the better.  Their exploration of history has given my kids a foundation to better appraise current events.  Add to that they have also grown up interacting with some of the veterans who are involved in reenacting.  One very influential veteran was Capt Keith Howell, a retired military man who led the unit we were with out east, the 66th OVI.  Not only did he teach the boys (and the unit) drill, but also helped them learn discipline and respect for following orders.  For us as a family reenacting (i.e. exploring history and getting to know veterans of our time) has been a good thing to develop love of country and willingness to serve in whatever my kids choose to do in life.  (For an illustration of how doing "living history" helped my children learn see the picture that my daughter drew at age 11 in the post of Nov.16, 2013 "Remember" Honoring Civil War Soldiers by Learning History.  When she handed me that picture, I still remember how proud of her I was, that she was developing a grasp of how the bravery and sacrifice of previous generations needs to be honored.)

     Recently I have started offering to the spectators who come by our USCC tent the option to take a moment and write a simple Thank You Encouragement note to be passed on to a modern soldier.  I explain that just as the USCC back during the Civil War did what they could to encourage the men serving back then, we should be encouraging the men and women serving our nation today.  To those willing to take me up on the offer I give a photocopy page of a Civil War patriotic letter to write on.  I also have colored pencils on hand so that younger children can write or draw a picture.  It is very heartwarming to see the creativity of young kids in "writing/drawing" a note to be passed on.  I am always encouraged when I can get families to do it together.  In some small way I hope these notes do reach out with encouragement to those serving and protecting our country today.  May God bless those who are serving in the armed forces today.

A young man takes me up on the offer to draw a picture
to be passed along to a soldier.  He took the challenge
very seriously drawing a picture.  His parent helped him
write out a note of thanks under the picture.
     I have offered to come to a church or group and make a presentation in "first person" as a USCC delegate from 1863 sharing the challenges and opportunities of helping the soldiers serving in that war.  My goal is to show from history how "little things" can encourage others.  The application of the "history lesson" is to challenge "us today" to get involved in passing on God's love to others in "little things".  As a practical example I would offer the opportunity for those in the group to write a simple letter to be passed along to service men & women today through Hugs for Soldiers.  Haven't had any one take me up on it yet.  Probably it sounds too strange.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

In Honor of my Beloved Wife Vicki Lynn Rowe

An Observation about "Hair Strands" -- Reminders of love
    Hair strands can bug you at times.  Guys, you know, that strand of hair in the lunch she packed or the cake she baked, that strand of hair randomly appearing on the shirt just put on.  Vicki would always apologize for the hair strands as she picked them off my shirt or coat.  I would sometimes "pick on her" about finding "evidence" she had been there.  Other times I would just laugh and say "see, it says you love me".
     Guys, value those hair strands you find.  Treasure them as evidence that God has given you a woman who loves you, puts up with you, works with you, and blesses you with her sharing her life with you.  I am still finding hair strands around the house.  Reminders that God blessed me for over 41 years with a woman who made me a better person than I would have ever been on my own.  Guys, if you still have that woman in your life, thank her for the reminders she leaves around you.  And always remember, she is God's gift to you -- on loan -- treasure her.  (written March 11, 2016)

     Vicki went home to be with her Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ, March 3, 2016.  She let the love of Jesus flow through her life to others as she served and fed them.  Our involvement in reenacting
Vicki Lynn Kammeyer Rowe
Born:  Sept.8, 1953
Went Home:  March 3, 2016
the United States Christian Commission came from her heart that she could feed the reenactors as we shared with them the history of the USCC and showed them the love of Jesus.  Her servant's heart changed our involvement in reenacting from an enjoyable interest in exploring history into a gentle ministry of love and encouragement for Jesus' honor.
     She was always concerned if we would have enough food to give away, and if it would taste good enough for the men coming to our tent.  "Some how" we always had plenty to share and it always tasted good.  The soldiers would come in under the tent fly and always find enjoyable variety to go along with a tin can of refreshing lemonade or mint tea.  For lunch we would put out slices of cheese, pepperoni & crackers -- a simple lunch for many a soldier who came by because Vicki did not want any of the guys to go hungry for lunch.
     The sign we hang on the tent reads "Free Food for the Soldier.  God bless You" and we mean it.  If any reenactor hesitates or asks "how much?" our answer always is "God's love is free, so is this soldier! Come on in!  Want something to eat?  Some lemonade or mint tea?"
     Vicki would spend days before an event baking and preparing.  Some things could be baked ahead a few days.  Other items had to be baked the day before to "taste just right".  She would often stay up late baking.  Or sewing on projects to be put out on the gift table for the men -- like draw string comfort bags or pocket handkerchiefs.
     Set up was directed by her doing and giving directions at the same time.  She was always thinking about how to do things efficiently while having room for the kids -- then grand kids -- in the tent and still be organized to feed the troops.  She would periodically upgrade the coverings we would use to cover the serving tables, hay bales, food tables to get them to fit better/ look better.  She enjoyed the challenge of being creative with sewing.  But all that she did was for the goal of better serving those who would come to our tent;  that they would feel welcome, that they would enjoy coming; that we would represent well the USCC delegates who served the soldiers during the Civil War.
     Our children grew up learning to serve others at reenactments as well as in the churches we served in.  They learned a lot from their mother's example.  Vicki was an example to all who came to our tent of what the original Christian Commission Delegates were to the Civil War soldiers -- servants of others as they served Jesus Christ.
     Through Vicki's love and compassion reenacting the USCC has been for us a positive family experience of serving others while exploring history.  She has fed thousands of strangers over the years on many a battlefield.  As I said at the Reenactor Memorial Service:  "Vicki loves you guys, and Jesus loves you even more."

What Christ Means to Me
a poem written by Vicki in High School

What Jesus Christ means to me,
I would like to share with thee.
Remember how he lived to die,
To serve each one -- you and I.

He created the heavens and earth,
Including the pearls beyond all worth.
How could I help but love him so,
He left heaven for a world of woe.

Now he wants me to serve Him always,
He's promised to give me the right words to say.
With the pierced ear of service,
I serve him always.

I've told you in brief what He means to me.
Now tell me sir;  What's He to thee?


She loved me enough to marry me August 24, 1974.  She is not here today for me to tell her I love her and thank her for her gift of love to me.  So I write this as a way of honoring her and her love for Jesus and her love for me.  I look forward to the day I get to see her again in heaven, not because of what I've done, but because of what Jesus did for me on the cross -- dying in my place so I could be forgiven of my sins.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Captured Yankee Envelope Used for a Confederate Letter Home

     I have heard of Southern Soldiers using "captured" Union stationery to write letters home.  I recently ran across a reference to an actual historical incident of a confederate soldier doing this.  I pass along this anecdote to give you "support" for doing this in your living history presentations:

When the sun came up the next day, Hotchkiss could see more clearly what had happened at the Battle of McDowell.  "The Yankees abandoned a large quantity of stores here, baggage, etc -- I got quite a number of things and enjoyed plundering them, retaliating for Rich Mtn," he wrote Sara in a letter mailed in a captured "Yankee envelope."  Despite the victory, Hotchkiss admitted that "this country is a scene of desolation.  Living scarce."  
             [pp.262-263 In the Presence of Mine Enemies:  War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 by Edward Ayers 2003]

     The letter writer is Jedediah "Jed" Hotchkiss, cartographer for Stonewall Jackson in the Valley Campaign of 1862. Ayers cites the above quote coming from a letter Hotchkiss wrote to his wife dated May 10, 1862. Ayers lists the letter as being part of the  "Jedediah Hotchkiss Papers" collection in the "Library of Congress, Manuscripts Division, Washington DC." 
     I wish I had a picture of the captured Yankee cover, but Ayers does not supply it.  But the citation of Hotchkiss' letter to his wife at least gives a specific instance backing up what I've heard happening from time to time.  Such use of captured stationery makes perfect sense -- "you use what you have" to write home on.  Plus in this instance you can sense the satisfaction Hotchkiss has in sending home some evidence of victory over the invading Yankees.

Some suggested teaching points for integrating this historical practice into your Southern living history presentation:
     1) Shows the frugality of the times:  Soldier's used what they had.  Letters -- staying connected with loved ones back home -- was very important.  You can also share how especially in the South as shortages became more severe, they would reuse envelopes by turning them inside out;  use wall paper to make them, use any sort of paper they could find to make up an envelope.  So obviously using a captured stationery set just makes sense.
     2) Sent home as a Trophy:  Yes, it's a Yankee cover, but hey, they ran leaving spoils of war behind for us.  Using it to write home brings a bit of satisfaction to show our folks back home that we beat them Yanks!
    3) Write over/ change the Northern political message to reflect Southern Pride like I've done on this reproduction cover:

Illustration of how to use a captured Yankee cover
to show Southern Pride
Remember that patriotic envelopes were used to reflect political opinions.  I like to tell people to look at them as "1860s bumper stickers".  So have some fun being creative taking a captured Yankee cover and reversing the message to reflect Southern perspectives like I did with this 1861 Union cover.  By letting family see the Union message being "reversed" it serves as both a trophy and an encouragement for "our southern cause".  At the very least, you could cross out the Northern message to show victory over their aggression.  I trust you can see how you can have some fun with this practice and also help your listeners learn more about Civil War history.  Keep teaching history by making it interesting to your listeners.

     Brief biography of Jedediah Hotchkiss:  born Windsor, NY Nov.30, 1828; died Jan.17, 1899 Staunton, VA.  Was a teacher in Lykens Valley, PA.  Then relocated to the Shenandoah Valley/ Virginia area. He signed on as a Confederate teamster, then as a map maker for various campaigns.  His map making skills helped Stonewall Jackson immensely in defending the Valley.  He continued to serve on various command staffs, including General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, throughout the remainder of the war.  Almost all of the Confederate maps in the Official Records by the US War Department were his.
   

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Enjoying Reenacting is a Matter of Prespective

    A miserably cold rainy Civil War Reenactment day reminded me why I enjoy reenacting.  We spent last Saturday at the reenactment at Cantigny Museum [I wrote this post in Oct 2014, but it got lost in life's details; I post it now in 2016 because it's still a good summary of my view of reenacting].  It was windy cold & rainy most of the day.  The kind of damp cold that seeps in clinging to you even though you keep moving to ward it off.  Even before leaving the homestead early in the morning, while finishing packing up it was sleeting so we had warning. . . but we loaded up and went anyway, hopeful that things would improve during the day.  The sleet changed to a cold misting rain.  The day was not the most busy.  Spectators came, but not as many as would come on a nice fall day.  Couldn't put out the usual historical displays to attract spectators.  Reenactors came, but we couldn't put out the gift table with mail kits and such for them to browse and enjoy.  The cookies and goodies we put out under the fly kept getting sprinkled as the wind would whip in the rain.  The layers of clothing did only so much good to keep us warm.  Vicki especially shivered with the cold.
    But at the end of the long day I had a renewed sense of satisfaction over having gone.  In spite of, or better through the miserable weather of the day, I was reminded again why I enjoy this "odd hobby" of remembering and reenacting history long gone.

Friendship.  
    When we arrived, we were welcomed and helped to set up things by people glad we had come to be with them.  At the end of the long day, we had help packing up things.  One good friend not only helped take down the tent, but even gave Vicki an extra coat so she could have additional warmth as she packed up things for the ride home.  There were other instances of help here & there during the day.
    These friends, typically only seen on the reenacting field, would never have been known apart from our involvement in this hobby.  Our paths would not have crossed in the normal travels of life.  I count each "reenacting friend" as a blessing on my family.
    

Honest heartfelt encouragement.
    All through the day, the reenactors would stop by the tent.  Over and over again, in various ways, they offered thanks and encouragements about our being there to offer them good food and drink.  One joke that became the saying of the day to those stopping in was "help yourself . . . we have ice cold lemonade and mint tea".  We didn't use much ice.  But the guys did enjoy the lemonade, mint & sarsaparilla teas anyway.
    Now the guys are always appreciative, but on this day, because of the cold and rain, they seemed to express "thanks" a little more energetically.  Maybe it was because the day was so miserable that each "thanks so much for doing this" comment stood out to me.  No matter.  On the way home, I was grateful that we had had the opportunity to go and remind those reenactors of the servants of the U.S. Christian Commission who had served under far harder conditions soldiers far more hungry.

Family-time.
    Our son Joshua shared the day with us, pitching in hard to get things up and running and going.  Our other son Justin was also able to come and help setup and brought Jonas our grandson along.  With the kids getting older now, our reenacting events become an enjoyable "family event".
    Jonas learned an interesting "life lesson". He had watched Uncle Joshua push up the fly to drain the water off it.  Jonas tried to do the same on the other side, couldn't reach up that far, got a stick and pushed up the fly and sure enough the collected water poured off.  One small minor detail Jonas didn't understand:  you stand facing out, you don't stand facing in.  The water poured off the tent and right on to him as he was looking up.  And too his credit, he didn't whine or cry.  He shrugged it off and kept going.
    For over twenty years now, reenacting has given us special "family stories" and memories.  I'm grateful for that.

Honoring those who served our country.
    Cantigny Museum remembers the First Division.  Through-out the day I had opportunity to talk to Veterans who would stop by.  To listen to their stories and thank them for their service.
    I also choose this event to honor my father, Robert Rowe, a WWII vet who died in July [2014].  I walked the camp handing out to the reenactors Civil War patriotic covers in honor of my dad who stepped up to serve his country when it was needed.  He taught us as a family to love our country, to do good to others, and to love Jesus Christ.  He was not famous to others.  But to me he remains an example of service and sacrifice.

    So, for me, the Cantigny event was a good reminder of why I have enjoyed doing this hobby for over twenty years now.  Yes, it was a wet, cold, windy day that chilled you to the bone.  But the chill didn't reach the heart.

Your humble and obedient servant,
Glenn Rowe

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Who Really Needs to be "Set Free"? Civil War Contraband Patriotic Envelope

    I've always enjoyed the variety of designs printed on the Civil War Patriotic Covers I've collected.  Most are straight forward in meaning, e.g. the flag on the envelope shows you support the Union or the Confederacy;  or the text below the picture makes the political point, often adding an edge to the political message portrayed in the picture itself.  But some covers I've pondered what exactly is the message the artist is presenting?  I may catch the general message of Pro-Union or Pro-Confederacy, but I find myself coming back to look at the cover and wondering if I really have gotten the cover's political point?

    This Union Patriotic Cover is one of those.  It's clearly Anti-Confederacy in it's general tone.  But in what way are the Southern States listed on this envelope like "contraband"? 
I'se Contraband
Civil War Union Patriotic Envelope

US67
    First, we should start by examining the definitions of "contraband":  Webster's 4th Edition College Dictionary (1999) gives the following definitions:  
1) unlawful or prohibited trade 
2) goods forbidden by law to be imported or exported; smuggled merchandise 
3) war materiel which may be intercepted and seized by a belligerent when shipped to their enemy by a neutral country 
4) during the Civil War, a black slave who fled to, or was smuggled or found behind the Union lines.

    The tag "contraband" to describe slaves coming into Union controlled territory arises from Gen. Benjamin Butler's classification of three slaves who escaped to Fortress Monroe, Hampton VA in 1861 shortly after Fort Sumter being fired upon.  Gen. Butler refused to return the slaves to their owner by labeling them "contrabands of war", something/someone to be denied to a belligerent to prevent him from having an advantage.  It was Butler's way to justify not returning the escaped slaves to their master in the face of having no official Federal administrative policy about freeing the slaves.

    Now back to the cover we're looking at here.  It has the picture of a black man centered within a ten point star.  There are ten states listed (VA, NC, TX, GA, LA, AR, AL, MS, FL, SC).  Technically eleven states seceded and joined together to form the Confederacy.  Tennessee is missing from the list on this cover.  The ten states listed on the cover had all been admitted to the Confederacy by the end of May 1861.  Tennessee was admitted July 2, 1861.  This may or may not give us a suggestion of time when the cover was printed up.
    When I first saw this cover I thought it was just conveying a general abolitionist message like:  "Free the slaves in the South".  But as I've handled it and thought about how the artist put together the picture, I've come to wonder if it's a poke at the Confederacy in another way.  Who really needs to be "Set Free"?
   Perhaps the artist is saying:  the unlawfully held "material" are the ten states which the Confederate government is now holding.  In a broader sense, the populations of those ten states are now just as enslaved as the black slaves fleeing north to find freedom.  The cover's statement "I'se contraband" becomes a cry for help to Northern brethren to come and set their Southern brethren free from the oppressive secessionist government that really has no right to hold power over these ten states.  In a sly slap at the supporters of the Confederacy in these ten states, the artist is saying "you really do not realize what's happening to you. . . you need to be set free just like the black slaves that are coming north to find their freedom".

    Too much time on my hands, you say?  Well, like I said, this is one of the patriotic covers that I've reproduced and thought about.  The artist who drew up the design put in the details with a purpose.  If you have a different interpretation, send me a comment.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Portraying a Confederate Regimental Postmaster

    Meet a reenactor who enjoys portraying a Confederate Regimental Postmaster.  Darwin Roseman's interest in postmasters and mail arises from his family history.  His great great grandfather became postmaster of his hometown after serving in the Confederate army during the war.  So it's natural that along with his involvement with the N.C. Cummins Cape Fear Artillery (Longstreets Corp)  he mixes in Postmaster duties with Alexander's Battalion Field Hospital and Gen. A.P.Hill's staff.  He has presented his portrayal to a wide range of children and adult groups such as schools, Scouts, SCV and UDC camps.  Though he is often surprised at how little most people know of the topic, he enjoys making it come alive through discussion, questions and hands on learning.  He finds people receptive.  He lives in Cary, North Carolina.  Here's Darwin's description of his postmaster impression:

    "Here are some of my experiences with the kids and scouts at living histories.  The parents are also very interested in the topic of the Confederate Postal System.
1861
I have a picture of the first postmaster general John H. Reagon which I show the kids as well as give them quick history of who President Jefferson Davis was.  Then I show them the green 5 cent 1861 stamp with his picture on it.  I explain the 500 and over 500 mile rule of mailing with the showing of the 10cent stamp.  Parents are very interested in this aspect.  I ask the kids who Thomas Jefferson is when I show them the 1861/62 10 cent stamp.  I show patriotic and plain writing paper (I call it writing paper and ask the kids what they call it today -- stationery), I show them patriotic and plain covers (I call them covers and ask the kids what they call it today -- envelopes).  I ask them why they are called covers -- they cover the letter.
    I ask the kids why it was important to write letters during the war -- (only means of communications with family and loved ones; no cell phones, computers, etc;  this limitation on communications is often hard for some to understand).  I ask them what happens if they do not know how to read and write -- I tell them my duties as postmaster of the regiment is to assist soldiers in reading and writing letters especially if the soldier came from the farm and had no education.  They find all this fascinating.  They really like the wall paper covers and the range of cover sizes.  I show the stamps in a sheet and ask them how the stamps stay on the covers.  Many answer "by licking them".  I have them feel the back and they discover there is no glue!  Also there are no holes for perforation so I explain about having to cut them apart with a knife or scissors.  To those who say "glue" I explain that early in the war I had glue which was scarce, but as the war progressed and glue wasn't available I was forced to use something else.  That is when I pull out my bottle of molasses.  They really go nuts over this!  Amazingly some don't even know what molasses is so I have to explain that too.  I have a lot of fun attaching a stamp to a cover using molasses and passing it around for them to see how it holds the stamp on.  This usually surprises even the parents.  I also show them a cover where I have sewn the stamp on because I've run out of molasses.  This really gets the kids interested!  When a group is really with me I take the time to show them some of the late war stamps.  I also explain the use of 2 cent stamps for periodicals and drop letters.  Most have no idea what a drop letter is.
1862
    I get a lot of volunteers when I offer them a stamp for helping out.  Parents appreciate how much the kids are learning as they get involved.  Young and old come away with a better understanding of the Confederate Postal system and the importance of letter writing during the war.  I get questions from both kids and parents on a variety of things as I make my presentation.  To help me better make the facts come alive I set up my period tent (I am in period uniform of course), a table with two chairs, stamps, covers, writing paper, a post office sign hanging from my tent, various pictures for distribution during my talk and my hand laptop desk.  Two chairs -- I tell kids one is for the soldier who come to me for help in reading or writing a letter and I want to make him comfortable.  This sounds like a long presentation but really it's not.  Of course each presentation is different and might include or exclude items based on mixture of the group."
(This article is reprinted from the print edition of The Civil War Stationery Journal, Fall 2004 Vol.1, No.2)

    Reenacting as "sharing" is a lot more fun than doggedly pursuing "what's in this for me!"  Over the years I found that reenactors who enjoy sharing 'knowledge, experience and laughter' with others seem to find the joy they need with an event goes bad.  Joy comes from the good times of discovering details which make "history" come alive, from watching a child's eyes light up as you help them discover something they never imagined about history, or from the inner satisfaction of helping a friend improve by encouragement.  Hey, God made us to enjoy helping others.  Let the curmudgeons grumble about unit politics and rations and campsites.  Discover the fun of "gaining" by "giving".
    For me, experimenting with making accurate stationery has opened up a spring of personal satisfaction and enjoyable friendships.  We don't have to all do living history to the same degree.  But consider the possibilities of doing what you normally do in a way that helps others learn -- other reenactors and EVEN spectators.  Yeh, I have dealt with the obnoxious kid coming to our tent and assuming everything on display is for taking or breaking.  But there have been dozens of other kids who honestly get interested in learning why I'm there and what I'm doing.  So take a mental inventory of what you know and enjoy.  You might be surprised how much you have to share with others.  And you will be surprised how much "giving out" brings in "gains' of joy and satisfaction.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Civil War "Merry Christmas" Soldier's Letter from City Point Hospital, Virginia 1864

How do you bring a "Merry Christmas" to wounded soldiers convalescing in a hospital far from home?
Here is a letter from an unknown Union soldier sharing with his family his love for them back at home and also sharing how the U. S. Christian Commission delegates were doing all they could to encourage him and his comrades in City Point Hospital, Virginia during the winter of 1864.
[I've kept much of his creative spelling, but added some punctuation]

Dec. the 24th, 1864
Dear brother and sister I sit dow[n] to write a little again to you hoping [to] find you well.  I feel better this morning tho weak yet able to walk about to the Commission and meeting, there is a good meny soldiers converted here, the delegates of the christian Commission visit the hospittal and give a shirts, drawers, stockings, mittens, paper in [en]velopes and books in bundance, they are b[u]ilding a large house for a meeting house they intend to hold meeting in it Christmas wich is to marrow I shall try to go.  Well I must stop for it is most noon and here we have to go now to the eating room wich is about 2.00 [2 hundred] feet long with three tables, they say 7.00 hundred can eat to once, we have to stand up and take what it lad on our plates.
Sunday morning the 25th  well I did not get time to write till now so I wish you all a merry Christmas, this is a plesent frosty morning but no snow, I fell no the gane [gain?] yet rather week, I was to meeting last night and heard brother Marsh preach a good surmon today, I shall try to go to the new church at 10 oclock so I must write quick.
Edmund I think if my eyes was good I could lern to write yet but sum times they get so dim I have to do it almost by ges [guess] but I am thankful that I can do as well as I do.  I think I emprove sum well.  Edmund we have incourigeing nuse [encouraging news] yesterday from Shermon and Tommus [Thomas], if it is true and the nuse [news] came here last night and was cheared that the rebs had sent three congress men to Washington to make peice [peace], but the most of us dont believe it, it is also sid [said] that Jef Davis is dead.  Write and tell me sum of the tru nuse [news] you get. well  it is most meetin time, Edmund if this reached you before your box is sent I thought if you could send a pice of chees [piece of cheese] it is vry tasty to me.  I have bought sum at 50 cents a pound.  I have recived no pay for my service yet, but I hav a little mony yet, but you now [know] I do not buy all I see, sum have spent over a 1.00 [hundred] dollers once we came and now wen they have no money they find falt with there living. well direct [to the] U S Christian Commission, City Point Va.  I will send a book or two more for Christmas tho it is late the reading is just as good.  So good by for the present.  I forgot to say direct in care of J Marsh.


    Here is testimony from an anonymous soldier of how the US Christian Commission delegates were helping him to experience a Merry Christmas far away from home.  They gave practical gifts like clothing and books, they gave spiritual encouragement through the meetings and church services offered, and they offered the practical encouragement of helping these soldiers stay connected with family back home through the stationery and envelopes like this one the soldier used to write home on.  Because of the delegates' sacrificial giving of themselves and their resources, soldiers like this one saw the love of Christ in tangible ways that pleasantly frosty Christmas in 1864.  The Christian Commission did not predicate help on confirming if the soldier was a "Christian in good standing" before any assistance would be given.  No, they gave to all in need whatever gifts they had to share as they pointed those who would listen to the Savior Who is the "Reason for the Season".

Do not overlook the Letter Head details:
 United States Christian Commission.
Individual Relief Department.
The United States Christian Commission seeks to afford a sure and effective medium of communications between the wounded or sick soldier -- whether in the Camp or in Field or General Hospitals -- and his home friends.  This is done by furnishing facilities for writing and by writing for those who are not themselves able.  Soldiers, for who special inquiries are made of us, will be sought out, if possible, and relieved, and their condition made known to those asking.  All letters of this character should give the Corps, Division, Regiment, Company and Rank of the soldier, as also the Hospital in which he is supposed to be.  Also the name and post office address, in full, of the person desiring information.  Address, United States Christian Commission, 500 H Street, Washington, D.C.

    I initially bought the above letter years ago so I could make up a reproduction of the USCC letter head.  The seller warned me that it wasn't a highly valuable letter since the soldier couldn't be traced out and it didn't have much battle content [but he still expected a good price on it].  I smiled and bought it anyway after a quick read, and have not regretted the money invested.  Its a revealing description of the delegates activities to help the recovering soldiers, along with additional insights into some of the tensions and hopes the wounded men faced that Christmas.  While the Christian Commission could not meet every need of the recovering soldiers as evidenced by this soldier's hope that a personal care package might come from his family, the delegate's involvement clearly said "you are not forgotten" by people back home.
    Additionally beyond this one soldier's testimony of how he was personally helped, the Letter Head demonstrates the USCC delegates also tried to do what they could to help the families far from the battlefield.  In a situation when communications was sporadic and slow, the USCC tried to help bring whatever comfort of knowledge could be found to families living in uncertainty about their beloved soldier's fate.  To me, this gives great insight into how seriously the delegates took their mission of being God's hands, feet & voice in that sad time for our nation.
    Vicki & I and our kids have considered it a privilege for the past 20+yrs to help reenactors and spectators alike better understand the gracious love those Civil War USCC delegates showered on men in need like this unknown soldier at City Point Hospital in that winter of 1864.
     It is our wish that you, dear reader, might have a Merry Christmas!  May you look beyond the "shirts, drawers, stockings, mittens, paper in [en]velopes and books in bundance" that our present day culture seems preoccupied with gathering and see Jesus Who is the reason for the season.  To all of our fellow reenactors remember, if you see us in the encampment, you are always welcome at our USCC tent: "God's love is free and so it this food, come on in soldier."

    Your comments and insights on this letter and my post are most welcome.