December 2015 – January 2016


Welcome to the monthly newsletter.  In this double issue, I just want to take a moment to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Years.  The next issue will be out at the beginning of February, 2016.  If you wish to be notified of each new issue, send an email to   ALL Writers are welcomed: Confederate, Union, and Civilian.  If you wish to submit an article, or have any questions, send an email to







For additional event information, please visit the EVENTS page for a complete listing.


·        December 11-13:  Raid on Fort Pierce – EVENT CHANGE: the reenactor fee is being waved this year!  NO FEE!!! Fort Pierce, FL

·        January 15-17:  Brooksville Raid, Brooksville, FL

·        January 29-31:  Battle at Townsend’s Plantation (Renningers Market), Mt. Dora, FL

·        February 5-7:  Battle at Fort Taylor, Key West, FL





In Memoriam

Col. Donald Bowman

March 15, 1953 – November 25, 2015

Donald D. Bowman, known as “The Colonel” 62, died with honor on 11/25/2015 after a brave fight with Merkel Cell Carcinoma (a rare, aggressive form of skin cancer). He passed peacefully with caring family and friends by his side at Gulfside Hospice Center, Zephyrhills. He is survived by his high school sweetheart of 41 years, Michele.  Also by his two loving daughters: Melanie Kelly (David) and Vanessa Bershad (Chris), and 3 grandchildren: Aurora Grace and Scarlett Ava Bershad, and Benjamin Donald Kelly, as well as his beloved Shiatzu, Toby. Don was the recipient of a life-saving liver transplant in 1998. Although we are saddened by our loss due to cancer, we will be forever grateful to our donor family who gave us 17 blessed years together.


Don is a proud graduate of Jesuit High School, class of 1972.  He was a journeyman wireman out of IBEW local 915 for 28 years, and then worked for Stroh’s for 2 years. He retired from Yuengling Brewery of Tampa after 17 years as a maintenance electrician in 2014.


Don studied many periods of history and was an active Confederate reenactor for almost 40 years. He and his horses, Lady and Beau, became iconic figures on the reenacting field. As the colonel in the reenacting community, he commanded hundreds of men in many events all over the country. Other interest included NASCAR, Star Trek, fine scale modeling, toy soldier dioramas, college sports, Harry Potter, and all things Reese Witherspoon.


A Celebration of Life Mass was be held at St Joseph Catholic Church on Saturday, December 5th at 10 AM, followed by a memorial reception. The family received friends at a visitation on Friday, December 4th. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Lifelink Foundation Legacy Fund at or University of Washington Merkel Cell Carcinoma Fund at


A Special thanks to Gulfside Hospice for their compassionate care. He may be gone but he will never be forgotten.




The amount of outpouring for Col. Bowman and his family has been amazing to watch.  I want to take a moment to express my heartfelt condolences for the family.  My thoughts and prayers are with y’all. 


I decided, as a tribute to him and his legacy, to compile some of those kind words, memories, and salutes here.  This is but a TINY sample of the many, many memories, thoughts and prayers that I found.



Ross Lamoreaux

The reenacting and historical world has lost a gentleman of the highest order this morning. Colonel Don Bowman, long-time commander of the Florida Battalion, Department of the Gulf, passed away this morning after a long fight with cancer. He had a quiet, professional manner, and always the highest of personal standards that influenced me greatly in my early days.


Colonel Dave

The loss of Colonel Bowman is a loss for the entire Civil War community. He defined the word "Gentleman". I had the honor of interacting with him when I ventured down South to the Resaca and Atlanta events. Each time we met, his soft-spoken and kind demeanor caused everyone to feel like they were his best friend.  The hobby will never be the same without him...Yank or Reb. Always dressed proper, always said the right things and always imposed his peaceful demeanor on people who were not at peace.  It is my wish that anyone who knew him to take a few moments to quietly honor his memory.


Patrick Adkins

My good friend and mentor for the past 25 years has passed to cancer.  Don Bowman, or Colonel Bowman, commanded the Florida Battalion of Infantry since the mid-1980s and has left a profound, influential and professional mark on the reenacting community, which will be everlasting.  He demanded perfection in his men, and it was willingly given.  He was a patient, instructing and respectful man, and great love and respect was returned to him.


In the dying works of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”  “Strike the tent!” the final words of General Robert E. Lee.


Sir, the Florida Battalion will strike your camp for you while you rest under those trees.  God Bless you and your family.  Rest peacefully, Colonel.  The world was a better place with you as a part of it.


Bob Williams

Indeed. A first class fellow. I am saddened by his loss.


Fritz Kirsch

I hosted the Federal encampment at Ft. Clinch for 13 years. The marines were a featured unit there. Don Bowman was one of those stalwart troops. I remember one rainy event when I considered cancelling the event and sending the men home. It poured enough to bring out real frogs and other critters. The Marines came out at morning roll call and stood at attention in the pouring rain. Don Bowman was one of those troopers. If the Marines could handle the rain the rest of the troops could too. The event went on and was a treat for the people in town to come visit. We had 250 visitors that Saturday night. Don was one of the toughest. I appreciated him.


Harper Harris

I always remember the big black Tennessee walker he rode! He was always really nice to everyone!


Sheila Craig

I always used to say (it's a labor of love) he was one of us true time troopers, so glad to have had the pleasure of knowing him; hats off to you dear sir.


Gail & Thomas Jessee

Our dearest and precious longtime friend, Colonel Don Bowman has finally crossed over the river to eternally rest under the shade of the trees.


He was one of the finest men I have ever known and will be greatly missed by many in the reenacting community.


God Bless all for their prayers and kind thoughts.


Lou Evans

To a most gallant and worthy "adversary" and comrade. We shall miss him. For me, his presence will ALWAYS be strongest at Olustee. Especially, during the tactical battle on Saturday (when he fought with us, Federals) and at colors on Sunday. Without him, neither, will ever be the same. Rest well, eternally, Don. In knowing you, we, were truly, the lucky ones.


Pam Steele

This breaks my heart. I thought an awful lot of Don.  I met him when I first became involved in reenacting. My heart and prayers go out to his family and friends.  He joins our hero's in God's heavenly realm.


Daniel Moran

As the sitting Vice President of Lincoln's Generals, I know I speak for one and all extending our most profound sympathies and solemn condolences in the loss of Colonel Dan Bowman.  May the peace of Almighty God rest upon his wife and family at this time of sorrow and grieving.  - Romans 5:1-2.


Mike Bethune

He was truly a Great Gentleman. Glad I had the opportunity to know him and serve under his command.

RIP Sir...I salute you.


James Shillinglaw

My good friend has passed due to cancer. Don Bowman, or, Colonel Bowman, commanded the Florida Battalion of Infantry since the mid 1980's and has left a profound, influential and professional mark on the reenacting community which will be everlasting. He demanded perfection in his men and it was willingly given. He was a patient, instructing and respectful man, and great respect was returned to him.


In the dying words of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, "Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees".


Mark Foor

Godspeed Colonel Bowman. We who knew you are better for it. The world is a little darker and a little colder without you in it. Heaven has gained a dutiful soldier to guard the Pearly Gates.


Mark Marusek

Me in my Confederate dress for Don Bowman who passed away this morning.


Mary Price-Roberts

He was an amazing man who had a kind word and smile to everyone, and he will be missed!


Larry French

I always looked forward to those time when he would walk the ranks and take the time to stop and say a kind word to me. I know he'll be doing the same among the ranks of those who've gone on before us  preparing for our next meeting.


Jeff Grzelak

Col. Don Bowman "crossed over the river to rest in the shade of the trees" this morning at 5:00AM after a struggle with cancer. He was a friend of mine ever since we started in the hobby the same time 41 years ago......."now he belongs to the ages...." Let us count our blessings this holiday season as for many there will be a "vacant chair" at the table. LEST WE FORGET!


Kevin Moglia

A true gentleman.  R.I.P. Don.  Many thanks for the memories.  God Speed!


Rocky Sawyer

Don was a good man, a gentleman, an exceptional leader, a friend to many, and always someone to look up to. We are all diminished by his loss. As many, I will miss him.


Herman Marshall

What a great guy he was and will be missed!  Blessed are the ties that bind.


1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.  According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage one another with these words.





Letter to the Editor

THANK YOU from Rifles, Rails & History

By Bob Grenier


We are so thrilled with the HUGE success of "Rifles, Rails & History: Steam Back to the North and South" 2015. That success is because of YOU - TRULY it is!


Y'all have been sending me some fantastic photographs. This event is a great photographic opportunity to take very different and unique living history photographs. I am forwarding the pictures to Roberta, who creates our website.  She will start placing them on the RR&H website beginning tomorrow (Friday). There are lots of photos, so check every so often for new pictures as they are added.


Speaking of the website, we will probably add a couple more tabs soon, including a FAQ (frequently asked questions) tab for 2016. The 2016 dates will be up on the website as well. Also there are t-shirts and ribbons still available, so possibly we'll add an RR&H "Store" tab. By the way, I think our ribbons are pretty sharp looking.


Education Day was a great success. I have some wonderful photos of the students visiting with all of you.  I will share these photos with the Lake County School Board at the October 26th School Board meeting. We'll have more of Lake's schools visiting us next year. I loved how y'all were at the buses when the children arrived - greeting them, as well as waving good-bye to them. Great touch!


The total weekend estimated attendance was around 3500.  Awesome.


We certainly loved our celebrity portrayals there this year. Al Stone as Gen. Robert E. Lee, Rob Rasnake as Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Bret Gordon as Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Byron Peavy doing double duty as Capt. J.J. Dickison and Capt. Melton Haynes, and we had a special guest for the Fashions and More Show, Tom Jessee as Gen. Robert E. Lee.  If I forgot anyone, I will certainly make a mention in the next update.


I want to thank Ken Baum and Chuck Munson, commanders of the Union Army.  Great turnout this year for the Men in Blue.  Looking forward to having you back with us next year.


Lt. Keith Kohl did his usual fantastic job with the reenactors, and choreographing the skirmish, parade, and ceremonies, with the great assistance form his staff and the Union commanders. I was so busy with the rest of RR&H during the event to see the skirmish, but I heard a lot of noise coming from the Skirmish at ALS Sandbar, and saw lots of guests witnessing the battle. Also, I saw all the incredible photographs of the skirmish - Terrific!  Thank you men in Blue and Gray for that performance.


Y'all noticed - obviously - how important having City Hall involved in this event was.  All the logistics were met head-on by staff - before, during, and after. All our city departments were involved. During the event, Mayor Kirby Smith visited with many of you and gave our opening ceremony talk. City Administrator John Drury and Economic Development Director Bob Tweedie both spent most of Friday and Saturday with us.  They attended the cotillion with their wives and kids, dressed out in period clothing they purchased at the Sutlers. Our Fire Department handled the First Aid station, our Police Department watched over us during the night, and you may have noticed two hard working staff members wearing blue shirts. That was Jeff and Joe.  They were all over the place for those three (actually four, including Thursday set-up day) providing muscle and anything else we needed. Every time I called on the radio to them, they were there immediately.


We surely packed Wooton Park this year didn't we. I loved the many additional exhibitors we had this year. The Sutlers enjoyed their new home in the park. Jim Davis had the Sons of Confederate Veterans exhibits everywhere.  The Kirby Smith camp with the Hunley and the balloon, the Jubal Early camp with the Florida Memorial Wall, and all the camps with exhibits filled the park!  The UDC and OCR ladies had wonderful educational exhibits and displays.  Mary Ann and Bill - we love you!


The Cotillion was quite special this year. Heather and I were thrilled at the large attendance.  Great job by 7Lbs of Bacon Mess Band.


Mr. Roger Kooser came up huge for us again for the third straight year.  He owns ALS Sandbar. We are thankful for his contribution for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. I heard he opened ALS for breakfast for the reenactors as well.


The sponsored restaurants did great thanks to you.  I think many of the new restaurants that had opened since last year may have underestimated the attendance RR&H would bring and your patronage - but I know they won't next year. I am proud of our restaurants and all our sponsors who believe in this event. I heard some of the restaurants started offering discounts to reenactors as the weekend went on.


Alex at the Key West Resort - THANK YOU!


The Orange Blossom Cannonball crew, as well as Cliff Matthews and his reenactors who raided the train - Many Thanks!  I am so glad many of you joined in and rode the train and took part. Our medical hospital reenactors put on a great show following the train's arrival with the wounded from the skirmish.


The Fashions and More Show, headed up by Judy, Sandy, and Marli was sensational. Our Sunday preacher, Charlie Nunley, was inspiring. Our speakers, Al Stone, Bret Gordon, Mary Ann, Bruce, Jerry - thank you!


Thank you to our cavalryman and cavalry lady. They added greatly to our show with their four-legged friends. Some of the best photographs include them.


I stopped by to see the modern camping area.  Wow, we had a small city going on there.  Thank you for sharing the space with each other.  We had RV's, modern tents, Boy Scouts, horse trailers, and regular trailers.


Y'all did wonderful unloading and loading. I am so glad we moved all the trailers to the modern camping area.  It made the "show" much more aesthetically pleasing, and allowed for buses, parade ground ceremonies, and for passers-by to see what was going on. Sunday pack-up went smoothly and I am so grateful, EVERYONE waited for the gates to open before pulling in. Again, that made the show so much better - It really does. Y'all were so very patient waiting for me to open the gates. You have my personal gratitude for that!  Plus our guests, who were still with us, did not have to dodge vehicles. Visitors who attended Sunday received the full benefit of the event. Everyone left the park clean!


Speaking as the Vice Mayor of Tavares, and as a Yankee, I'd like to point out one more thing at this time.  I am so proud of the respect and honor the visitors, businesses, participants, City personnel, media, students, teachers, parents, etc, etc, etc., showed toward the Confederate flags that we had flying everywhere. This is an Educational event. The many types of Confederate flags are part of that education. The flags also represent a heritage for many, many people who participated and visited RR&H.  I am so proud that we showed courtesy, dignity, and respect to those flags!  I saw the flags on the hotel, on the Orange Blossom Cannonball, on the flagpole at the Woodlea House, and many more places. It joined our magnificent Stars and Stripes in making this a very colorful Rifles, Rails & History 2015!


If I missed thanking anyone, believe me, I will surely mention them in our next update.


Please pass this along to ALL your contacts.  I would like for them to definitely receive this update.


Heather, Don, Donna, the entire RR&H Team, and I are immensely grateful to all of you!







Ocklawaha River Raid

by Lt. Col. Keith Kohl

Photos by Don Dickey



Greetings, fellow re-enactors!  I hope this finds everyone in good health and spirits.  It has been almost two weeks since the recent Ocklawaha River Raid Re-enactment near Ocala.  Between the enjoyable exertions and the ensuing recharge from said weekend, plus attending the Live Oak event this past weekend, I have been unable to post here until this evening.  Anyways....




The Ocklawaha event was once again considered by the host battalion to be a solid success; judging by the responses many of the re-enactors and spectators expressed similar regards.  We hope it was an enjoyable for them as it was for us.  The overall number of re-enactors attending was as solid as previous years, and we managed to fit more into the weekend than usual, most notably the filming on Friday which included fitting in two brief skirmishes that afternoon in the midst of camp set up and so forth.  We also battle near record setting warmth but everyone went ahead undaunted.  Further the Good Lord blessed us with holding off the expected heavy showers on Sunday until the weekend was over.


The host battalion and the Florida Horse Park are already beginning to plan the 2016 re-enactment, including efforts to promote the event even more to the public.  Among the plans to accomplish this, the Horse Park has launched a "grass roots" in that direction.  There is a large re-enactment picture on the Florida Horse Park Facebook page that they are trying to get as many re-enactors, public, etc. to "like" said photograph as possible to demonstrate the level of interest in this re-enactment.  Therefore please pass word of this to your units, fellow re-enactors, friends, etc. as possible as we strive to make the Ocklawaha re-enactment ever better.


 An accomplishment like this year's 31st Annual Ocklawaha River Raid really calls for thanking everyone involved on a more individual level.  The efforts and attendance over the years have helped keep this one of the longest running re-enactment events in Florida.  However the sheer number of persons this would involve makes it a challenge, and raises the possibility of neglecting to mention some on in the process.  So therefore I will have to resort to the less personal but hopefully wider reaching approach and hopefully this humble words will do some measure of measure of justice as follows:  to all the re-enactors, sutlers, military academy cadets, the host battalion, other volunteers, Horse Park staff, spectators, and everyone else we may have not named here in....a warm and heart felt THANK YOU.  The event would have been the success it was without all of you! 




Best wishes, safe journeys, and until our paths cross again I remain,


Lt. Col. Keith W. Kohl, member

Ocklawaha River Raid Host Unit






Suwannee River Raid

By William Golightly


The second year of this event held at Heritage Park & Gardens in Live Oak, FL. Heritage Park is a city owned property about 80 acres in size that was formerly a private estate. It's a beautiful setting and property that fits the civil war period very well:  The event is coordinated with the board of directors of the non-profit group that manages and leases the property, community volunteers that live in the area, and also numerous members Hardy's Brigade.


The battle is based on the fact that the Union forces advancing westward from the Battle of Olustee were headed toward a Confederate rail supply bridge crossing the Suwannee River along the Bellamy Road/Kings Highway, (Now US Hwy 90). Had history been different and the Union broke through Olustee, it is very likely another front would have been staged before Union forces arrived at the rail bridge as they were advancing along that road towards Tallahassee. This is the theory for the event.



With the Ocklawaha event being the weekend previous, and a certain TV personality being present, reenactor participant numbers were a bit low at our event, but still a respectable amount. Better weather could not have been ordered or wished for - being in the upper 60s, clear blue skies with a few puffy clouds and a reasonable breeze, you're far enough North in Florida that you get a little bit more of a real winter than the rest of the state further South.


Modern camping is separated in an adjacent pecan grove, with authentic Confederate and Union camps on the East and West ends of the pastured battlefield, with a back drop of a pine forest. Spectators must enter and go right through sutler row, so it’s a great opportunity for vendors to setup. Spectators and reenactors both were shuttled from the adjacent parking and modern camping ground lot to the entry gates by transit bus and trolley.


Friday November 13th was Education day, free entry and open with several private schools, home school groups, and even a showing from the public school system as well.


Saturday the 14th featured a Ladies Tea at 10:30AM, Battle at 2:00PM with music and Narration by "7lbs of Bacon" of Brooksville fame. Officer's ball Saturday evening, music provided by "7lbs of Bacon".


Sunday the 15th was opened by a church service, and battle again commencing at 2:00PM. After Saturday's advance by the Union units, the Confederate forces were successfully able to push them back during Sunday's battle.


2016's event is scheduled for November 11,12,13th. Make sure to check out and also for more details.







House panel OKs bill to remove Florida Civil War general from monument


Click HERE for the original article


TALLAHASSEE — Saying that Florida has a new and interesting tale to tell, state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz convinced members of a House panel on Wednesday to pass a bill that would remove a statue of a Civil War general from National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.


Before agreeing to pass HB 141, the House Economic Development and Tourism Subcommittee tacked on a strike-everything amendment that lays out the process for replacing the statue of Civil War general Edmund Kirby Smith with another Floridian. Kirby Smith, originally from St. Augustine, was the last Confederate commander to surrender to the Union Army.



Edmund Kirby Smith statue in the National Statutory Hall. (


The bill does not remove another Florida-related statue from the hall, though some committee members suggested that Diaz consider doing that as well. The second statue is of John Gorrie, who is credited with inventing modern refrigeration and air conditioning.


“This is what appears to be a simple bill but it is anything but. It is a heavier bill than most people think,” said Diaz, a Republican.


He said that it was a life-changing experience for him when he went to Washington, D.C. as a high school student, and that when he went back two years ago with his legislative peers, they were all stumped after a tour guide asked the names of the two people who represented Florida in National Statuary Hall.


“None of us could answer that question,” Diaz said.


He said that when they were told, “We all kind of scratched our heads went back home and started doing some research as to who these folks were.”


While the discussion among members in the House subcommittee was supportive, Diaz said several times that he thinks it will be a “difficult lift” to pass the measure.


Testimony from Yulee resident Seber Newsome III, underscored why.


Newsome said there has been an “blatant attempt to erase Southern history and heritage” in the wake of the shooting spree in Charleston, S.C., which left nine black parishioners dead. The shooter, who is white, is facing dozens of federal charges, including hate crimes.


“History is not always pretty, but it is history,” said Newsom, who called the bill — and the Florida Senate’s decision last month to remove the Confederate flag from the Senate seal — knee-jerk reactions to the event. The seal is seen throughout the Capitol and is included in the Senate’s stationary as well as on the pins that are given to senators.


There’s all kinds of things in history that is not right but it is history and that’s just the way it was. To try to erase it and destroy it, in my opinion, is wrong,” Newsome said.


Newsome told committee members that there are “tens of thousands or more people who feel the same way” and promised that he, and other like-minded individuals, would keep track of how legislators vote on these issues “and come election time, our voices will be heard.”


Committee member Patrick Rooney, a Republican from West Palm Beach, described himself as “old school” and as a “traditionalist,” but said that updating the statue with a more recognizable Floridian could attract the tourists who meander through National Statuary Hall to Florida.


"I think that helps sell Florida, for lack of a better term,” he said.


Both Rooney and Rep. Ray Pilon, also a Republican, suggested that Diaz consider removing Gorrie’s statue from the national exhibit as well.


Diaz said he considered requiring both statues be replaced but said it would be hard enough to replace just one. He also joked that he wouldn’t live in Miami-Dade today if Gorrie had not invented air conditioning.


Diaz made clear that if the bill were to pass, Kirby Smith’s statue would be removed and put in an honorary place. Diaz suggested that he would like to put the statue in Jacksonville and perhaps procure a sculpture of Kirby Smith's attendant, Alexander Darnes, which would stand alongside Kirby Smith. Darnes became the first black physician in Jacksonville. Some historians believe Darnes may have been Kirby Smith's half-brother.


Under the amended bill, the Department of State must submit a report — which includes the recommendations as well as the estimated total costs of the replacement statue, including the transfer of Kirby Smith’s statue — to the governor, president of the Senate and speaker of the House of Representatives by January, 1, 2017.


Thereafter, the Legislature “may” request by memorial that Kirby Smith's statue be replaced.


The bill passed unanimously.


Diaz said the amendment limits the fiscal impact of the bill by requiring two existing committees in the Department of State to make the decisions about which prominent Floridian should replace Kirby Smith and who the state will hire to sculpt a new statue. The amendment also requires the Department of State to produce an estimate of the costs.


Eight states have replaced their statues in the national monument, according to House staff's analysis of the bill.





Christmas During the Civil War

by Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Posted on November 30, 2011


Many of the current Christmas traditions celebrated today actually started during the Civil War era.


Although Christmas wasn’t an official holiday until President Ulysses S. Grant made it one in 1870, many Americans observed the holiday throughout the war as a way to find comfort and bond with family members through long-lost traditions.


Christmas was widely celebrated in Europe for centuries but when the Puritans came to the New World they brought with them their distaste for the holiday.


Instead of the joyful, family-oriented holiday that it is today, they turned Christmas into a solemn occasion that involved praying and reflecting on sin.


Feeling that it was more of a European pagan holiday than a Christian celebration, Puritans officially banned Christmas in Boston for over 20 years during the mid-1600s.


Even after the ban was lifted it was still viewed with suspicion and dragged on as a dull, muted holiday over two centuries later.

“Christmas” engraving by

Louis Prang & Company circa 1862

In the early 1800s, a growing religious revival spurred the return of Christmas celebrations in many states.


In 1830, Louisiana became the first state to make Christmas a holiday. Other states followed suit and soon families started sending Christmas cards, singing carols, preparing special holidays meals and attending winter dances.


Children received small, homemade gifts such as hand-carved toys, fruit and cakes. Families had Christmas trees, which were small and sat on top of a table, which they decorated with strings of dried fruit and popcorn.


During the Civil War, soldiers celebrated by decorating their camp Christmas trees with hard-tack and salt-pork and singing carols such as “Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night.”


After General William Sherman captured Savannah in December of 1864, his soldiers dressed their horses up like reindeer by attaching branches to their headgear and delivered food and supplies to hungry families in Georgia.


Although some soldiers, especially Union soldiers in the beginning of the war, enjoyed special Christmas dinners of turkey, oysters and pies, other soldiers were not as lucky: “And when I turned from these musings upon the bill of fare they would have at home to contemplate the dreary realities of my own possible dinner for that day – my oyster can full of coffee and a quarter ration of hard-tack and sow-belly comprised the menu”  wrote one soldier in a book titled The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War, 1861-1865.   

“The Union Christmas” illustration of Abraham Lincoln inviting Confederate soldiers to Christmas dinner, by Thomas Nast, published in Harper’s Weekly in 1864

President Abraham Lincoln and his family celebrated Christmas during the first year of the war by holding a Christmas party at the White House.


During the Christmas season in 1862 and 1863, he visited injured soldiers in a various hospitals.


Mary Todd Lincoln raised money for Christmas dinners and their son Tad sent gifts to wounded soldiers he met during his father’s holiday hospital visits.


One of the most famous Christmas gifts was when General Sherman captured the city of Savannah, Georgia in December of 1864, a significant military achievement that marked the beginning of the end of the war, and sent Abraham Lincoln a telegram that read: “I beg to present you as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 100 and 50 guns and plenty of ammunition, also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”

Telegram from General Sherman presenting Savannah as a Christmas present




Christmas at the White House: Abraham and Mary Lincoln:

Christmas During the Civil War:

The Smithsonian Associates: Christmas North and South:

American Heritage; When Christmas Was Banned in Boston; Dana Marriott:

“The Story of a Common Soldier of Army Life in the Civil War”, 1861-1865; Leander Stillwell; 1920





Tales from the Trunk, Part 1

By Ralph Epifanio

EDITOR’s WARNING:  This article contains some photos of a graphic & sensitive nature. 

Please do not read if you are easily offended, often get your undies in a twist, and like to complain about stuff!


I have found the way to studying history can follow many paths, such as a well-written book (or book on CD), old maps, cluttered museums, classic architecture, unusual landforms, antique stores in distant places, flea markets off the beaten path, and that occasional yard sale that offers an eclectic range of merchandise for sale. Recently, I made a new discovery that proved to be especially rewarding.


You never know what a Yankee garage, shed, or attic might hold, and last summer there was this New Hampshire yard sale which proved that in duplicate. Among other things, I purchased an old, beat-up chair and a trunk that looked like it was a century or more past its useful life. The chair, it turned out, was a turn-of-the-century Wright chair—the turn of the 18th century—and the trunk long past its usefulness due to having lain in damp storage for decades.


Wooden trunks never fail to fascinate me. I make them, buy and restore them, study their construction, and drag them along to re-enactments. They are a perfect accent to an historical campsite. So it was with that in mind that I purchased the trunk.


This particular trunk offered two challenges. The first was a bottom that was so damaged there was no hope for its preservation. So I cut out a new one from a two foot wide, one inch thick plank that was milled from an old growth white pine many, many years ago. It took a lot of work, but I made it fit, which added to the trunk’s sturdiness.


The second problem was inside the trunk. Someone, somewhere in its life had glued pages and pages of old, now dusty newspapers inside every inch. That was less of a problem than the damaged bottom because my variable speed, orbital sander would take it all off in no time. But first, I decided to read some of the pages. I am certainly glad I did, because it consisted (mostly) of a 123 year old issue of the Manchester, New Hampshire Telegram.


I thought about this, and decided to (a) take lots of photos, and (b) record as much of it as I could before disposing of it. While I tried to decipher its text, my wife recorded everything on her computer as a word document. That process was more difficult than it might sound. Sheets went around corners, covered other sheets, and were, in places, interspersed with red crepe paper.


This transcribing took hours. Some columns offered complete stories, more or less. In most places, however, only parts of stories teased the reader before disappearing off the edge of a side, or around a corner. But, using a strong light, a steam iron (to lift the crepe paper), and a magnifying glass, I got the gist of the articles and soon found that the Telegram must have been a full-sized, 19th century version of a tabloid. The stories leaned towards sensationalism, its authors—who didn’t rate a byline--were graphic in their details, and one can only imagine its original readers hanging on every word.


In the end I had to sand that dusty, crusty bottom of my 1892 “newspaper stand,” lest I contract hanta virus. BUT after a thorough vacuuming and a generous coat of Lysol Disinfectant spray, I spared the top part. I then painted the outside of the trunk, leaving its interior as bare wood. (It had a pleasant grain.)


At some point, I thought it might be of interest to share what I own, and that is what this article is about. Keep in mind that what follows is just one story of many. Because of what my research uncovered, following the story is an historical perspective on its contents. Simply put, what people experienced (and read) in 1892 was not a whole lot different than thirty years before, or thirty years after, as you will see.


(Note: throughout this series you will see gaps…that are designated by a series of dots.)


A Mother's Triumph

Her Record Is Twelve Children at Six Births

Twice Came Triplets and Twice Came Twins, While Two Strange Strangers Wandered in Alone to Bless the Happy Miller Family


Matchless triumph of motherhood in the safe deliveries of two sets of triplets and four pair of twins, has been achieved by Mrs. Ellsworth Miller of Cold Springs, N.Y., the comely young wife of a mechanic. Her extraordinary fecundity certainly outshines that of any other woman on this continent, and she is still in her early thirties, with every promise of a large career in her present...usefulness.


(Mrs. Miller's) grandmother's sister was the most representative of her race, now distinctly remembered. When that good lady married, along in the forties, she made glad the heart of her husband with a quintet of boys and girls, three of whom lived to rear families of their own. The year after this splendid accomplishment, the lady gave birth once more, but both the mother and the children died immediately.


Her husband consoled himself a year or so after her death, by marrying her sister, who presented him with three sets of twins in rapid succession. Mrs. Ellsworth Miller's mother presented her husband with twins, besides numerous other children who came in single file, after the commonplace fashion.


In August, 1883, the first child was born--a pretty, dark-eyed daughter whom she named Viola. Her husband was glad to see Viola, but wished she had been a boy. Mrs. Miller was not slow in repairing her error. Fourteen months after Viola's birth, in October, 1885, she presented her husband with twin boys.


Mrs. Miller has always had a horror of common names, such as John, William and Henry and the like. So she named the twins Wellington Melburne and the other Arlington Fairfield. They lived but five months.


The vacancy in the family was not for long. Twelve months after their birth, on Oct. 16, Mrs. Miller had twins again, this time a boy and a girl. The boy she named Waldo Esmond, and the girl Florizel Elecuor. Waldo Esmond lived but a few months, but Florizel Elecuor is still alive, and although she is small for 5 years, she is a beautiful child.


In October, 1887, a year from the birth of Florizel and Waldo, Mrs. Miller gave her husband and all the relatives on both sides a surprise. She presented Mr. Miller, by way of variation from a monotony of twins, with three fine boys. She named them Elmer Osborne, Lingard Jeremy and Lester Hamilton. They lived only a month and then all died in one day.


By this time Mr. Miller was used to surprises. In November, 1888, a year and a month from the birth of the triplets, he again became a father. This time it was only twins. Both were boys, and Mrs. Miller was ready with unusual names for them. One she called Avery Whitney and the other Alton Sherwood. Avery lived six weeks, while Alton was strong and healthy until six months had passed, when he, too, died.


Dec. 2, 1889, a boy was born. He came alone and, when this was well assured, was hailed with great rejoicing. Mrs. Miller called him D Judson, the D standing for itself by way of lending further uniqueness to a most unique collection of names. This boy is still living, and a fine, rollicking deep chested fellow he is.


On the first day of last month, two years from the last birth, Mrs. Miller, while in this city suddenly overwhelmed her husband by bearing triplets, two girls and a boy. The matter was kept a profound secret and only leaked out after many days. The girls Mrs. Miller called Lillian Avery and Gertrude Virginia, and the boy was named W Barton. At the end of eleven days the girls died, but the boy is still living, and is being...New York City.


The first set of triplets weighed four, five, and six pounds respectively, or fifteen pounds altogether. The second set weighed three, six and four pounds, respectively, or 13 pounds all told. Of the single birth, the girl weighed nine pounds and the boy nine and one-half pounds. The twins weighed four and five pounds apiece in each set.


One has to read the previous article several times to put it in perspective, which, it would seem, the author did not. But after careful analysis, let us figure it all out.


·        The main story is about Mrs. Ellsworth Miller.

·        EM’s great aunt gave birth to a quintet (5), three of whom lived and two died. Later, she died in childbirth, as did both (sic) her children. Summary: In two births, 7 children, four of whom--and the mother--died.

·        Her husband then married EM’s grandmother, and that wife had three sets of twins, all six of whom lived to adulthood. Summary: Three births, six kids, no further information on their mortality.

·        EM’s mother had, among one set of twins, an unspecified number of single births. No further information is given.

·        Now we come to Mrs. Ellsworth Miller, who had—in order—one (Viola in 1883), two (Wellington and Arlington in 1885), two (Waldo and Florizel in 1886), three (Elmer, Lingard, and Lester in 1887), two (Avery and Alton in 1888), one (“D” in 1889), and three (Lillian, Gertrude, and “W” in 1892) children. Summary: 7 births, 14 kids, 10 of whom died—all before they were a year old. Note: if she continued to “overwhelm” her mechanic husband with more mouths to feed, which is probable, no further information is available, as the article ends with the date January 16, 1892.


Most of us are aware that, in the past, childbirth was a risky business, and the available statistics certainly bear this out.


First we go to “Everyday Life in Early America, by David Freeman Hawke. Hawke writes about colonial America, but as we see, things then weren’t much different than in the Ellsworths’ 19th century.


“In colonial New England every fifth woman died from causes tied to childbirth, a figure high by modern standards, but low given assumptions about the period; infant mortality (prior to the age of one) was one out of ten. It was not uncommon for parents to live out their biblical allotment of threescore and ten years….In the South life expectancy, well into the seventeenth century, was low for everyone. Women died often in childbirth and their offspring with them. Of the children who survived, to judge by the records of one county in Virginia, nearly a third lost one parent by the age of nine, another quarter lost both by the age of thirteen, and fewer than a third had both alive at the age of eighteen. Grandparents were all but nonexistent. The death of one spouse led to remarriage, often more than once.” (Page 59-60)


In “The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840,” Jack Larkin picks up where Hawke leaves off, and brings us into the 19th century. While limited by a lack of nationwide demographics, he makes use of diaries to describe mortality that accompanied procreation.


 “As the Maine midwife Martha Moore Ballard repeatedly phrased it in her diary, an American mother-to-be “called her women together” when her time was approaching, summoning the midwife who would preside over the delivery along with kin and neighbors. She expected to give birth at home, in the company of other women. In most American households around 1800, children were born in a warm and crowded room, usually the parents’ bedchamber. A circle of women surrounded the expectant mother, talking to her in low tones or encouraging her as she groaned in labor.


“An American woman about to give birth did not lie down, but remained partially upright. She squatted on a low midwife’s stool, sat on two chairs put together to provide support for the legs, or even stood while supported by two helpers.


“In the South, birth often crossed barriers of color and servitude; the children of many plantation mistresses were delivered by slave midwives in a female circle that mixed black and white. The world of birth was by custom a female one. Husbands normally spent little time in the birth chamber during the hours of labor and usually avoided the hours of delivery.


“Ballard…was a confident and resourceful practitioner whose diary records hundreds of successful deliveries. (Page 94-95)


“Midwives lost ground to physicians from the 1700s; physician-assisted childbirth by 1840 was almost universal among comfortably-off families and widely accepted in the Northern countryside. But midwifery never came close to disappearing in the nineteenth century. Most rural folk in the West and South, almost all the slaves, and the urban poor continued to ‘call the women together’.” (Page 97)


Lest we wax nostalgic for those antebellum days, Larkin offers this:


“…if childbirth pointed to the certainty of new life, it also carried with it the possibility of death for mother or child….Although most childbirths ended successfully for both mother and child, many were exhausting and traumatic experiences which weakened mothers for months; an infected perineal tear or a prolapsed uterus could destroy a woman’s health permanently.”(Page 95)


“’Common as it is for children to be born,’” wrote Ann Jean Lyman of Northampton, Massachusetts, “’so it is very common for mothers to lose their lives in this perilous enterprise.’ Having herself born six children, she reflected in 1838 on a friend who ‘died as she expected to—under the most aggravated circumstances that a woman can leave this world. She never gave birth to her child, but died in the effort. In this dreadful manner have six of my youthful contemporaries departed this life.’”(Page 78)


And what of the children?


Larkin concludes that “One white American infant in six or seven did not survive to age one—approximately ten times the risk for a child born in the United States today….Between age one and adulthood at twenty-one, another eight to ten percent of American children died, meaning that one white child out of every four or five would not survive from birth to maturity.”


A parents’ lament: “’But how long we shall be allowed to keep him,’ wrote a New York farm couple announcing the birth of their son, “is unknown to us.” Adds Larkin “They sometimes delayed naming them for several months, or warned each other about a new birth: ‘don’t set too much by it.’” (Page 75)