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1861 December 25: The First Civil War Christmas

December 25, 2011

By Christmas of 1861, most of Wisconsin’s soldiers had not even fought in a battle yet. For many it was the first-ever Christmas spent away from family and friends. There was no fancy Christmas dinner or party or dance for the common soldier. They were hunkered down in what was probably their camp for the winter, as wars were fought primarily in the summer months.

Here is a look at Christmas 1860 compared to Christmas 1861 through the covers of Harper’s Weekly, one of the preeminent national papers of the day.  A very different experience for the new soldiers than just one year before had been.

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Chalmer Davee Library has microfilm copies of Harper’s Weekly for 1858-1865 (UWRF online catalog).

Christmas Dinner, from “Harper’s Weekly” published December 29, 1860

Christmas Boxes in Camp, “Harper’s Weekly” published January 4, 1862

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