On Christmas Eve, 1864, Major Henry Hitchcock, an officer serving on Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman’s staff, took a moment late in the evening to begin writing a letter home to his family. Hitchcock did not finish it until a few days later, as events on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are chronicled. The most interesting of these was a dinner hosted by Sherman on Christmas Night. The following is excerpted from Marching with Sherman: Passages from The Letters and Campaign Diaries of Henry Hitchcock Major and Adjutant General of Volunteers November 1864-May 1865. Edited by M.A. DeWolfe Howe, Introduction by Brooks D. Simpson. University of Nebraska Press, 1995.
These two days past I have been constantly busy writing letters and dispatches, private and official…There is something very sad if one did not look beyond the present, to be in the midst of these sounds and sights of war, and immersed in plans of another campaign, on this evening sacred to “Peace on Earth-Good-will to men!”…As I write, the superb “33d Massachusetts” band, for which an hour past has been serenading Gen. Sherman (in whose room I have been writing for him till just now and now for myself)…On Christmas Day the churches-at least five or six principle ones-were open as usual and going with the General to St. John’s (Episcopal) across the street, I was delighted to see it filled, not only by a large number of our officers and men, but also a considerable number of Savannah people, ladies and gentlemen…Christmas evening, Sunday though it was, we had a (military) “family dinner party,” Capt. Nichols-our mess caterer-having secured three or four lovely turkeys and sundry other good things-Col. Barnum contributing some very good wine…Including Gens. Slocum and Corse…we had about twenty at table, Gen. Sherman presiding and a very pleasant dinner it was. Gen. Sherman’s health being drunk first, he made a little speech, patriotic, modest and pointed…I withdrew quietly soon after the toasts began fearing a little, I confess, that they might become too lively, but in that I was mistaken. It was as quiet and pleasant a Christmas dinner as one could wish-away from home.