The Birthplace of Christmas-Day Bells

While we have a fantastic array of Civil War resources in the Fredericksburg area–including four major battlefields–an oft-overlooked part of our Civil War story ties into one of America’s best-known Christmas carols.

The story all ties back to this little church along the Orange Plank Road:

This is New Hope Church as painted by Mary King Longfellow of Portland, Maine—cousin of the renowned poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. In November 2018, ECW shared this image for the first-time ever in the Civil War literature (for the story behind this image, click here.)

In November 1863, as part of the Mine Run campaign, wounded Federal soldiers were taken to New Hope Church for triage. Among the wounded men was Longfellow’s son, Charlie, serving in the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry.

Charlie’s wound in battle eventually led to his father’s authorship of the beloved Christmas carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” which Longfellow wrote sitting at the bedside of his gravely wounded son. Meg Groeling shared that story back in 2011 (you can read it here), and it remains one of ECW’s most-read posts.

We hope you take the time to read more about the Civil War history of this great American carol, which sounds so cheerful and bright but which has its origins (and forgotten verses) grounded in near-tragedy during an oft-overlooked campaign of the war.

2 Responses to The Birthplace of Christmas-Day Bells

  1. You know I love this sort of relevant trivia and recall you and Meg first enlightening me to this. It’s become a regular stop of mine to pay respects to veterans buried there and historic poetry.

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