Christmas in Wartime
Christmas in a divided nation is a more muted holiday than in years past, but still not absent its celebrations. Though fathers and sons have soldiered off to war, the carols and feasts go on around the Christmas tree, both in the North and the South. On this Christmas Day 1861, President Abraham Lincoln holds yet another strained Cabinet meeting as he seeks an end to an impasse with Britain over the seizure of two Confederate envoys seized by his Navy from a British packet ship. The same evening he presides over a Christmas party, pressing for a semblance of holiday cheer despite a diplomatic crisis, war and the absence in his country of "peace on Earth." On this day a blockade runner is snared by the Union Navy and there is some minor skirmishing in Maryland and Virginia. New Year's Day of 1862 is about to dawn, but even that holiday will not be spared hostilities. On Jan. 1, 1862, Union warships unleash a barrage on targets around Pensacola, Fla., and the Confederates respond by bombarding Union-held Fort Pickens in the Florida Panhandle. Despite the ongoing conflict, The New York Herald-Tribune reports many in New York City have paused to rejoice on Christmas Day as churches filled to overflowing, ice skating was had on frozen ponds and many made merry. "The little ones ransacked the repositories of Chris Kringle, shouted the elves hoarse with delight over the treasures which the jolly old fellow had dropped for them over-night ... and after that the winged hours of the long Winter evening passed imperceptibly away, with song and dance, and jest and laugh, lightening the heart, and making each participant more happy and content with his burden, brightening the future with new hope."