The Christmas Gift at Fredericksburg, Virginia 1862

While researching for a Christmas program, I came across this interesting letter published in the Waynesboro Village Record shortly after the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Pennsylvania unit being referred to could be one of two regiments that fought in the afternoon portion of the battle at Fox’s Gap. The 45th Pennsylvania which hit Philip’s Georgian Legion head on in Wise’s Southfield or it could be the 100th Pennsylvania. More than likely it was the 45th PA. The Georgian Legion that the Confederate soldier says he is from is that of Philip’s Legion.

Waynesboro Village Record: February 13, 1863

Singular Incident

Summary: A sentimental account of a conversation that occurred between a Union soldier and Confederate soldier during a brief interlude from the fighting at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Over the course of the interaction, the soldiers discovered that they shared a strange bond, one that extends beyond the fact that they have fought in the same battles.

Our correspondent T., writing from the Ninth Army Corps, apposite Fredericksburg narrates the following, which occurred on Christmas day, while the writer was out on picket with his company.

After partaking of a Christmas dinner of salt junk and hard tack, our attention was attracted by a rebel picket who hailed us from the opposite side of the river: “I say, Yank, if a fellow goes over there will you let him come back again?,”

Receiving an affirmative answer, he proceeded to test the truth of it by paddling himself across the river. He was decidedly the cleanest specimen of a rebel I had seen. In answer to a question, he said he belonged to the Georgia Legion. One of the boys remarked, “I met quite a number of your boys at SouthMountain.” “Yes, I suppose so–if you were there,” said the rebel, while his face grew very sad. “We left very many of our boys there. My brother, poor Will, was killed there. It was a hot place for a while, and we had to leave it in a hurry.” “That’s so, Georgia, your fellows fought well there, and had all the advantage, but the old Keystone boys were pressing you hard. By the way I have a likeness here (taking it out of his pocket) that I picked up on the battle field the next morning and I have carried it ever since.” He handed it to the rebel, who, on looking at it, pressed it to his lips, exclaiming “my mother! my mother!” He exhibited considerable emotion at the recovery of the picture, but on regaining his composure, he said, that his brother had it in his possession, and must have lost it in the fight.

He then asked the name of the one to whom he was indebted for the lost likeness of his mother, remarking “There may be better times soon, and we may know each other better.” He had taken from his pocket a small pocket bible in which to write the address, when Alex—, who had taken no part in the conversation, fairly yelled, “I know that book! I lost it at Bull Run!” Thar’s whar I got it, Mr. Yank,” said the rebel–and he handed it to Alex. “I am much obliged to you, Georgia Legion, for I wouldn’t part with it for all the Southern Confederacy.” I was a little curious to know something further of the book, so I asked Alex to let me see it. He passed it to me. I opened it, and on the fly leaf saw written in a neat lady’s hand: “My Christmas Gift to Alex—, Dec 25th, 1860. Ella.” “Well, Alex,” said I, “it is not often one has the same gift presented to him a second time.” “True, Captain; and if I could but see the giver of that to-day, there’s but one other gift that I would want.”–“What’s that, Alex?” “This rebellion played out, and my discharge in my pocket.”

The boys had all been busily talking to our rebel friend, who, seeing a horseman approaching in the direction of his post, bid us a hasty good-bye, and made as quick a trip as possible across the Rappahannock. Night came on, and those not on duty lay down on the frozen ground, to dream of other Christmas nights, when we knew not war.