Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Chattanooga Civil War Christmas

Thomas Hooke McCallie lived in Chattanooga during the Civil War and was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church. In 1901, he wrote his memoirs. The following are excerpts from those memoirs taken from an article written by a descendent, T. Hooke McCallie. It was first published in Volume 2, Number 2 of the Chattanooga Regional Historical Journal and was reprinted in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press on Sunday, July 3, 2005, "McCallie forebear was witness to local devastation of Civil War." First, Rev. McCallie's views on secession...
My position at that time was about thus: I could not approve of secession. I did not believe that any state when aggrieved had the right to secede. I felt then that such a doctrine was utterly subversive of the very foundation of the government. But when seven states went out, I was of the opinion that there was no power in the constitution to bring them back by force. That force was the very essence of tyranny...

I was therefore opposed to coercion, but the coercive policy triumphed and Tennessee went out. My judgment was that the whole movement for a separate and independent government here in the South was a blunder and a mistake.

My sympathies were with the South. They were my people. This was my home. I loved my state and the southern people...

For this reason for the whole four years of dreadful strife, I was not an active participant in the struggle. I endeavored to persuade my relatives at the farm not to go into the strife on the Union side and here in Chattanooga my relatives not to go into the Southern army.
Most who lived in Hamilton County but outside of Chattanooga (where the McCallie farm was located) supported the Union. Most Chattanoogans were Southern sympathizers. Apparently, this geographical distinction carried over to the McCallie family.

McCallie describes spending Christmas of 1863 with his wife, Ellen Jarnigan McCallie. This was after the Battle of Missionary Ridge. The Confederate Army of Tennessee had been beaten and driven away. The Union Army was now in possession of the town...

I shall never forget the Christmas of 1863. Christmas Eve came. All without was winter. Horrid war had desolated everything. Our church was used for a hospital and no bell rang out on the air telling us of God, his house, his worship. There was no Sunday school. There was no day school. There was not a religious gathering anywhere in the City. The churches were closed, the pastors, all except myself, gone. The old citizens had gone South or had been sent North. Only a few families remained and they very infrequently saw each other. There were no stores open, no markets of any kind, no carriages on the streets, no civil officers. No taxes, nor tax-collectors, fortunately. Strangers filled our streets, our highways and our houses. The rattle of spurs of officers and the tramp of the soldiers was constantly falling on the ear.

It was winter in the home except for a few precious rays of sunshine. We had no milk, no butter, no cheese, scarcely any fruit, but baking bread such as we could make without milk or yeast, coffee, sugar and a barrel of pickles in the brine, but no vinegar to put them in.

The rays of sunshine were good health, powerful divine protection keeping us in peace where so many were being sent away from their homes, and a sense of God's forgiveness and gracious watch-care over us.

With the tragedies of war all around them and with supplies cut off for months, Christmas would have passed without notice, except for this one particular love:

But Christmas Eve night: The night was dark and stormy. The family had all retired to rest. I was sitting by the fire reading. My wife prepared for bed and then just before retiring she said, "I always have hung up my stocking Christmas Eve night ever since I was a child, and now I am not going to let poverty and the Yankees cheat me out of the joy of being a child again. I hang up my stocking by the fireplace." And so she retired.

"Too bad," I said to myself, "that the dear woman should be cheated out of the joy of waking on Christmas morning and finding that Santa Claus has been here."

So I waited and when quite satisfied that my wife was asleep, I rose up, put on my over-coat and sallied out into the winter night. I soon found a sutler's tent, where the light was burning. I bought some candy, a case of cove oysters, a can of tomatoes and some little things, hied away home, crept in quietly, put the purchased articles in the stocking and retired.

Well, the next morning was a joy to see. The woman was a child again. She could hardly believe her own eyes. She sat down on the floor, woman-like, took her stocking and rolled out its contents. She wondered where on earth these things could have come from. The next thing she said was, "Mr. McCallie, where and when did you get them?"

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