Sunday, December 1, 2013

Popular Savannah B&B Reflects on Christmas in The Old South: Christmas During the Civil War

SAVANNAH Georgia (November 30, 2013) -- Before the Civil War (1861-1865) meals were prepared in the fireplace. Gratefully, today our Savannah bed and breakfast innkeeper, Jackie Heinz bakes and cooks with the ease of an oven, electric stove, and microwave.

Heritage-rich holiday desserts
at Zeigler House Inn bed and breakfast
in Savannah, Georgia USA
We hope you'll get away soon to our magnificent Jones Street bed and breakfast in the historic district -- recently featured on Wheel of Fortune and Eat It and Like It. It's where home baking and southern charm reside.

This holiday season, we are especially grateful for Henry Wordsworth and his Civil War-era poem of hope -- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day --

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th' unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
'There is no peace on earth, ' I said
'For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.'

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From American Life Histories in the Library of Congress, we discovered a story of the Brunson family, as told by Mrs. C. G. Richardson (her maiden name is Brunson). From this southern belle's account we gain insights into the Civil War times when General Williams Shermans' army advanced on the Old South, and what comprised Christmas.

Deciding not to leave their plantation home in advance of 62,000 Union Army troops of General Sherman, "the change of plans necessitated a lot of work to hide food and valuables. Food and articles of values were secreted in the walls of the house and buried in the lot where they were covered with dirt and manure. Mr. Brunson, who was beyond the age limit and did not get into the [Confederate] army until toward the last, divided all the [excess] meat and provisions" with the slaves....[F]oraging parties [of the Union Army] would descend upon the Brunson home all during the day and night. If they found any of the children eating, they would snatch the food out of their hands and throw it away. The only food they had while the soldiers were in the vicinity were potatoes which their mother baked in the fireplace and they learned to slip the potatoes in their clothes when they heard soldiers coming."

"Christmas was not made as much of then as it is now. There was no Christmas trees and very few gifts to be exchanged, except for simple things made at home. There was always extra preparation made in the kitchen, although there was always so much food on the plantation a big dinner was nothing to get very much excited over. Turkey was not just a treat for Christmas and Thanksgiving then, for instance, for there were droves of turkeys on the Brunson plantation and they were eaten whenever anybody felt like having turkey. In addition, there were geese, ducks, guineas, chickens, hogs, goats, sheep, cows and plenty of milk, eggs, honey, etc. The woods were full of birds and game of all kinds and the rivers were full of fish. No less than six hogs were killed at a time and "hog-killing" took place many times during the winter. Indeed, it must have been rather difficult to have produced an unusual dish at Christmas.

All the cooking was done in the great fireplace in the kitchen, as stoves were unknown until sometime after the war. There were all sorts of long-legged skillets, covered cast iron pots, cranes and the various equipment that went with fireplace cooking. Mrs. Richardson says the fireplace was always hot and the children used to play a game in which they would see how close they could get to it without being burned. There was a large brick oven for baking and the bread and cakes and pies it turned out made the kitchen look like a bakery shop of today."

Zeigler House Inn, too, appears to be a mini-bakery shop daily! Come for a stay soon. Merry Christmas to all from Zeigler House Inn bed and breakfast in Savannah, Georgia USA. Email innkeeper@zeiglerhouseinn.com or Toll Free 866-233-5307.

Copyright © Zeigler House Inn / Sandy Traub

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