The Civil War Connections Blog

“…as regards Christmass…”

Three men on board the USS Monitor wrote home about their Christmas on the ironclad. First we’ll hear from an officer:


Paymaster William Keeler December 24 1862 – writing home to his wife, Anna:


Following the call of the Master at Arms at my room with his “six bells” &c last evening came Mr. Campbell with a big mince pie & a pitcher of cider, so instead of obeying the hint just rec’d we hung our blankets over the sky lights & other openings making the officer of the watch believe the report made to him by the Master at Arms of “lights all out sir.”


Campbell had just rec’d a large box from home filled with a variety of cakes, candies, some very fine mince pies & six gallon cans, filled with mince meat.  He is one o that sort who will never eat such things by himself so, as I said, he brought one of his pies, some real nice crullers & a pitcher of cider in to my room & himself, the M.D. & myself had a time till12 o’clock.


December 25, 1862


[describing a three hour long Christmas dinner]

As you will imagine the whole three hours were not occupied entirely with eating, considerable talking was done & some vast enterprises were planned if not executed.  The rebels on the Rappahannock were annihilated, Richmond taken, Charleston blotted out, the old Merrimac fought over again, our military leaders hauled over the coals – “Little Mac” placed in command – the secesh thrashed thoroughly all over the county – a peace conquered – we “iron clads” reigning over the conquered provinces which were divided among us – Johnny Bull taken across our knees & most thoroughly & convincingly spanked with our 15 inch guns – ditto the French if they were found at all saucy – in fact we arrived at the conclusion that the Star Spangled Banner next to us “iron clads” is about the :biggest thing” to be found just now outside of Barnum’s Museum.


I cannot give you our bill of fare without using the remainder of my sheet…A very brief synopsis will have to do – Soups, Fish, Oysters of course “in every style.” Turkey& other poultry & Meats enough to start aChatham Streeteating house.  For dessert Oranges, Pineapples, Apples, Figs, Raisins – five different kinds of nuts – Peaches, Strawberries, Raspberries, Plums, Cherries, Quinces &c &c in cans – Mince & apple pies & cakes without end.  Cider, Blackberry & Currant Wine.


These were not all the products of our own larder but in fact the contents of the various boxes received by members of the Mess from friends at home…


 Now, here are accounts from two of the crew:


Fireman George Geer December 28 1862, writing home to his wife, Martha:


As regards my Christmass, I worked all day long.  We had a Dinner that cost us about $100 each.  We had every thing to make a splendid Dinner in your hands, but our Saylor Cook made very bad work cooking to suit me, but these poor devils that never had as good before thought every thing splendid.

There I was, filling my Ink bottle, and you see what I have done.  No time to write this over again, and so I shall have to let it go.  But as regards Christmass, I cannot say it was a poor one as I was busy all day and had no time to enjoy my self, but if I could have only known you was having such good times it would have made mine a merry Christmass.


Seaman Jacob Nicklis December 28, 1862 – writing home to his father, William.


By the way I suppose you would like to know how Christmas was spent.  Well the first thing in the morning I had my place in the Capts boat and we landed him from our boat to an other untilnoonwhen we had a chance to get our dinner which was a good one I can assure you.  The dinner was got up among our Mess mates we all put in a dollar a piece + there are fourteen in our Mess so you see that fourteen dollars will buy a pretty fair article.  In the first place we had chicken stew + then stuffed Turkey mashed potatoes + soft bread after this we had a plum pudding + some nice fruit cake with apples for desert.[sic]