'A Civil War Christmas' features stories, songs, history

Santa Claus

The Haines House Underground Railroad Museum will present its special holiday program, “A Civil War Christmas,” at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 15 inside the Rodman Library Auditorium.

One of the most horrific conflicts in history, the Civil War, spawned hundreds of personal stories about coping on the battlefield and the home front, especially at Christmas.

“A Civil War Christmas” is a multimedia presentation that was created by Beth Gray and Robb Hyde in 2001, the first Christmas after the Alliance Area Preservation Society bought the Haines House. They discovered how many of the Christmas traditions and music we’ve embraced in America have their roots in the mid-19th Century, and many are closely tied with the events of The Civil War.

The program begins with a review of holiday customs that emerged in those years, including Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It was Moore’s description of St. Nicholas that inspired illustrator Thomas Nast to draw Santa Claus as a rotund bearded gentleman, the familiar image that has come down to us today. Nast’s engravings depicted the American celebration of the holiday through the Civil War period, as well as military life.

The Haines House program will offer a year-by-year survey of Christmases through the war and the songs they inspired, along with accounts of Alliance area soldiers and their Christmas experiences on the battlefront.

Among the personal stories referred to in the program are those of Joseph Gaskill of Marlboro. In 1919, Gaskill published an account of his Civil War years, titled “Footprints through Dixie: Everyday Life of the Man Under a Musket on the Firing Line and in the Trenches, 1862-1865,” and they serve as an important point of connection as Beth Gray is a descendant of Joseph Gaskill.

Gray and Hyde are joined by several friends and board members of the Haines House for a lively performance of the holiday songs, and the mix of music, history and holiday traditions will make for a memorable evening.

Registration is required for their visit to Rodman Public Library by calling 330-821-2665, ext. 107. Please leave your name and contact information. For online registration, visit our online calendar.

The event will also be available through Facebook live and will be archived on Rodman Public Library’s page.

The Alliance Area Preservation Society is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic structures through education, research and documentation. It also owns and operates the Haines House, 186 W. Market St. in Alliance, (www.haineshoue.org) an Underground Railroad site listed on the National Register of Historic Places.