A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
This Christmas, again, we find that American troops are far from home, very near the birthplace of the baby who gave his name to the day we call Christmas. Families will open presents and gather for a family meal and rejoice over the birth of the Christ child, and yet, we cannot bring ourselves to follow the teachings of that baby and stop fighting with each other. Christ, himself recognized that, a couple of thousand years ago, and said: “Men will cry peace, peace, but there will be no peace!”
Americans have found themselves in the unenviable position of being the policemen of the world… by default. It was thrust upon us. We did not seek it, we did not want it, but we learned, much to our chagrin, that we had no choice. When the “evil-doers” attacked us on our soil, we were instantly committed. We have been at war now since September 11th, 2001. No end is in sight, no matter what we may have been told.
Back in the mid 1800’s America found herself in another war, much worse that the one we fight currently. It was a war among brothers. A war, which was being waged here, on our shores, and the carnage, was biblical in proportion. Families were torn apart by the war and entire families displaced as the war raged up and down the Middle Atlantic States and even out west, across the Mississippi River. 700,000 Americans lives were loss as a result of that war. Many of the scars can still be seen today in our buildings and landscapes. Many scars are less obvious, but are there, nevertheless.
I am a Veteran, and I’m a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and as such, I am acutely acquainted with the scars -- seen and unseen -- of war. The entire reason for the existence of the SCV is to prevent the memory of what those men did from fading, or being redacted, from the memory of this nation. We feel that by holding the historically correct (as opposed to politically correct) reasons for that war up to public scrutiny we can learn from it and never allow such a thing to happen on these shores again.
The South was the recipient of more suffering and carnage than were our brothers to the north. It was a sad, disheartening, time.
Here is a small part of the text of a letter, written to his family, by a Confederate soldier on Christmas Eve of 1863:
" This morning battalion guard mounting began for the three batteries. It is Christmas Eve. I am sitting in my little cabin and my thoughts carry me away to Helena where I see my good wife before the hearth with three children around her; the eldest a girl standing and looking earnestly into her mother’s face; the second a boy, five years old, sitting in a small chair looking into the fire; and the youngest a girl about four, leaning on her mother’s lap--all listening attentively to what their intelligent mother is relating in regard to the visits of Santa Claus having visited them on former Christmas Eves with presents of toys, their curiosity is at its height to know if he will come tonight and fill their stockings. Ah, will not these little innocents be disappointed? Their father has not seen them for twenty months, and is now far away battling for home and liberty, and has no means by which he can convey them toys or money to purchase them. Whether their mother has the means to spare in procuring Christmas presents for them is unknown to me, but I pray heaven to provide her with the necessaries of life, and to bless and cheer the young and innocent hearts of my children during the Christmas holidays. Happy Christmas to my wife and children!" [From The Campaign Diaries of Thomas J. Kay, CSA and Robert J. Campbell, edited by Wirt Armistead Cate, 1938; entry for December 24th (1863).]
Surely, there were similar letters written by soldiers on the federal side of the lines that Christmas.
So, as we tear open the Christmas presents, feast at the table piled high with God’s bounty, lets us find time, somewhere during the hectic day, to remember what the child, whose birthday we celebrate, taught us. Even if we cannot find it within ourselves to put his teachings into practice, we are, I believe, obligated to try. In the effort, we might just find that peace so often mentioned at this time of year
Let us remember our troops, so far from home, in constant danger, because so much of the world cannot bring itself to fight tyranny… of any kind. Let us pray that those misled peoples will, somehow, find the courage to stand up, like men, and fight the enemies of freedom as our brave men and women are doing. Let us pray that they come to understand that the brave American soldier, who dies on a foreign battlefield, has given his life for them as well as for his own American family.
And, finally, let us pray that next Christmas will find America, and the world, in a less contentious state than this Christmas.
May God richly bless you and your family this Christmas and in the New Year to come.
Merry Christmas, everyone, and please accept my sincerest gratitude for your past (and continued) support of my feeble efforts at expressing and sharing opinions on those things that matter and affect us all.
J. D. Longstreet