Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas and the Civil War - Book Review #2 - Page's "A Captured Santa Claus"

"HOLLY HILL was a place for Christmas! Holly Hill, the old rambling Stratford homestead in Virginia, on its high hill, looking down the long slope and across the wide fields to the far woods rimming the sky. From Bob, the veteran, within a month of his teens, down to brown-eyed Evelyn, with her golden hair floating all around her, when Christmas came everyone hung up a stocking, and the visit of Santa Claus was the event of the year."

So begins A Captured Santa Claus by Thomas Nelson Page, first published in 1891 and then in various editions in the early 1900s. My own copy is a 1902 edition; a handsome slim volume with a Christmas-tree green cover and several beautiful color illustrations. the book is not terribly difficult to find and a quick search today at bookfinder and abebooks yielded many copies for less than $20.

The book is a fun Christmas tale, well-suited for children, and at about 100 pages, can be read in one or a few sittings.

When Major Stafford, an officer in the Confederate army, made a surprise visit to his family at their Virginia estate - "Holly Hill" - on Christmas Day 1863, he made a promise that he would return on Christmas the next year with an extra promise that he'd bring hard-to-find gifts for the children.
But 1864 was a hard year for the Confederacy, Major Stafford, and his family at Holly Hill as the estate was surrounded by Yankees by Christmas. Would the Major be able to keep his promise?

Thomas Nelson Page (1853-1922) was an American writer with a distinctly Southern voice. He authored no less than twenty books including several other Christmas tales. Page's nostalgic Southern viewpoint is clear in the story as ot includes some decidedly "Lost Cause" themes including a friendly exchange between Stafford and an irascible Union general and the loyalty of the Stafford's African-American slave; but the themes are not so strong as to detract from the story.

You can read the entire text - with color illustrations here.

A highly-recommended Civil War Christmas story! Enjoy!

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