A Civil War "Night Before Christmas,"
A Visit From St. Sutler
by Celia Mater
The rations were scarce, and the firewood was damp.
Wet stockings were hung by the firesides with care
In hopes that by day they'd be dry enough to wear.
The soldiers were nestled all snug in their tents
While visions of Christmas feasts danced through their heads.
The General in his wall tent, and I with nightcap
Had just settled ourselves for a long winter's nap.
When out on the picket line there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my cot to see what was the matter.
Away to the provost I flew like a flash,
Grabbed pistol and leathers and officer's sash.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear
But a miniature wagon and eight Army mules.--Queer!--
And a little old driver so lively and quick.
By the way that he cussed he sure wasn't St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his Army mules came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now, Sherman, now Burnside, now Pope and McClernand,
On, Rosecrans! On, Sheridan! On, Grant and McClellan!
To the top of the A-frames and the top of the tent wall,
Dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
As Rebs that before the wild Yank onslaught fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, manage to shy,
So through company streets the "coursers" they flew
With a wagon of goodies--and the old sutler too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard vocal jewels:
The musical hee-haws of eight Army mules.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
Into the tent the man came with a bound.
He was dressed all in wool from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with mud and with soot.
A bundle of canned goods he'd flung on his back,
And he looked like a sutler just opening his pack.
(That's what he was, of course.)
His eyes--how they twinkled! His whiskers, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard on his chin was a white as the snow.
The stump of a stogie he held in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly.
He'd brought vittles for us--fresh pies, cakes, and jelly.
He was chubby and plump--no diet of hardtack.
And I was quite interested in the food in his backpack.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know he had brought some soft bread.
He spoke not a word, but unloaded his treasures:
Roast turkeys and hams and bottles in full measures.
Then laying a finger aside of his nose,
And giving a salute, to his feet he then rose.
He sprang to his wain, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
And I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight:
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"
The Reb Version (there has to be one, I suppose...
As Yanks that before the wild Rebel charge fly, etc.
Now, Stonewall, now, Mudwall,
Now, Longstreet and Baylor!
On, Stuart, on Forrest,
On Lee and Dick Taylor!
Now, Ewell, Now Trimble,
Now Barksdale and Kemper!
On, Pickett, on Pillow,
And on, Dorsey Pender!
Now, Price, and now, Hindman,
Now, Marmaduke, Van Dorn!
On, Holmes, Strahl, and Morgan,
On Gist, Pike, and Cleburne!