November 30

General Lee and Santa Claus was a children’s book of 1867 written by Louise Clack. It is set in the post-Civil War American South where three little girls, Lutie, Birdie and Minnie (the latter still a hardened rebel because of the memory of her father who died in the Confederate army) wonder at the absence of Santa Claus during the war years. They write to General Robert E. Lee as “the goodest man who ever lived” to ask him “whether Santa Claus loves the little rebel children, for we think that he don’t; because he has not come to see us for four Christmas Eves.” General Lee favours them with the following reply: in fact Santa Claus does love the children of the South but in 1861 Lee himself stopped Santa from delivering any toys to the Confederacy. He said: “Santa Claus, take every one of the toys you have back as far as Baltimore, sell them, and with the money you get buy medicines, bandages, ointments and delicacies for our sick and wounded men; do it and do it quickly — it will be all right with the children.” And Santa did so for the duration of the war.

General Lee and Santa Claus is remarkable for its very early connection of American politics and Christmas and as a Southern counterpoint to the Civl War cartoons of Thomas Nast who had made Santa Claus into a firm supporter of the Union. Clack’s depiction of little rebel girls desolate at their desertion by Santa Claus shows how important a figure he had become in the imaginations of American children. The American Civil War did much to accelerate the reception of Christmas in the U.S.A. as a holiday representing homecoming and family

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