Tuesday, December 24, 2013 12:00 AM
One hundred fifty years ago (to the day), December 24, 1863, Doctor LeGrand Wilson and Captain John Powell of Company H of the 42nd Mississippi were discussing the state of affairs when Powell suddenly realized what day it was.
He lamented: "And this is Christmas eve, is it? How I wish I could be at home one short week, with the girls and the old folks! How I would enjoy it, especially the good grub. Just think of the turkey, old ham, the nice cake and custard... that will be consumed in old Grenada, tomorrow, and John Powell won't get a smell. I tell you, Doctor, I don't see how I am going to stand it."
Wilson replied: "Well, Captain, don't take it so hard, I am afraid you are taking a severe attack of nostalgia. Permit me to see your tongue. Exactly! The symptoms are unmistakable, and you must visit the minstrels at once. Like Saul of old, an evil spirit has come upon you."
"Oh, thunder!" snorted Powell, "Quit your foolishness, Doctor, and sit down and let us have a common sense talk."
Shortly thereafter, a Confederate soldier appeared and asked, "Is this the Surgeon's tent?"
The man was allowed to enter and he stated, "I have a note for Dr. Wilson and Capt. Powell."
Wilson thanked the messenger and passed the note to John Powell.
"Light our Confederate candle, and see what it is," Wilson instructed.
"We have been talking until it has grown dark," he noted.
The note, Special Order Number One, read: "See that both of you are at my tent by 7:30 sharp. Bring your own cups. WARD & GREEN, Commanding."
Powell inquired, "What in the world does it mean, Wilson?"
Wilson opined, "It means, at least, that they have something good to drink, or they would not have commanded us to bring our cups, and I expect we will have something good to eat, also, and you may get full once more, Captain."
Wilson continued, "Well, what time is it, John?"
"It is 7 o'clock sharp," answered Powell, whereby Wilson implored, "Let's hurry up and be on time. Soldiers must be prompt."
When Wilson and Powell reached the large hospital tent adjoining the 11th Mississippi's Colonel Frank Green and Surgeon B. F. Ward's private "apartment," they found it lit up with soldiers "of all grades, from Brigadier General down."
As the two officers of the 42nd Mississippi pressed their way through the crowd to pay their respects to the host, they noted that the men were all talking and laughing more like school boys than soldiers.
In one corner of the tent, an improvised table was loaded with good things.
Some of the boys roasted apples in the huge fireplace, which also served to keep the tent perfectly comfortable.
Shortly, an order rang out: "Come up, gentlemen, and have your cups filled."
Each cup received an amount of sugar, a roasted apple, and was filled with liquid from a black jug.
The apple-jack from the jug and some Virginia cake stirred up eloquence in the souls of the Southerners, and a series of toasts and impromptu speeches soon followed.
After a while some of the "gallant heroes" teetered, and some began to fall, and, as they fell, were "borne from the field, by loving hands, and tenderly led away to rest."
Old fashioned eggnog was later substituted for the apple-jack, and after a cup or two of this, "old delicious Christmas drink," the entertainment closed, and as Doctor Wilson later noted, "We wended our way to our tents, at least those who were able to wend."
On Christmas morning, the sun shining into his tent rousted Doctor Wilson from his "pleasure of the past night."
His conscience began to hurt him, however, since he didn't remember a thing after Lieutenant Bob Ward's (Company B, 42nd Mississippi) eloquent speech.
After questioning his messmate, John Powell, and receiving Powell's opinion that if he was any judge, "we were both sober."
The doctor replied: "If I was certain you were a competent judge at the time my conscience would not hurt me, but probably we had better not investigate further. But I wish I had a pint of that rich eggnog this Christmas morning, and I am going down to my old company for I am satisfied if there are any eggs or whiskey in ten miles of this camp Co. D [42nd Mississippi]has got it and I really need a smile."
As soon as the good doctor stepped out of his tent, one of his old comrades from Company D whispered, "Some of the boys have got a little eggnog, and we thought you would enjoy some."
Wilson downed his drink with the boys and then returned to his tent, where upon Powell commented on his good fortune and inquired where the men had obtained eggs and whisky.
Wilson replied: "I don't know Captain. I didn't ask the boys because I thought it contrary to Army regulations to ask questions at this particular time of the year. I simply drank my nog, asking no questions about it."
When Wilson sent a prescription to the hospital steward for whiskey a few days later, the returned medical order carried the following endorsement: "Jug dry, not a drop in it."
Civil War Veterans
Jones, William D. - Private; enlisted April 24,1861 Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty; farmer; received $50.00 re-enlistment bounty at Camp Fisher near Dumfries, Virginia, February 7, 1862.
Hospitalized at the Henningsen Hospital at Richmond, Virginia, December 8 to 11, 1862; probably wounded at Gettysburg, July 3, 1861; hospitalized with a gunshot wound at Camp Winder General Hospital at Richmond, July 14, 1863; furloughed for thirty days, August 3, 1863; wounded probably at the Wilderness, May 5 or 6, 1864; killed at Hatcher's Run (near Burgess Mill), October 27, 1864.
World War II Veterans
Higginbotham, Leon - Private to Corporal; enlisted on June 23, 1940, at New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States Navy; age eighteen; served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Mare Island, California, with the United States Marine Corps, December 1942.
Served also in the Asiatic Pacific Theatre of Operations with the First Marine Division, December 1943 to December 1944; participated in the campaigns in New Guinea, Bismarck Archipelagos, Palau, New Guinea, and New Britain Island; severely burned on New Britain; died in a hospital on New Caledonia, December 20, 1944.
Awarded the American Defense Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation (with one bronze service star), Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal; described as five feet eleven inches tall, weighing 185 pounds, with brown hair and grey eyes; buried in the Cedar Lawn Cemetery, Philadelphia, Neshoba County, Mississippi.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday