By 1861, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” had been in print almost 40 years. And early in 1861, the United States had begun its most devastating conflict. Unsurprisingly, at least five periodicals—northern and southern—reprinted the poem which had been a feature of the winter holidays as long as many readers had been alive. While the Hartford Daily Courant (northern) mildly invoked the transience of war, the Richmond Whig (southern) pointed out how the South’s self-proclaimed “war for independence” had led to a holiday characterized by scarcity and expense. In 1861, the irony of a Southern periodical printing a poem by a Northerner is ignored; in 1862, the Whig would wryly speak of “annexing” the poem.
“Christmas!” (from the Richmond Whig [Richmond, Virginia] 24 December 1861; p. 3.)

Christmas!—To-morrow will be “Christmas Day,” When, by common consent and custom immemorial, all classes of people will devote themselves to the eager pursuit of festive enjoyment. The community has become accustomed to the changed condition of affairs which the war for independence has wrought since this day twelve months ago, and though the rattle of musketry and roar of cannon upon the battle field are almost audible here—though the prices of many articles of luxury and subsistence have been carried up to inordinate rates, and other drawbacks may be encountered—the dispositions of all persons is to make the most of the holiday, strengthened in their purpose by the trite truism: “Christmas comes but once a year.” For a week or two the ladies have been preparing for the occasion, by purchasing, in good time, the presents to be distributed among the little ones. Paterfamilias has not been unmindful of the importance of providing for the Christmas dinner, and we dare say that the butchers and poulterers have more engagements to fulfil than they can well remember. The ingredients for the inevitable egg-nogg [sic] are scarce and high, and lucky are those who have already secured them. The confectioners and toy-shop-men are, of course, reaping a harvest, and despite the blockade and the busy trade of the past few days seem to have ample and varied stocks in their respective lines. We may be deceived, but it strikes us that old and young in our city have as much “Christmas in their bones” this year as ever they had.

We wonder if Santa Claus will “be around” to night? The juveniles certainly expect him, and will be grievously disappointed should he fail to come. Our belief is that he will surely be here, and will distribute his gifts liberally to all the little folks, who hang up their stockings, except the children of the poor. They, alas, can not depend upon his generosity, and must be content with very little, if he leaves them anything at all. Will not those who are blessed with abundance act the part of Santa Claus to-night towards some of these neglected little ones, and thereby promote their own enjoyment by the consciousness of having imparted it to others. But we have said that Santa Claus will be here, and he will come no doubt, in the “good old way,” which has been so felicitously described by Dr. Clement C. Moore, in the following lines:

’Twas the night before Christmas, when, all thro’ the house,

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced through their heads;

And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,

Had settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter;

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow

Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below:

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled and shouted, and called them by name—

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer! now, Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Dunder and Blixen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!”

As the leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,

With the sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too;

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around,

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot!

A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack;

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, 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 as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face, and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump; a right jolly old elf;

And I laughed, when I saw him, in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went strait [sic] to his work,

And filled all the stockings—then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle,

But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,


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