Did Santa Claus love Rebel children?

Historical Society hosts talk of Christmas of generations past

By Kevin Spradlin

* Audio – Kelly Atkins Hinson on “Christmas on the Plantations”

ROCKINGHAM — More than 50 people attended the Richmond County Historical Society‘s annual Christmas gathering on Sunday at the historic Leak-Wall House.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Kelly Atkins Hinson portrayed Rebecca Cameron for her first story Sunday night at the historic Leak-Wall House in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Kelly Atkins Hinson portrayed Rebecca Cameron for her first story Sunday night at the historic Leak-Wall House in Rockingham.

Featured was Kelly Atkins Hinson, who portrayed Rebecca Cameron for the evening with a story most apropos. The host home was built in 1853, and Hinson’s portrayals focused on Christmases between the Civil War and the 1890s.

Cameron was a granddaughter of Alfred Moore, the second and last justice from North Carolina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Moore, for whom Moore County is named, was appointed to the bench by President John Adams in 1799.

Hinson first read “Christmas on the Plantations of the Cape Fear,” the original story of which was published in The Ladies’ Home Journal in December 1891. The story focuses on how Cameron recalled Christmas time from her childhood in the Cape Fear region from a well-to-do perspective.

She also talked of how parents answered children’s questions when they asked about where Santa Claus was during the Civil War between the years of 1861 and 1865.

General Lee and Santa Claus” takes a story written by Louise Clack’s Christmas Gift To Her Little Southern Friends. The text first appeared in 1867 and through letters written by three children — Lutie, Birdie and Minnie — to

Image from The Ladies' Home Journal, December 1891

Image from The Ladies’ Home Journal, December 1891

Confederate General Robert E. Lee in which they write that, because the children’s aunt believes in the general’s honesty, he would undoubtedly answer the girls’ question about Santa Claus in a straightforward answer.

Lee responds that, ” I can assure you he is one of the best friends that the little Southern girls have” and goes on to explain Santa’s absence

The Richmond County Historical Society resumes its regular monthly meeting scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Jan. 19 at Rockingham City Hall.


“General Lee and Santa Claus”

Dear General Lee:

We think you are the goodest man that ever lived, and our auntie says you will go right straight to heaven when you die; so we want to ask you a question, for we want to know the truth about it, and we know that you always speak the truth.

Please tell us whether Santa Claus loves the little rebel children, for we think he don’t; because he did not come to see us for four Christmas Eves. Auntie thinks you would not let him cross the lines, and we don’t know how to find out unless we write and ask you. We all love you dearly, and we want to send you something; but we have not any thing nice enough; we lost all our toys in the war. Birdie wants to send you one of our white kittens–the one with black ears; but Auntie thinks maybe you don’t like kittens. We say little prayers for you every night, dear General Lee, and ask God to make you ever so happy. Please let us know about Santa Claus as soon as you can; we want to know for something very, very, very particular; but we can’t tell even you why until Christmas time, so please to excuse us.

Your little friends,
Lutie, Birdie, and Minnie


My dear little friends: 

I was very glad to receive your kind letter, and to know by it that I have the good wishes and prayers of three innocent little girls, named Lutie, Birdie, and Minnie.

I am very glad that you wrote about Santa Claus for I am able to tell you all about him. I can assure you he is one of the best friends that the little Southern girls have. You will understand this when I explain to you the reason of his not coming to see you for four years.

The first Christmas Eve of the war I was walking up and down in the camp ground, when I thought I heard a singular noise above my head; and on looking to find out from whence it came, I saw the queerest, funniest-looking little old fellow riding along in a sleigh through the air. On closer inspection, he proved to be Santa Claus.

Halt! Halt!, I said; but at this the funny fellow laughed, and did not seem inclined to obey, so again I cried Halt!. And he drove down to my side with a sleigh full of toys. I was very sorry for him when I saw the disappointed expression of his face when I told him he could go no further South; and when he exclaimed, Oh, what will my little Southern children do! I felt more sorry, for I love little children to be happy, and especially at Christmas. But of one thing I was certain–I knew my little friends would prefer me to do my duty, rather than have all the toys in the world; so I 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.

Then Santa Claus sprang into his sleigh, and putting his hand to his hat in true military style, said: I obey orders, General, and away he went. Long before morning he came sweeping down into camp again, with not only every thing I had ordered, but with many other things that our poor soldiers needed. And every Christmas he took the toy money and did the same thing; and the soldiers and I blessed him, for he clothed and fed many a poor soul who otherwise would have been cold and hungry. Now, do you not consider him a good friend. I hold him in high respect, and trust you will always do the same.

I should be pleased to hear from you again, my dear little girls, and I want you ever to consider me,

Your true friend,
General Robert E. Lee

This story was never intended for profit. All the royalties from Mrs. Clack’s gift to her little Southern friends went to the orphans of the South. She wanted it that way. And in 1996, when the tale was reprinted by Alexander Books, a part of the profits were earmarked to assist in the upkeep of Stratford Hall, Lee’s birthplace. The story is now in the public domain.


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