Christmas event at BTW monument draws 700 visitors

Courtesy Photo: During the Christmas of 1863, the enslaved residents on the Burroughs farm were concerned about the increased quota system placed on Confederate families to donate more grain and food for the Army, leaving less food for them.

Visitors braved the cold to take a step back into another century on Dec. 7 as the Living History Guild at Booker T. Washington National Monument presented "Christmas of 1863: Wash Comes Home."

In commemoration of the Civil War 150th, this year's event focused on the Christmas of 1863.

The evening kicked off with the smell of gingerbread and hot apple cider, as children lined up with their parents and other family members and friends to feed the animals with volunteer farmer Linda.

Approximately 700 visitors came out to learn what life was like during the Christmas of 1863. It was the worst so far during "the War" for the Burroughs family. They had lost Billy Burroughs, who was killed at the Battle of Kelly's Ford in Culpeper, Virginia, in March. In July, Ben Burroughs was wounded, captured and hospitalized. Christopher Frank Burroughs had been captured and sent to a prison in Maryland.

As for the enslaved residents on the farm, they were concerned about the increased quota system placed on Confederate families to donate more grain and food for the Army and destitute families of Confederates killed or wounded in battle. This meant less food for them. Many enslaved fathers, brothers and sons were being hired out and pressed into service in dangerous occupations working for the Confederacy. The women were anxious about getting passes to see their husbands during the "Big Times" this year.

Various discussions about Christmas and the war continued amongst residents and visitors in the slave quarters and the big house. Talk revolved around food shortages, family members and friends who may not return home for Christmas, the "Big Times" and hopes for the future.

Next year's event will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6. The event next year will focus on the Christmas of 1864.

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