A Prayer for the President
By Morgan Gates
A scene from an Episcopal prayer service, in Vicksburg Mississippi the Rector leads the congregation in prayer:
O LORD, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favor to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A murmur runs through the congregation, there is a tension in the room, most are too polite to speak it, but the thoughts running through their minds are almost audible. Oh My God, did he really just pray for God to bless that awful man? He is not my President! The only reason he is in charge of us is due to outside meddling!
There are also members of the local government and law enforcement in the congregation that day as well. They can see the discontent in the crowd; they wonder if a violent protest is about to break out right here in this church service. Churches have often been hotbeds of political dissent. One of them wonders if he should summon back up immediately. Another thinks “what is wrong with these people, can’t they at least respect the office if not the man?” Then several of the leading ladies of the congregation storm out the back door in protest! The tension breaks the officials breath a sigh of relief.
The protest described above was not a protest against Donald Trump: it was against Abraham Lincoln, and it occurred in a prayer service in Christ Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve in 1863! On December 24th, 1863 Vicksburg had been an occupied city for six months! Martial law was in effect; Blue coated troops patrolled the streets! The previous rector of the church the Reverend W.W. Lord and ardent Confederate had departed the City after the surrender. Another man now filled the pulpit. Quite a few of the Union occupiers were of the Episcopal denomination and attended services at the church regularly, and it was at their insistence that he pulled out the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and led the congregation that particular prayer on that particular day. The Prayer for the President of the United States was not something new, but it had been modified to read the Prayer for the President of the Confederate States by most southerners since succession! The protesting ladies did not get off “scot free” however. They were identified by the Union officials and banned from the city for the duration of the war! It was said that the Union officials discovered that: The Men of Vicksburg had surrendered, but the women had not!
By Morgan Gates
'Tis the Christmas season, and all are scurrying about finishing up their shopping and having Holiday get-togethers and such, so the postings have been a bit lean here lately, our apologies! So here is a little tidbit, for you, a bit out on the edge of our usual genre perhaps, but interesting none the less.
The most famous Christmas Ghost story is, of course, Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" – You know it well, Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future! But did you know that Christmas was once as associated with Ghost Stories as Halloween? (See the link to the article in Smithsonian Magazine below)
The tradition long predates Dickens it seems, but the Puritans did not much like it so it never really "crossed the pond" so to speak. Dickens' work gave Christmastide ghost story a brief burst of life in the new world in the 19th century, but eventually, it was the Halloween tradition brought west by Scottish immigrants that became the scary holiday!
But I digress! Yes, Christmas was once a time of Peace on Earth, goodwill toward man and Fear of Hell and damnation! Almost lost among the black Friday sales and Jolly old elves and reindeer, is Santa’s dark alter ego, Krampus! Almost lost, until Hollywood disinterred him a couple of years ago that is, the Krampus story originates in alpine regions of German and Austria. The figure is somewhat demonic in appearance, often described as a smallish hunched over figure with horns. He would deliver bundles of birch branches to beat bad children with and a sack or pack in which he would carry particularly bad children off to never be seen again! Que the shivers!
Ok, so what does this have to do with Vicksburg? Well, there were many immigrants from or descendants of immigrants from these Germanic lands in the south. When I was growing up, I was taught not that Santa brought misbehaving children "switches" not lumps of coal! Finally, a story from my father's childhood! When he was a child he was taught that a "boogeyman" called "Sack-a-Billy" traveled all around the land and he would put particularly terrible little children in a sack he carried over his shoulder and carry them off, and they would never be seen again! Sack-a Billy was described as a stooped shouldered old man who walked the railroad tracks from town to town! Sound familiar?
One, day in a fit of anger my father – just a child at the time – set out to run away from home, and burst out the front door at a run! The Vicksburg Street on which he lived has a railroad track running right alongside it. As luck would have it, at that particular moment a stooped over old man with a sack over his shoulder was walking by his house! Well, you can imagine how quickly he reversed course and decided running away was not such a good idea!
Of course, my 6 or 7-year future father had not actually encountered a supernatural being, for this was during the 1930's when many men down on their luck traveled the railroads as Hobos. When my father was alive, we laughed over this story many a time, but it was just recently that realized that in a way he had an encounter with a Vicksburg Mississippi incarnation of Krampus!
He’s making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Krampus is coming to get you tonight!
Peace on Earth? What Peace?
By Morgan Gates
Peace on earth, goodwill towards men… famous words indeed! Words uttered by the Heavenly Host in Luke 2:14 ! Yet there has always been war, and strife and suffering and this side of heaven I suppose there always will be both then and now…
This Saturday (12/9/2017) the Old Courthouse Museum will have their annual Christmas Ball, a reenactment of an actual Christmas Ball thrown for the Confederate officers and their ladies on Christmas Eve 1862. This ball was famously interrupted by a messenger warning of an impending attack by General William T. Sherman and 32,000 men. Sherman's men sat aboard crowded transports that Christmas day, their Confederate counterparts spent the day hastily marching and digging in! No peace on earth that day!
Briefly, Sherman's men land along Chickasaw Bayou a tributary of the Yazoo River a few miles north of Vicksburg, they find themselves in the disadvantageous position, of being in a partially flooded swamp while the Confederates hold the high ground. The battle lasts three days and ends in a Confederate victory. (We will delve more deeply into this almost forgotten battle at a future date) .
By the Christmas season of 1863 the War had moved on to other regions of the South, but Vicksburg was in shambles and many around Vicksburg, were hungry and impoverished. Some say the custom of eating black-eyed peas on New Years Day arose in Vicksburg during this time. In the antebellum years, this legume was reserved for animal fodder and was thus one of the few crops not burned or confiscated by the Union Army during the war. Of course, Vicksburg recovered quickly post-war, and soon there were times of plenty and peace again.
War and personal strife, and suffering, I am afraid are just part of the human condition. I doubt that there has been a point in all of history where there has not been a war raging somewhere on God’s green earth, and I am absolutely sure there has not been a time without personal strife. So, what was the point of these words spoken so long ago by celestial beings at the birth of our savior? God has always been more concerned with us as individuals than as a species and with the condition of one person’s heart (yours or mine)!
So how do we find peace on a troubled Earth, or offer goodwill to our fellow man! We find it through him!
We here at Rediscovering Historic Vicksburg would like to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and pray that you will find your own peace and goodwill towards men!