A British barrister, Henry Lantham (c1828-1871) kept a journal during his three month trip around the US in 1866. He spent Christmas Eve in Ellicott Mills, where egg-nogging was common when visiting, and guns were fired every 10 minutes "giving one the idea that the war had not ended yet at Ellicott's Mills." Egg nog was made cold and served cold, made from egg yolks, brandy, cream, milk mixed then topped with whipped egg whites. Sugar-plums were given.
Phila to Baltimore train ride
By rail [from Philadelphia] to Baltimore, ninety-eight miles. A flat dreary country; the land dismally doing penance in a white sheet of snow, and the waters covered with ice; possibly a pleasant country enough in summer, when the banks of its great rivers are green. As far as Wilmington, some thirty miles, we skirted the right bank of the estuary of the Delaware. Ten miles further, and we passed into Maryland, crossed the Susquehanna, and kept along the right bank of the Chesapeake Bay until we approached Baltimore. Outside the town we passed some large redoubts, thrown up partly to protect the town and partly to overawe the citizens—the first sign of the civil war which we have seen.
Train into Baltimore, horse drawn
When an American train reaches a town it does not dream of pulling up short in a suburb, but advances slowly through the streets; the driver on the engine rings a large bell, and a man on horseback rides in front to clear the way. Thus we entered Baltimore, arrived at the terminus and uncoupled the engine; and then, still sitting in the railway-car, were drawn by a team of horses along the street-rails to the terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway on the other side of the town. The axles of the wheels of these huge railway-cars turn like the front-wheels of a carriage, so that they are able to go round moderately sharp corners in a most surprising manner, and are got through the streets with much less difficulty than ladies' trunks are carried through the passages of hotels. On our way we were drawn along Price's Street, where at the beginning of the war the Federal troops were fired upon as they were passing through the town in the cars.
At the terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway we found our friends the H s, and travelled in their company to Ellicott's Mills—a station some fifteen miles from the town. One Ellicott, whose family has already perished from the place, dammed up the Patapsco, a noisy brawling river, and built grain-mills there; but the country round being hilly and cool, the place now thrives by the building of country-houses for the citizens of Baltimore, and has a pleasant little society. The Swedish ambassador [Baron Nils Erik Wilhelm af Wetterstedt (1815-1887)] has a house there, and doubtless finds it much more economical than living in Washington.
Christmas - guns fired; egg-nogging
Christmas festivities had begun; every ten minutes or oftener a gun or a squib was fired off, giving one the idea that the war had not ended yet at Ellicott's Mills. Christmas is not properly observed unless you brew 'egg-nog' for all comers; everybody calls upon everybody else; and each call is celebrated by a solemn egg-nogging.
Egg-nog is made in this wise: our egg-nog was made so, and was decided after a good deal of nogging around, to be the brew in Ellicott's Mills :— ‘Beat up the yolks of twelve eggs with powdered sugar, then beat up with them a pint of brandy, a quart of cream, and a quart of milk; lastly beat up the whites of your twelve eggs, and add them as a head and crown to your syllabub.' It is made cold, and is drunk cold, and is to be commended.
We had brought a store of sugar-plums, as the children all expect presents at this time. They hang up their stockings on Christmas Eve, and in the morning find them filled with goodies. At New York this is done by Criskindle (Christ kinde) and at Baltimore by Santa Claus (San Nicolas)."Latham, Henry. Black and White: A Journal of a Three Months' Tour in the United States. London: 1867
©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber
Forgotten history of Ellicott City & Howard County MD