A Soldier’s Story from Christmas Past


By: Guest Authors

By: Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.

May God bless the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who defend our freedom. This Christmas story is dedicated to all who sacrifice their comfort to help keep us free.

Christmas was once a wonderful time for celebrating with family, friends and supper at Grandma’s house. Grandpa would gather the children around the fire place and tell them the story of Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas Day. Grandma would make ginger bread cookies for the young folks as daddy brought the Christmas tree in the family room for decorating. Mother would lead us in the singing of ‘Silent Night—Holy Night’ as the Christmas star of Bethlehem was placed on top of the tree.

Some people, now, call it a ‘holiday.’ People stand in line at malls, after Thanksgiving, then rush through the doors to buy, buy and buy some more.

Is this Christmas? Partly, but this story is about the true meaning of Christmas.

The year was 1919, one year after the end of World War I, and the people of Atlanta , Georgia were celebrating the Christmas Season. Many people attended Church or Synagogue and gave thanks to God for his many blessings. Folks, while shopping, were uplifted by sweet sounds of Christmas music played by the Salvation Army Band. There was a friendly and charitable atmosphere during this time of the year.

There were, however, some who were not as fortunate!

The aging veterans, in the Confederate Soldier’s Home, were proud men who had braved many a battle in the 1860s. One of these men was former Captain Thomas Yopp who saw such battles as that of Fredericksburg where a cannon shell burst knocked him unconscious.

The man who stayed with him until he recovered was his servant who had also joined the 14th Georgia Regiment, Company H. Bill Yopp was more then a servant; he and Thomas Yopp were friends who hunted and fished together.

Bill Yopp, a Black Confederate, was sympathetic to the men of Atlanta ’s soldiers home who had been his compatriots in arms over fifty years earlier.

During the War Between the States, 1861-1865, Bill Yopp was nicknamed “Ten Cent Bill” because of the money he made shining shoes. He did this for the soldiers at a dime a shine and ended up with more money than most of his comrades. These men, also, cared for him when he was sick.

During the Christmas of 1919, Bill wanted to pay back the kindness that was shown to him. He caught a train from Atlanta to Macon , where he was offered help from the editor of a local newspaper [The Macon Telegraph]. He then caught a train to Savannah to raise Christmas money for the old veterans. Bill met many generous people on his trip.

Just weeks before the Christmas of 1919, he had raised the money and Georgia ’s Governor Hugh Dorsey helped him distribute envelopes of three dollars to each veteran. That was a lot of money in those days.

The old Confederates were speechless. Tears were shed because of Bill Yopp’s good heart and kind deed. Many of these men had little or nothing. Bill was invited to come into the home’s Chapel and say a few words.

Bill Yopp was later presented a medal of appreciation for his support of the old soldiers and also voted in as a resident of the Confederate Soldier’s Home.

Bill died on June 3, 1936, the 128th birthday of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. He was buried at Marietta, Georgia ’s Confederate Cemetery with his compatriots. The Confederate Soldier’s Home was located at 401 Confederate Ave., in Atlanta , Georgia .

Christmas is about love, forgiveness, old friends, family and the Child who became a savior.

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Jesus!!

The source of information for this story came from the book, entitled: Bill Yopp “Ten Cent Bill” Narrative of a Slave! This book was written in 1969 by Charles W. Hampton.

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