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Why a Civil War soldier's Christmas fruit cake made Macon headlines for over 50 years

Macon Telegraph - 12/23/2019

Dec. 23--The fruitcakes kept coming.

So did the newspaper headlines and articles about the fruitcakes.

For at least 60 years, the holiday delicacies and the printed accounts announcing their annual arrival at the home of a Civil War veteran in Macon were a Christmas rite for the soldier's family and for The Telegraph and its readers.

The cakes -- one each Christmas -- were shipped from a Civil War-era doctor in Virginia to the Macon veteran he had befriended during the war and, on two occasions, nursed back to health.

Early in the war, when the teenage soldier was ill with measles, the doctor tended to him.

The doctor did so again later, inviting the soldier into his Petersburg, Virginia, home when the soldier, months shy of his 21st birthday, was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

The soldier, Abner Thurmond Holt -- who in the mid-1880s established the A.T. Holt Company, a Macon real estate firm still in existence -- served with the Floyd Rifles, among the first Confederate volunteers to enter the war.

For years in the newspaper here, headlines like one from Christmas 1898 -- by then nearly four decades into the tradition -- were a yuletide staple: "His Thirty-Seventh Cake. ... Mr. A.T. Holt Received His Annual Present."

That year's accompanying write-up mentioned how Dr. Charles C. Couch, the physician who sent the cakes, had "tenderly nursed" Holt during Holt's days in the Confederate army, including the time Holt was wounded and "it was thought he would die."

Couch sent Holt the first cake early in the war and the token ritual of their friendship continued after each of their deaths, carried out by the doctor's family on into the early 1920s.

Holt died in 1909 at age 66, but his wife and children kept getting the cakes for another decade.

A Telegraph write-up in 1917 described what had between the soldier and doctor been "a warm friendship," one that upheld the fruitcake tradition down the years and one that made sure each Christmas that a cake "baked by loving hands" was sent to the Holt household.

That year's story about the 10-pound cake and its 550-mile journey to Macon concluded that "no feature of Christmas is enjoyed more by the Holt family than this cake."

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(c)2019 The Macon Telegraph (Macon, Ga.)

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