A Black Soldier's Christmas Gift
By Calvin E. Johnson, Jr.
Kennesaw, Georgia

What has happened to Christmas?
The merchants and media now call it a holiday. People stand in line at malls after Thanksgiving, then rush through the doors to buy, buy, buy.
Is this Christmas? Partly, but this story is about the true meaning of Christmas.
In 1919 the people of Atlanta, Georgia were like we are today. The Christmas season was a special time for family, friends and children. Folks went to church and gave thanks to God for their many blessings.
There were, however, some who were not as fortunate!
The aging veterans in the Confederate Soldiers home, were proud men who have braved many a battle in the 1860s. One of these men was former Captain Thomas Yopp who saw battle in such places as Fredericksburg where a cannon shell burst knocked him unconscious.
The man who stayed with him until he recovered was his slave who had also joined the 14th Georgia Regiment Company H. Bill Yopp was more then a slave; he and Thomas Yopp were friends who hunted and fished together.
Bill Yopp, a Black Confederate, was sympathetic to the men at Atlanta's soldiers home who had been his compatriots in arms over 50 years ago.
In the War Between the States of 1861-1865, Bill Yopp was nicknamed "Ten Cent Bill" because of the money he made for shining shoes. He did this for the soldiers at a dime a shine and ended up with more money than most of his comrades. He was also cared for when sick.
During the Christmas Season of 1919, Bill wanted to pay back the kindness shown to him. He caught a train to Macon, where he was offered help by Mr. Anderson of the Macon Telegraph newspaper. He then caught a train to Savannah to raise Christmas money for the old veterans.
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.
His old master, Thomas Yopp, was near death. Later, Bill was asked to speak at his funeral. Bill spoke of Thomas Yopp's kindness and generosity.
Bill Yopp was later given a medal of appreciation for his support of the old soldiers and later was voted in as a resident of the Confederate Soldier's home.
He died on June 3, 1936. It was said that he was headed for the pauper's grave, but the old soldiers raised such a ruckus that he is buried with them at the Confederate Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.
Christmas is about love, forgiveness, old friends, family and the child who became a Savior. Merry Christmas!
The source of information of this story came from a book, entitled: Bill Yopp "Ten Cent Bill" A NARRATIVE of a SLAVE! This book was written in 1969 by Charles W. Hampton.



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