Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 1861

I get the impression, from the various accounts of the first Thanksgiving of the Civil War, that  the holiday experience was different for each regiment. 

In a letter from C. (a member of Company D), published in the Maine Farmer December 5, 1861 - "28th. To-day has been Thanksgiving Day in the army.  Thanksgiving! what pleasing recollections cluster around that day!  Visions of the past from childhood to maturer years come thronging back upon the memory.  Joyous meetings of dear friends, happy firesides and festive scenes in our bright northern homes, feastings, jolity, and thankfulness!  Our Thanksgiving here is graver; mirth and feasting enter not into its arrangements; but the true thankfulness of the heart should - thankfulness that we are preserved alive when so many others are falling around us - that so many successes have crowned our arms, and that our cause is moving steadily and grandly on to certain triumph.  We may suffer, we may fall, yet we are thankful that God has made us the instruments of so much good to the human race.  Our Thanksgiving dinner was soup and hard bread - and it was hard.  There were no drills to-day, but the regulations were read to the boys in the afternoon.  This evening another solemn  procession passed through the camp, bearing another comrade to his last resting -place upon the hill.  Thus end the day in sadness, and the rain is falling gently upon our canvas roofs like angels' tears of pity and sympathy." 

In Maine Thanksgiving was celebrated on November 21, 1861. "Annual Thanksgiving in Maine, November 21, 1861, the day of the anniversary of the signing of the immortal compact on board the Mayflower, by our Pilgram fathers and the day that venerated band first trod the soil of New England."
(pg. 70 Minutes Of The General Conference Of The Congregational Churches In Maine At Their Thirty-Six Annual Meeting Held With The High Street Congregational Church, Portland June 24, 25, and 26, 1862. Printed by Brown Thurston. Portland 1862.)

On November 24th 1861 another soldier at Camp Griffin, William A. Bowers, from Company K wrote to his sister Eliza, "You [wanted] to know about Thanksgiving.   I [will] tell you how we spent the day,   and what we had for dinner. I come from picket about ten o’clock in the morning, and had breakfast of hard bread and salt beef, and for dinner, it was pea soup— and three [cups] water to one pea, and burnt in the bargain!— and hard bread, and for supper, hard bread and coffee. That [was] my Thanksgiving." ( William to Eliza, 24 November 1861, W. B. Pillsbury Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mi.)

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