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  • Writer's pictureGordon Thorsby

Originally Proclaimed in 1863; Thanksgiving

by Gordon Thorsby

So we do not forget.

The year of 1863 had yielded Chancellorsville, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Chattanooga and a hundred other battles with well over 170,000 casualties.

Thanksgiving was celebrated in some homes across the land. One Sarah Joseph Hale, since the 1840’s, believed Thanksgiving deserved to play a greater role in our country’s existence and wrote Lincoln to do something about it. Lincoln accepted the challenge.

Beginning in November on the last Thursday of the month, Thanksgiving would henceforth be celebrated. On October 3, 1863, Lincoln specifically pronounced:

“And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Thanksgiving originated as we always learned with pilgrims and Native Americans celebrating a bountiful harvest. Lincoln’s proclamation took it national so that it might seek the reunify a divided country, divided communities, and even divided families.

Take a minute on Thanksgiving to explain it to your children and grandchildren.


National Archives

The Atlantic, How Lincoln Redefined Thanksgiving and Christmas, David S. Reynolds.

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