A Nation Comes Together, Time and Again, to Give Thanks

Samuel Adams (John Singleton Copley, circa 1772, public domain).

Well before the outbreak of America’s devastating Civil War, the concept of Thanksgiving was on the minds of the nation’s founding fathers. Among those who grasped the importance of inspiring shared feelings of unity and gratitude between residents of the United States was Samuel Adams, who drafted the nation’s first Thanksgiving proclamation, which was then officially issued by the Continental Congress on 1 November 1777:

“FOR AS MUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of: And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy, not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence; but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defense and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased, in so great a Measure, to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops, and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive Powers of these UNITED STATES to set apart Thursday, the eighteenth Day of December next, for SOLEMN THANKSGIVING and PRAISE: That at one Time and with one Voice, the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that, together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favor; and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD through the Merits of JESUS CHRIST, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole: To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE: That it may please him, to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People, and the Labor of the Husbandman, that our Land may yield its Increase: To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand; and to prosper the Means of Religion, for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom, which consisteth ‘in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.’

And it is further recommended, That servile Labor, and such Recreation, as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.”

Nearly twelve years later, on 3 October 1789, President George Washington also urged Americans to come together to express their gratitude, and proclaimed that that year’s celebration would be held on 26 November:

“By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

George Washington

Thanksgiving, November 1863 (Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, 5 December 1863, public domain).

Nearly three quarters of a century later, Pennsylvania’s Civil War governor, Andrew Gregg Curtin, urged his fellow Keystone State residents to pray that God would “bestow upon our Civil Rulers, wisdom and earnestness in council and upon our military leaders zeal and vigor in action, that the fires of rebellion may be quenched, that we, being armed with His defense, may be preserved from all perils, and that hereafter our people living in peace and quietness, may, from generation to generation, reap the abundant fruits of His mercy; and with joy and thankfulness praise and magnify His holy name.”

A year later, President Abraham Lincoln penned the following words as part of his own sobering, yet hopeful proclamation:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. 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, tranquillity and Union.”

So, with our common heritage in mind, and as an expression of deep gratitude for the ongoing support of our many wonderful readers and volunteers who have helped us build a loyal following for 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story, we present this collection of links to our most popular Thanksgiving-related content. With our best wishes from “our house” to yours, wherever you reside in this our United States of America, may you have a peaceful, bountiful and joyous holiday season. And in the New Year to come, may we all, finally, embrace the belief that one’s ability to show kindness and compassion in the face of adversity is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Thanksgiving Post Collection — 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story

 

Sources:

1. Basler, Roy P., editor, et. al. Collected works, Vol. 6. The Abraham Lincoln Association/Springfield, Illinois. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1953.

2. Curtin, Andrew Gregg. Proclamation of a Day of Thanksgiving – 1862,” in Pennsylvania Archives: Fourth Series, Vol. VIII: “Papers of the Governors, 1858-1871,” Samuel Hazard, John Blair Lynn, William Henry Egle, et. al., editors. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer, 1902.

3. Snyder Family Recipes: Turkey, Filling and Gravy (Thanksgiving and Christmas),” in 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story. Snyder Family Archives: © 2017-present. All rights reserved.

4. Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863: A primary source by Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Nast.” New York, New York: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of History, retrieved online 1 November 2017.

5. Thanksgiving Proclamation 1777 By the Continental Congress: The First National Thanksgiving Proclamation.” Plymouth, Massachusetts: Pilgrim Hall Museum, retrieved online 4 November 2019.

6.Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789,” in “Education — Primary Sources.” Mount Vernon, Virginia: George Washington’s Mount Vernon, retrieved online 4 November 2019.

7. Wharton, Henry D. Letter from the Sunbury Guards: Key West, Fla., 23 August 1863 (Henry Wharton’s Thanksgiving Update, 1863). Sunbury, Pennsylvania: Sunbury American, 5 September 1863.

 

A Thanksgiving Message from the Past: Abraham Lincoln

Thanksgiving, November 1863 (Thomas Nast, Harper’s Weekly, 5 December 1863, public domain).

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

 

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God.

In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union.

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. 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, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

 

* Notes: According to Lincoln historian Roy P. Basler, “The original draft of this proclamation has not been located, but a letter from John G. Nicolay to John Hay from New York, April 1, 1864, relates that ‘the Mss. of the President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, which was written by Seward and is in his handwriting’ had been sent by the State Department to Leavitt Hunt ‘to be sold at the Fair.’”

The proceeds from that and other Sanitary Fairs raised millions of dollars funds in support of the aid rendered by the U.S. Sanitary Commission to sick and wounded Union soldiers and their families.

Nicolay, a German immigrant, served as one of two private secretaries to President Abraham Lincoln.

The paragraph formatting used for the reprinting of the proclamation (above) was taken from the formatting used for the publication of the proclamation in the 17 October 1863 edition of Harper’s Weekly.

 

Sources:

1. Basler, Roy P., editor, et. al. Collected works, vol. 6. The Abraham Lincoln Association/Springfield, Illinois. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1953.

2. Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863: A primary source by Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Nast. New York, New York: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of History, retrieved online 1 November 2017.

 

 

A Thanksgiving Message from the Past: Andrew Gregg Curtin

Andrew Gregg Curtin, Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, c. 1860 (public domain).

Proclamation of a Day of Thanksgiving. – 1862.

Pennsylvania, ss.
(Signed) A. G. Curtin.

 

IN THE NAME AND BY the Authority of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, ANDREW G. CURTIN, Governor of the said Commonwealth.

A PROCLAMATION.

 

Whereas, It is a good thing to render thanks unto God for His Mercy and loving kindness:

Therefore, I Andrew G. Curtin Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, do recommend that Thursday the 27th day of November next, be set apart by the people of this Commonwealth, as a day of solemn Prayer and Thanksgiving to the Almighty: – Giving Him thanks that He has been graciously pleased to protect our free institutions and Government, and to keep us from sickness and pestilence; and to cause the earth to bring forth her increase, so that our garners are choked with the harvest; and to look so favorably on the toil of His children, that industry has thriven among us and labor had its reward; and also that He hath delivered us from the hands of our enemies, and filled our officers and men in the field with a loyal and intrepid spirit and given them victory; and that He has poured out upon us (albeit unworthy) other great and manifold blessings:

Beseeching Him to help and govern us, in his steadfast fear and love, and to put into our minds good desires, so that by His continued help we may have a right judgement in all things:

And especially praying Him to give to Christian churches grace to hate the thing which is evil, and to utter the teachings of truth and righteousness, declaring openly the whole counsel of God:

And most heartily entreating Him to bestow upon our Civil Rulers, wisdom and earnestness in council and upon our military leaders zeal and vigor in action, that the fires of rebellion may be quenched, that we, being armed with His defense, may be preserved from all perils, and that hereafter our people living in peace and quietness, may, from generation to generation, reap the abundant fruits of His mercy; and with joy and thankfulness praise and magnify His holy name.

Great Seal of the State of Pennsylvania (public domain).

Given under my Hand and the Great Seal of the State at Harrisburg, this twentieth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two, and the Commonwealth the eighty-seventh.

By the Governor:

Eli Slifer,
Secretary of the Commonwealth.

 

 

 

Source:

Curtin, Andrew Gregg. Proclamation of a Day of Thanksgiving – 1862, in Pennsylvania Archives: Fourth Series, Vol. VIII: Papers of the Governors, 1858-1871, Samuel Hazard, John Blair Lynn, William Henry Egle, et. al., editors. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Wm. Stanley Ray, State Printer, 1902.

 

Snyder Family Recipes: Turkey, Filling and Gravy (Thanksgiving and Christmas)

 

Selecting the Thanksgiving Turkey, cover, Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper (4 December 1860, public domain).

Ingredients – Filling:

  •  4½ pounds of sliced onions
  • 2 tablespoons of parsley
  • 3 tablespoons of sweet marjoram*
    (also called leaf marjoram)
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of butter-flavored Crisco (original recipe used lard)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons of margarine
  • 20 slices of dried bread
    (cut into cubes, excluding crusts)
  • 3 pounds of quartered potatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • margarine and milk
    (the amounts typically used in mashed potatoes)
  • 3 raw eggs
    (leave unbroken until you reach the appropriate step in the filling recipe)

Ingredients and Cooking Implements – Turkey and Gravy:

  • 1 turkey (or chicken)
  • salt and pepper
  • butter-flavored PAM cooking spray
  • 1 Reynolds Kitchen oven bag
    (add 2 tablespoons of flour and shake to coat bag)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1½ to 3 cups of water

 

Making the Filling:

1. Use 2 frying pans. Place 2 tablespoons of Crisco and 1 tablespoon of margarine in each pan.

 2. Melt the Crisco-margarine mix, and then add 2¼ pounds of onions to each pan. Sauté the onions for roughly 1½ to 2 hours (over low heat so they won’t burn) until they’re translucent and golden.

3a. Lower the burner heat to simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of parsley and 1½ tablespoons of sweet marjoram to each pan; mix well. (*Note: By using sweet marjoram also called leaf marjoram rather than regular marjoram, you will preserve the taste of the original recipe, which is believed to have originated in Germany and to have been passed down through generations of the Snyder and Strohecker families prior to and following their pre-Revolutionary War arrival in America.)

3b. While the onions are cooking, boil 3 pounds of quartered potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain. Whip with hand mixer until well broken up. Add margarine and milk (in the same proportions as used for mashed potatoes). Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm until the onions have finished cooking.

4. Then add half of the dried bread cubes to each pan, and mix until evenly coated. DO NOT BURN.

5. After the onions have finished cooking and the seasonings and bread cubes have been added and browned, turn off the burner’s heat. Then add half of the mashed potatoes to each pan and mix well.

6. Combine the potato-onion-bread filling mixture from both pans in one large bowl; refrigerate until cold. [Reminder: ALWAYS fill a COLD BIRD with COLD FILLING to reduce the potential for salmonella.]

6a. Before stuffing the turkey with the filling, break 3 raw eggs over the filling and mix well.

6b. Put the remaining filling (which was not used to stuff the bird) into a buttered casserole dish, and cover with aluminum foil. Then, 20 minutes before the bird is done, place the casserole dish into the oven beside the bird so that the “non-bird version” of the filling mix will also heat through in time to be served.

 

Preparing and Roasting the Turkey:

1. Unwrap the bird, remove the turkey neck and giblet packages from the bird’s cavities, and soak the turkey in ice-cold salt water for 10 minutes. Then, drain the water, rinse the bird in cold water, and soak the turkey in fresh ice water for an additional 10 minutes to remove the salt. (Use a bowl which is large enough to cover the bird, or keep the water running, and turn the turkey over frequently.) Once the bird is thoroughly cleaned, remove and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

3. Salt and pepper the bird’s cavities to taste. Then stuff the cavities of the turkey loosely with the filling mix created from the recipe above. (Note: Stuffing the bird too tightly with filling may cause the turkey to explode.)

4. Spray the bird all over (including the bottom) with butter-flavored PAM cooking spray. Then, shield the bird’s legs and wings with aluminum foil so they won’t burn, and place the bird in a Reynolds Kitchens oven bag (to which 2 tablespoons of flour have been added and shaken around to coat the bag). Cut 4 one-inch slits in the bag, and roast. (Make sure the roasting pan is large enough so the bird doesn’t hang over the sides, and follow the roasting time instructions on the package of bags. Or see the roasting times posted on the Reynolds Kitchens’ website.)

5. Check on the progress of the bird every 30 minutes, rotating the turkey in the oven so that it browns evenly; spray with more PAM if the bird looks dry. As the end of the roasting time approaches for the bird, stick a meat thermometer into the thigh and, without touching any bone, verify whether or not the turkey is fully cooked. (When the temperature reaches 190 degrees, the bird is done.)

6a. Remove the roasting pan from the oven, carefully take the turkey out of the bag, and set it to the side of your workspace (covered with aluminum foil). Begin preparing the gravy while the turkey is cooling.

6b. After 20 minutes, remove the filling from the cavities and carve the bird.

 

Making the Perfect Gravy:  

1. Carefully empty the turkey’s juices from the roasting bag into a pot. Place the pot on a stove burner and, on low heat, bring the juices to a slow boil, stirring to keep from burning.

2. When the juices reach a slow boil, turn off the heat, strain the contents through a sieve to remove the accumulated grease, and return the contents to the pan.

3a. Stirring constantly, bring the juices to a slow boil once again. During this process, add 2 chicken bouillon cubes, 1 beef bouillon cube (for color), and extra water (½ cup at a time, stirring until cubes are dissolved and your desired taste is achieved).

3b. In a container with a tight fitting lid, create a thickening mixture for the turkey juices by combining 2 tablespoons of flour with 1 cup of cold water; shake until smooth. Then, while constantly stirring, add the flour-water mixture to turkey juices a little at a time until the gravy reaches your desired consistency (while also being careful not to burn the gravy). Keep the gravy warm while carving the bird; then transfer to a gravy boat and serve with the roast turkey, Snyder Family Filling, and vegetables of your choice.

 

To learn more about the Snyder family’s history during the U.S. Civil War, see Corporal Timothy Matthias Snyder – A Patriot’s Great-Grandson and Telephone Pioneer’s Father.

 

 

Copyright: Snyder Family Archives, © 2017-present. All rights reserved.

Recipe Disclaimer: 47th Pennsylvania Volunteers: One Civil War Regiment’s Story and its creators assume no obligation or liability for any accidents, fires, food poisoning/food borne disease, or other problems that may result from preparing or eating these recipes, and make no warranties or guarantees of favorable results from this recipe’s use. Results may differ due to variations in the quality of ingredients used, omissions from the recipes posted, cooking temperatures, and/or individual cooking abilities. Caution is advised when working with eggs and other raw ingredients. Please see the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ website for these important food safety tips.