Thanksgiving in the Field

Another Thanksgiving weekend is upon us, and as Civil War buffs it’s worth remembering that Lincoln established the nation’s official observance of the holiday. I was surprised to read, in these soldiers’ letters, that gluttony has been a traditional part of Thanksgiving since before the war, but that so too was sombre gratitude. (Funnily enough, there’s no mention of discount shopping in any of these missives home!)

In 1864, the Union League Club of New York City pleaded for donations of “cooked poultry and other proper meats” as well as “mince pies, sausages, and fruits” for men in the field. The call brought in some $57,000 in cash donations, as well as nearly 225,000 pounds of poultry and large quantities of cakes, gingerbread, pickles, apples, vegetables, and cheese. One appreciative soldier saw the deeper meaning, writing that “it isn’t the turkey, but the idea that we care for.”

Source: Civil War soldiers celebrated Thanksgiving in the field | | rapidcityjournal.com

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