Thanksgiving & the Civil War

Each year, Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with images of drab Pilgrim forefathers, Norman Rockwell turkey dinners, and autumnal themed centerpieces.  The foliage laced holiday had long been observed in New England, but was transformed into a truly “American” holiday directly as a result of the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for “a day of thanksgiving” in 1863. Early in the war, Thanksgiving had been celebrated by New England troops in the field but was not widely recognized by all sections of the country.  Before the war, Virginia Governor Henry Wise had resisted calls to adopt the holiday because he believed it celebrated “abolitionism.”

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