The last Thanksgiving thought I wanted to leave you with was discussing President Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation. I knew of many Presidential speeches but hadn’t actually gotten to know this one. I wanted to have other readers of AC to get a glimpse of this very important speech and think about what it means now. I give you, the actual written speech and then I will go over parts I found to be worth thinking about:
“The year that is drawing toward 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 can not 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 unequaled 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 theater of military conflict, while that theater 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 defense have not arrested the plow, the shuttle, or the ship; the ax has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well as the iron and coal as of our 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 battlefield, 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 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 imposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the divine purpose, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, 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 3d day of October, A.D. 1863, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
The second paragraph Lincoln is of course referring to the effects of what the Civil War had over the course of the year. Lee wins the battle at Chancellorsville which proved the Union army had become as impressive in battle as Lee’s heretofore “unbeatable” soldiers. Unfortunately “Stonewall” Jackson dies thereafter from severe battle wounds. Confederate invasion of Pennsylvania stopped at Gettysburg by George Meade-Lee loses 20,000 men-the greatest battle of the war that brought Confederate retreat and the Union’s reaction was a sense of some victory that was short lived when Lee’s army had escaped destruction, continuing the war. The immediate reaction of the Southern military and public sectors was that Gettysburg was a setback, not a disaster. Lee himself had a positive view of the campaign, writing to his wife that the army had returned “rather sooner than I had originally contemplated, but having accomplished what I proposed on leaving the Rappahannock, viz., relieving the Valley of the presence of the enemy and drawing his Army north of the Potomac.” He was quoted as saying to Maj. John Seddon, brother of the Confederate secretary of war, “Sir, we did whip them at Gettysburg, and it will be seen for the next six months that that army will be as quiet as a sucking dove.” He tried to resign his position after much criticism, but was denied. Despite everything, our President Lincoln gave a beautiful speech known as, “The Gettysburg Address”.
The war’s turning point was on Georgia-Tennessee border in which the Confederates had a victory. Countered by Union victories at Orchard Knob, Lookout Mountain, and Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, November 23-25, 1863.
Then in November Sherman, Hooker, and Thomas drive Bragg back to Georgia. Tennessee restored to the Union. This wasn’t the end of the war. But the years activities left an impact on the nation. I’m sure many wondered if the war would ever end.
In the next paragraph, Lincoln tells us that even in war that the fields that provided us food on our ancestors tables was going very well and that even in the deaths of many in battle, we still gained more citizens. God, in his mind may have looked down on our sins but didn’t forget to bless of with nourishment and people to suffice. And those more effected by war with evidence of broken families and children with out them, were still loved.
The President then goes into why all this is well worth the need for the remembrance of thanks. Saying that it would be a good offering to God each year to thank him for what it is that we do have. And that we should be blessed to have what we have instead of linger on what we don’t have and what ill has fallen on society.