(Originally published on the Intramuralist 3 years ago… a fantastic reminder today…)
It was 1863…
January first brought us The Second Battle of Galveston. Three companies of Union forces under the command of Col. Isaac S. Burrell were captured or killed both on land and by sea by the armies of Maj. Gen. John B. Magruder. Magruder had prioritized the re-seizing of the city. 26 people were killed. 117 were wounded.
January later brought us The Second Battle of Springfield. Confederate General John Marmaduke attempted to overtake a Union supply point in Springfield, Missouri. It was unique battle in that it was an urban battle, fought house-to-house. It is estimated that 70-80 persons were killed and over 200 were wounded.
February was The Battle of Dover — March included battles at Brentwood, Thompson’s Station, Vaught’s Hill, and many more. April was the first fight in Charleston, South Carolina.
Look at the fighting… states, houses, peoples all attempting to harm one another. And the battles didn’t cease as the year went on. Suffolk, Vermillion, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg… these were fierce fights. In fact, the war was ongoing the entire year. It did not end until Pres. Andrew Johnson’s formal declaration on August 20, 1866 — over two years later.
And yet, on Thanksgiving in 1863, then Pres. Abraham Lincoln wrote this:
“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 a year filled with unprecedented battle, Lincoln exhorted that we dare not miss the blessing… a blessing that is always present, always available… no matter the struggle… no matter the suffering… no matter what.
The giving of thanks is a beautiful thing… It takes the focus off of self; it reminds us of the source from which our blessings and bounties come; and it softens the individual heart.
“… 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.”
Lincoln acknowledged a day set apart, encouraging all to think of far more than self, to think especially of those who have suffered greatly — the widows, orphans, mourners, and more. Yes, there is much strife in this world. This is not — nor should it ever be mistaken for — heaven.
The great beauty of Lincoln’s proclamation is that in a year of unprecedented struggle and strife, he calls on all people to come together, kneel in both reverence and humility, and fervently ask the Almighty to heal our nation’s wounds.
Happy Thanksgiving, friends. May we spur one another on to good things. May we love our neighbor well, do our part in building unity, and may we sincerely embrace the restoration and full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union in our land.
Respectfully… with Thanksgiving…