Voice from the Past – Thankfully Keeping Thanksgiving Day

Our Thanksgiving tribute continues. Today’s “Voice from the Past” is Wilder Dwight of the Second Massachusettes Infantry Volunteers.

“Camp near Seneca, November 16, 1861.
…The virtue of this military life is the importunate recurrence of daily duty. Rain or shine, health or sickness, joy or grief, reveille knocks ‘oequo pede’ with impartial cadence at every tent. Its lively and awakening beat thrills a new life through the camp, as the rising sun whitens the glowing east. And then when tattoo at evening awakes the men to sleep (for it is not a soothing strain), ‘duty performed’ has made them happy, or should have done so, on the authority of the great expounder of the Constitution himself. Such are the consolations of camp life in November. But then, as Dr. Hedge happily observes in a discourse on ‘National Weakness,’ ‘the Rebel power is still unsubdued; the harvest is passed, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.’ True, but we are not lost. We propose in the Massachusetts Second to keep Thanksgiving day thankfully, if not for what has happened, at-least for what has nothappened. I have just sent out an order for the provision of Thanksgiving dinners for the men. And I quite expect that turkey and plumpudding will smoke on our mess-pans and exhale from our ovens on Thursday next. I could be content to be at home on that day, but, failing that, I shall enjoy an attempt to extemporize and emulate a New England Thanksgiving in a Maryland camp on the wrong bank of the Potomac. We shall read the Thanksgiving Proclamation, and be as happy as we may. I suppose you will have your usual celebration. I expect to enjoy the unusual honor to come in among the absent friends…”

Source: Dwight, Wilder. “Letter from Wilder Dwight, November 16, 1861,” in Life and Letters of Wilder Dwight: Lieut.-Col. Second Mass. Inf. Vols. (Boston: Ticknor & Co., 1891).

Image Credit: Harper’s Weekly, 8 December 1864.

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