Frank Moore, ed. Vol. 3. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1862
Thanksgiving in Virginia.
November 28, 1861.
Gov. Pierpont, of Virginia, issued the following proclamation, November 14th, 1861:
In the midst of war and its afflictions, we are more forcibly reminded of our dependence upon Divine Providence; and, while in all we suffer, we should own His chastening hand, we should be ready to acknowledge that it is of His mercy that we are not destroyed, and that so many of the blessings of life are preserved to us. Seedtime and harvest have not failed; the early and the latter rain have fallen in their seasons, and the toil of the husbandman has been abundantly repaid. It is, therefore, becoming, that while we earnestly pray that the days of our affliction may be shortened, we should thankfully acknowledge the manifold mercies, of which, nationally and individually, we are still the recipients.
Now, therefore, I, Francis H. Pierpont, Governor of Virginia, do hereby recommend to the good people of the Commonwealth the observance of Thursday, the 28th inst., as a day of Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings of the year; and of humble and fervent prayer that He will, in more abundant mercy, bring to a speedy end the heart-burnings, and civil strife, which are now desolating our country, and restore to our Union its ancient foundations of brotherly love and a just appreciation. And I do further recommend that all secular business and pursuits be, as far as possible, suspended on that day.
[L. S.] In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the Great Seal of the Commonwealth to be affixed, at the city of Wheeling, this 14th day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Commonwealth the eighty-sixth. Francis H. Pierpont.
By the Governor.
L. A. Hagans, Sec’y Comonwealth.
Thanksgiving.—Yesterday was Thanksgiving. The occasion was appropriately observed by our people. All the churches were open, and in many of them highly instructive and eloquent pulpit discourses were delivered. At a time like this, when the country suffers from an unnatural war, it may seem as if the appointment of a day of Thanksgiving was out of time; but when we take into consideration the various and threatening dangers through which we have passed, and contrast our position with that of our Southern brethren, we cannot but admit that we have much to be thankful for, and we have availed ourselves of the occasion, accordingly, to acknowledge our dependence on gratitude to God. We are glad to see that our whole people have united, not only in making their acknowledgments to the great Giver of all good for his manifold mercies, but in praying also that peace and happiness might be speedily restored to our country by the defeat and dispersion of the rebels and traitors in arms against us.
Romney, Va., Nov. 29.
I hope you will excuse the liberty I have taken in addressing you, when I tell you that I am about to accept the liberal invitation extended to the “boys” of the first Virginia Regiment to write sketches to your valuable paper.
Yesterday was a day of thanksgiving and prayer with us here, and our memories reverted back to former occasions of the kind at our happy homes in times of peace and prosperity. We naturally through of the great long tables groaning under the weight of luxuries prepared by our loving mothers and kind sisters, around which we have gathered and thanked God our Father for the many blessings which we have enjoyed. But here in the mountains we had none of those luxuries of spread tables; and when our Colonel announced that we would pass the day in fasting and prayer, some of the “boys” allowed that the prayer would do, but the fasting was a bore as we had been doing that for a week. Yet with all our inconveniences we spent a pleasant and profitable day.
The morning sun dawned upon us through a cloudless sky, and soon the white, sparkling crystals of frost disappeared and the atmosphere became quite pleasant. Your correspondent concluded to attend divine service. In due time I was brushed up looking my best, and wending my way to the M. E. Church, I there found quite a large and respectable audience already congregated, a goodly part of which was composed of the officers of the different Regiments quartered here, and a finer looking set of officers would be hard to find anywhere.
While waiting for the Chaplain, I looked around to see what kind of a house we were in, and I confess to a considerable degree of surprise, for I found myself seated in one of the most elegantly furnished houses that I have ever seen. The Fourth street Church in your city is no comparison at all. The wood-work is all nicely grained in oak, while the walls and ceiling are neatly panneled [sic] and elegantly scrolled. We had but a short time to wait the appearance of the man of God, a middle-sized person of more than fifty years of age. As he entered, the band of the 8th Ohio, which was seated in the gallery above, struck up a lively air, which entertained the audience for some moments. This done, the Chaplain arose and read a hymn in a rich, clear voice, which was sung in such a manner as would put to shame many a practiced choir. It was like the old fashioned singing we used to hear in our churches everywhere.
After singing, the reverend gentleman read the 50th Psalm, and prayed such a prayer as we seldom hear, so full of devoted earnestness was it that the whole congregation seemed to feel a glow of good feeling.
When the congregation had sung another “old familiar hymn,” the preacher continued the devotions by reading for his text the 14th verse of the 50th Psalm.—The words were these:--
“Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most High.”
The speaker began his discourse by defining the word “thanksgiving,” which he said “was gratitude for favors received, or an outward expression of that gratitude which we feel in the heart when we have been favored in any way.” He next tried to show how we had been blessed by our Father above. In the first place, we have been blessed with life, we have been created and had the breath of life breathed into our inanimate bodies, and we were then brought into being.
Our life is not like that of the plants, herbs and the mighty trees of the forest; they grow on from year to year until they have added hundreds of years to their age; but they are not conscious of having lives at all. “But”, the speaker continued, “we realize that we have life, and that all things around us have life. We see life in the vegetable and brute creation, and we realize that they are all below us in the scale of creation. There are many links in the chain of existence. One link is on the earth, or in fact, is the earth, and the other end of the chain is held in God’s hand on the throne in Heaven, while man is just a link from the throne—he is created a little lower than the angels.
Oh! man, look up, be not ashamed, be not degraded, but fill man’s place and fulfil [sic] his destiny. We often see man held down by discouragements. This is not right; he should force his way through the world. Take a lad, tell him he is a dunce, has no sense, and will never be anything in the world, and I will assure you he will be a dunce, and will be backward in the world. But tell a boy, or man, that he is intelligent, and will leave his mark in the world, and see to it, he will reach the end and aim of his creation.
While paying a tribute to S. A. Douglas, Gen. Harrison, and Old Abe, the speaker showed how those brilliant stars had risen from low stations to the high and honorable positions which they have attained. In the course of these remarks, he said that Old Abe in his young days could split rails but now he is employed in the glorious work of cementing our shattered Union. When this remark was finished, the audience could not restrain their patriotic feelings, but stamped their feet in applause and with great vehemence.
Referring to the seceded States, the speaker said that those States which professed to be out of the Union, were not yet our, nor would they be until they had trampled under foot the lifeless bodies of more than half a million brave men, who had sworn to save their country or die in the attempt. This remark again called for great applause.
Our interesting speaker, after exhorting his audience to pay their vows unto God, closed his remarks, when the Rev. Mr. Freeman arose and requested the band to pay the Star Spangled Banner, after which he closed the exercises of the day with a short and appropriate prayer. We all repaired to our respective quarters to enjoy our “crackers and [?],” intermingled with a few beans and a little hominy, which, to say the least, is very wholesome. Parades of all kinds were dispensed with, and the day passed in quietude if not with prayer.
I have no general news to write but what you have heard before this. The pickets from Company C brought in a prisoner to-day, who was taken yesterday four miles from camp. Some valuable papers were found in his possesion [sic], which it is thought will prove him to be a Secesh spy. The pickets also assert that while beyond the outposts they discovered a rebel camp of six hundred soldiers, with two pieces of artillery. It is said that this camp is only eleven miles from Romney.
The boys are all alive with the expectation of marking on Winchester within a short time. It is rumored about the camp that as soon as Gen. Reynolds’ force arrives, which is expected daily, that we will make a forward movement in some direction or other.
Just while I am writing quite an excitement exists in the quarters of Company H, one of their boys having arrived with a very large buck, which he shot down about the Hanging Rock. This is the first deer that has been killed since our arrival, although the woods are full of them. The “Boys” are all laying around loose just now in our tent and are quite noisy, so I will close for the present. R. S. Moore.
Timeline of West Virginia: Civil War and Statehood: November 1861