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Lincoln Orders a National Day of Thanksgiving in Honor of the Union Victory at Gettysburg
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Lincoln’s first call for a national day of Thanksgiving.

[ABRAHAM LINCOLN]. [THANKSGIVING]. Broadside. Proclamation of Thanksgiving. Massachusetts, [probably Boston], ca. July 27-August 6, 1863. 1 p., 20 x 28 in.

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The upper portion prints Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew’s announcement of Lincoln’s Proclamation dated July 27, 1863, while the lower portion prints Lincoln’s actual proclamation, dated July 15, 1863, designating August 6 as a “day for National Thanksgiving, Praise, and Prayer.” After Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1-3, 1863, on July 15, 1863, Lincoln assigned August 6 to be “a day for National Thanksgiving, Praise, and Prayer.” This was his first proclamation of a national day of thanksgiving.

Complete Text

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

July 15, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

It has pleased Almighty God to hearken to the supplications and prayers of an afflicted people, and to vouchsafe to the army and the navy of the United States victories on land and on the sea so signal and so effective as to furnish reasonable grounds for augmented confidence that the Union of these States will be maintained, their constitution preserved, and their peace and prosperity permanently restored. But these victories have been accorded not without sacrifices of life, limb, health and liberty incurred by brave, loyal and patriotic citizens. Domestic affliction in every part of the country follows in the train of these fearful bereavements. It is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father and the power of His Hand equally in these triumphs and in these sorrows:

Now, therefore, be it known that I do set apart Thursday the 6th. day of August next, to be observed as a day for National Thanksgiving, Praise and Prayer, and I invite the People of the United States to assemble on that occasion in their customary places of worship, and in the forms approved by their own consciences, render the homage due to the Divine Majesty, for the wonderful things he has done in the Nation’s behalf, and invoke the influence of His Holy Spirit to subdue the anger, which has produced, and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion, to change the hearts of the insurgents, to guide the counsels of the Government with wisdom adequate to so great a national emergency, and to visit with tender care and consolation throughout the length and breadth of our land all those who, through the vicissitudes of marches, voyages, battles and sieges, have been brought to suffer in mind, body or estate, and finally to lead the whole nation, through the paths of repentance and submission to the Divine Will, back to the perfect enjoyment of Union and fraternal peace.

In witness 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 fifteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the eighty-eighth.

By the President: ABRAHAM LINCOLN

WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.

Historic Background

In 1861 and earlier in 1863, Lincoln proclaimed days of “national humiliation, fasting, and prayer.” Soon after he issued this proclamation assigning August 6, 1863, as a day of “National Thanksgiving,” he was moved by a letter from Sarah Josepha Hale, who had lobbied the four prior presidents unsuccessfully to make Thanksgiving a third national holiday in addition to Independence Day and Washington’s Birthday. On October 3, 1863, exactly 74 years after George Washington’s first Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation, Lincoln established the fourth Thursday in November as an annual national day of Thanksgiving.


Professionally mended along several folds and flattened; minor toning and offsetting.