“To inspire our Commanders, both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty God, to secure for these United States, the greatest of all human Blessings, Independence and Peace.”
When the Second Continental Congress issued the Thanksgiving proclamation containing this passage in 1777, it did so in the name of a young nation still bitterly engaged in its fight for independence. With it, a national holiday was born—although formal adoption as a national holiday would come later, during another difficult war. And while harvest celebrations had preceded this proclamation, and new traditions have been added to the way we celebrate the holiday in the two and a half centuries since, that proclamation’s expression of gratitude for American forces’ battlefield successes and prayers for further good fortune signaled the beginning of a long relationship between Thanksgiving and war—a relationship that continued through the War of 1812 and the Civil War, all the way to our post-9/11 wars.
John Amble is the editorial director of the Modern War Institute at West Point and a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.