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Thanksgiving 1861
A moment to reflect that for many in the Iron Brigade,
this was their last Thanksgiving. . .

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From the Second Regiment
Fort Tillinghast, Arlington Va.
Thursday, Nov, 28, 1861

It has been one of the loveliest days possible for this season of the year, although it is raining delightfully now and earth and sky are overcast with clouds and darkness.

We have had cold, bleak days, and stinging, frosty nights already here in old Virginia since we pitched our tents between Fort Tillinghast and Arlington Grove and once the fleecy flakes of snow made the whole earth white and beautiful for the earth is always beautiful when robed in spotless white - but this day seemed as one made on purpose and set apart for Thanksgiving. There was not a breeze to shake the few remaining dry brown leaves upon the old forest trees, nor a cloud to obscure the bright face of the sun.
It was such a day as we often have in dear Wisconsin, in the months of September and October when Indian Summer makes her welcome visit to brighten the face of Nature and gladden the hearts of the people. What a lovely delightful day we have had for a holiday - the first holiday we have had for the six long months we have been in the service.
Governor Randall was here and made a short speech to King's brigade. This is probably the last visit he will make us and therefore the last time we shall see him in the capacity of governor of the State of Wisconsin.
We have had our Thanksgiving, and though far away from our State we have had our Governor with us. He will probably return to Wisconsin in a few days but he will never be forgotten by the soldiers for whom he has so diligently labored. May the man who shall be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office that he has filled with such honor to himself and glory to his State be as faithful in the discharge of his duties, as faithful to the government and the people, as he has been and his reward will be great, for he shall live long in the hearts of those whose confidence he has not betrayed.
We have had a pleasant jovial time. Those of us who were not content with the plain ration furnished us by Uncle Samuel, purchased from the Sutler such other things as we wanted and prepared a Thanksgiving dinner good enough for a King, therefore, good enough for a soldier. I hope our friends in Wisconsin enjoyed their Thanksgiving as well as we did.

Thanksgiving Dinner of the Second Regiment
An officer in the Second Wisconsin Regiment in a private letter dated Washington Nov. 29, gives an enthusiastic account of the Thanksgiving Dinner of his regiment. He says:
"Perhaps you think, because we are away from home, living in tents with nothing but tin cups and plates that we suffer for the want of the necessaries of Life. Now that you may not grieve away your life and flesh, I enclose you a Bill of Fare which we had to select from on Thanksgiving - yesterday. GOV. Randall was present at our table in our tent and ate off our tin dishes, drank champagne from our borrowed glasses and coffee from our tin cups. So was Gov. Seward, so was Senator Wilson, so was Gen. King and staff some of Gen. McDowell's staff and sundry other distinguished officers and individuals too numerous to mention beside some who were not. The President intended to come but was interrupted just at the time of starting. Golly! weren't we proud of the day and the occasion and the dinner and company? 
So we ate and drank and talked and talked and drank and ate and sung and toasted and joked and joked and toasted and sung until the flesh which was weak gave out while the spirit was still willing . But the best of it was we adjourned in good season and departed in quietness and peace leaving the largest share of the eatables to the men and music and others who had assisted us. The were about fifty and officers and guests at the table and as the Apostle says it was
"A feast of reason and a flow of soul"

The bill of fare was as follows:
Second Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers At Arlington , Va.
Thanksgiving, November 28, 1861

Turkey with Jelly, Ducks, Spring Chickens, Lamb with Mint sauce, Sirloin Beef
Pig, Wild Goose, Baked Beans
Ham, Corned Beef with Cabbage

Sweet Potatoes, Irish Potatoes, Onions, Celery
Pork Chops with Fried Apple, Chicken Pie
Yankee style, Fried Liver, Mutton Chops,
Beefsteak, Ham and Eggs
Chicken Pie, Lobster Salad
Scalloped Oysters
Corn Bread, Rye Bread, Wheat Bread
French Mustard, Cole Slaw, Pickles, Horse Radish, Celery, Worcestershire Sauce
Pumpkin Pie, Mince Pie, Ice Cream
Sparkling Catawba, Heidsick
Coffee and Tea

Our Washington correspondence
Washington, Dec 2, 1861

From our Regular Correspondent
Thanksgiving was duly honored throughout the camps of the Wisconsin regiments and in King's brigade it was a gala day indeed. At 11 o'clock the brigade was drawn up in a semi-circle, four deep in front of the Arlington House, Gen. King's headquarters; the 6th Regiment on the left, the 7th (for the first time in their new uniform) and 2d in the centre and 19th Indiana on the right; when the General introduced Governor Randall, who addressed them saying to the Wisconsin soldiers that it was the last time that he should appear before them as the Executive of the state; commending them for their good behavior and soldierly conduct; congratulating the Indiana regiment on the glorious achievements and high honor of their state, etc. His speech was most excellent and I had intended to give a full report of it but have not the means if I had the time. As he closed his eloquent address, Col. Sol. Meredith, whose tall form towered in front of his division called for "three cheers for the Governor of Wisconsin" which were given with a will by the gallant Indianans and responded to most heartily by the Wisconsin boys; when the Governor gracefully returned the compliment of Col. Meredith, by calling for "three cheers from the Wisconsin boys for the gallant sons of Indiana," which were promptly and heartily given.

The morning was a delightful one and the scene most cheerful and inspiriting. The band of the 19th, one of the best in the service, stationed at the right of the portico, discoursing martial strains; upwards of three thousand were in solid column just below the point of the commanding height on which the old baronial mansion stands as the relic of a decayed aristocracy; the broad Potomac and the splendid capitol lying below, with the intervening stretch of woodland variegated with splendid evergreens and with the tents and horses of camps of cavalry all added inspiration to the occasion.

The review, speech, &c., occupied about one hour, when the troops filed off around the Arlington House to their various camps preparatory to Thanksgiving dinner which was served at the various officers messes, as well as in many of the companies in a style worthy of our gallant men who carry with them their home, institutions and glory in the recollection and associations of home. Passing through the camps of the Sixth and Seventh where I was pressed to partake at table that for luxury and adornment were equal to the best among the homes of Wisconsin went to meet a prior engagement with Col. Fairchild and dine with the Second. There were assembled the Brigadier General's staff, Secretary Seward, Senator Wilson, Governor Randall and others, and at about three o'clock all were invited to a large tent upon entering which we were greeted at a table as neatly spread and as luxuriously and bountifully loaded as you will ever find at the Newhall and the like of which is never found at a public table in Washington.
How it was got up amid the narrow accommodation of camp or how cooks could be found to provide such a variety and get it up in such exquisite taste, was a mystery. The flags of the regiment hung over the entrance, The table occupied three sides of the large tent and about fifty officers and guests partook of the ample repast. And lest you should fail to appreciate the realities of the affair, I send you one of the bills of fare a copy of which was found in hotel style of each plate. Not only was every article named actually on the table but all in as perfect order and as well prepared as if served from the cook-room of your first class hotel; and here were the fancy trimming of flowers, evergreens and bouquets, &C.

(We omit the bill of fare having already published it - Eds. State Journal.)
After discussing the solids to the satisfaction of all with out making any sensible impression upon the profuse amount supplied, the Heidsick and Catawba were introduced and Lieut Meservey arose and read the proclamation of Gov. Randall for the observance of the day, which was followed by a toast of the Governor, drank with three rousing cheers, to which the Governor replied with a few words of thanks and congratulation, Maj. Allen then arose and read a letter from Gen. McDowell, expressing his deep regret that circumstances prevented his presence and closing by giving as a toast, Brigadier General King, and characterizing him as an officer and a civilian worthy of the highest confidence &c.

This was received with great applause and briefly responded to by Gen. King, who proposed the health of their honored guest, Secretary Seward. Mr. Seward responded by saying that as a minister of the Government he was precluded from making speeches and must simply thank them for the compliment and give as a sentiment the Union, &c. I did not get the entire sentiment but it was happily expressed and cordially responded to by deafening applause. Next followed a toast of Gen. Wilson who responded in a brief and happy manner - Then Col. O'Connor, Lieut. Col. Fairchild, Major Allen and others were toasted. When Col. Fairchild was proposed, the officers gave an outburst of applause that very nearly overturned the tables, and it was repeated, with the most unbounded enthusiasm.  Col. Fairchild made a brief and happy response saying the in his present position with the 2d Regiment "he was perfectly happy--happy as he ever expected to be while a sinner - and wanted nothing more or better."

I was not able to remain till the festivities closed as I was compelled to visit the camp of the Fifth Wisconsin, ten or twelve miles distant and roads were bad and the night was approaching. In company with Gov. Randall and Col. Mansfield I left and our Thanksgiving evening was spent in the quarters of Col. Cobb. near Lewinsville, in company with Him, Lieut. Col. Emery, and Major Larabee. I partook of their hospitality for a couple of days, and returned to the city on Saturday evening .

We shall meet, but we shall miss him
There will be one vacant chair
We shall linger to caress him
While we breathe our evening prayer.
The Vacant Chair, printed in The Milwaukee Sentinel, Thanksgiving, 1861

Thanksgiving with the Seventh
Camp Arlington, Va., Nov 28, 1861

Messrs. Editors: - we beg the privilege to say a few words to our friends and relatives through the medium of your valuable paper. As today is Thanksgiving and as we are not compelled to drill, we have a little time to spare to write and feeling that our Annual feast day will be, this year, to many households an unusual solemn occasion, the empty chair telling a story of devotion, of courage, of determination to shield the remaining ones in the enjoyment of the blessings they are singing praises for and tenderly will the prayer ascend for the absent one's protection and guidance. We hope the day through out the land will be observed as it never was observed before. A portion of the day might well be devoted to the preparation of a fitting tribute to our country's defenders.
Today the weather is fine, the sun shines bright and warm as at a June noonday. At half past eleven we, Gen. King's brigade, were assembled in front of the Lee mansion - Gen. King's headquarters - where His Excellency, Gov. Randall, addressed us. He spoke at some length, paid us many compliments and bade as farewell - yes, I fear a last farewell to many of us. We then returned to our quarters to partake of our noonday meal which, I may say, was almost a feast; and, as there is a good deal of doubt on the part of our friends at home as to our having enough to eat, I will mention the bill of fare which is not an uncommon thing with us; we seated ourselves at a pine table covered with a white muslin cloth. After returning thanks to the Giver of All Good, the thought occurred to us whether our friends and loved ones at home had as good a dinner to eat - but I am digressing. We commenced with mashed potatoes, roast beef, warm biscuit, fresh butter, pickles, tea and cream, winding up with apple pie, sweet cakes and crackers, fresh peaches, plum sauce, tomato sauce, oysters, fried nut cakes, green apples and good sweet cider. Considering that we are in the midst of enemies and in a soldier's tent almost on the field of battle, you may well imagine that, as it was all prepared by a sister's experienced hand who was seated at the head of the table, that it had a look of homelike ness; and, as I said before, having good appetites, we did ample justice to our repast.
The health of the regiment is generally very good and being as it is a holiday the time passed off pleasantly.
While on dress parade, Hon. W. H. Seward and Senator Wilson drove up in front of our line and halted to see the regiment maneuver, the men, having all received their new uniforms, felt well and performed their exercises with spirit.
The day closes with a gentle rain showering on us and the same on our enemies a few miles beyond, verifying in a singular manner the scriptural saying that it rains the same on the just and unjust. Before another Thanksgiving, probably before another holiday, we may have the opportunity of showering a rain of fire on their heads which we hope will annihilate them as effectually as Sodom and Gomorrah were annihilated. Let us hope and pray that when another Thanksgiving rolls about it may be such an one as will see our country rescued from its present dangers and that we will again be a united people joining in a general Thanksgiving to him who holds our destiny in his hands.