Abraham Lincoln’s second annual Thanksgiving Proclamation had nothing to do with Pilgrims. But it did help create a national tradition.
So it might seem odd that Lincoln chose this moment to announce a national day of thanksgiving, to be marked on the last Thursday in November. His Oct. 3, 1863, proclamation read: “In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity … peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict.”
But it took another year for the day to really catch hold. In 1864 Lincoln issued a second proclamation, which read, “I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust.”
“How the Civil War Created Thanksgiving.” This article, first published on November 25, 2014, in the New York Times “Disunion” blog, explains.