Blast from the Past: The United States’ first Thanksgiving

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In this series, we take a look back at news coverage from the early days of the Historic Triangle.

In this proclamation, printed on Nov. 7, 1777 in the Virginia Gazette, renowned patriot Patrick Henry wrote that even though the fledgling United States was seeing some military victories over the Crown and General Washington’s marches had yet to be stopped, it was necessary to remain righteous and thankful in the face of victory.

By his Excellency Patrick Henry, Esquire, Governor or Chief Magistrate of the Commonwealth of
Virginia

A    P R O C L A M A T I O N.

Whereas I have received certain intelligence, that General Gates, after repeated advantages gained over General Burgoyne, compelled him on the 14th day of this month to surrender himself and the whole army prisoners of war:

NOW to the end that we may not, through a vain and presumptuous confidence in our own strength, be led away to forget the hand of Heaven, whose assistance we have so often in times of distresses implored, and which, as frequently as before, so more especially now, we have experienced in this signal success of the arms of the United States, whereby the divine sanction of the righteousness of our cause cause is most illustriously displayed,

I have thought proper, by and with the advice of the Council of States, to appoint Thursday the thirteenth day of next month to be observed, in all churches and congregations of Christians throughout this State, as a day of general and solemn thanksgiving; and it is most earnestly recommended to the several Ministers and teachers of the Gospel, and they are hereby enjoined, to embrace this opportunity of impressing on the minds of their hearers those sentiments of pious joy which the glorious occasion so aptly calls for.

Given under my hand at the Council Chamber, in the city of Williamsburg, this 31st day of October, in the second year of the Commonwealth, Annoque Domini 1777.  — P. Henry

GOD save the UNITED STATES