1863 Thanksgiving Reenactment at Cherry Hill Farmhouse

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Saturday, November 28, was a little late for Thanksgiving – 146 years too late, in fact. But that’s what reenactments are all about. And on Saturday the Victorian Society at Falls Church reenacted what the first national Thanksgiving Day – Nov. 26, 1863 – might have been like at Cherry Hill farmhouse in the center of Falls Church.

By November 1863, relative peace had returned to Falls Church after 2½ tumultuous years of war and division, although there was a continuing threat of partisan guerilla raids. Most of the major Army camps had “folded their tents” and moved on, although some hospitals and the garrisons manning the forts and entrenchments protecting Washington remained. For the first time since the start of the war, local farmers were able to plant crops and bring in at least some of their harvest without major confiscation or interference, so there was something to be thankful for among the small remaining population in the village of Falls Church and vicinity.

One week before Thanksgiving, on Nov. 18-19, President Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, PA, and delivered a “few brief remarks” at the dedication of the new national cemetery. He was not the main speaker; orator Edward Everett preceded him and spoke  for two hours. Lincoln then delivered an address of less  than 300 words.

The President had also issued a proclamation on Oct. 3 recognizing a national day of Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. Until then, each state had determined its own date for a Thanksgiving holiday.

At the Cherry Hill farm reenactment, although they still do not have much for themselves, some of the villagers and a few visitors are being hosted for Thanksgiving by William and Eirene Blaisdell, formerly of Massachusetts. They have invited several Union soldiers to share a Thanksgiving meal and a reminder of home and better days ahead.

The reenactment was accomplished by Beth Buffington, Ron Beavers, Kaye Oman, Lila Washa, Frank D’Aquila, Ashley Beavers, Susan Kelly, Ron Anzalone, Sue Perlin, Helen Anderson, Dee Beck, Karen Lewis, Randy Clarke, Sam Colwell, Darby Colwell, Fran Halberg, John Tuohy, Tracey McIntire, John Moroz, Joyce Clarke, and Shannon Flynn.

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November 28, 2009 

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