27 November 1862: “Thanksgiving was a great day in the barracks and a fine day outside, except for those who are on guard.”

Item description: Portions of Leaves from a Diary Written While Serving in Co. E, 44 Mass., Dep’t of No. Carolina, an account, written by John Jasper Wyeth of Co. E, of the experiences of the 44th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (published in 1878). The book includes this account of the regiment’s 27 November 1862 Thanksgiving celebration.

[Click here for the catalog record of this volume, which has a link to the fully digitized online version of the book.]

Item citation: From, “Leaves from a diary written while serving in Co. E, 44 Mass., Dep’t of No. Carolina, from September, 1862, to June, 1863.” by John Jasper Wyeth, Boston, L. F. Lawrence & Co., 1878. Catalog Number: C970.742 W97, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

November 27. — Thanksgiving was a great day in the barracks and a fine day
outside, except for those who are on guard. We will recollect them all day, having
great pity, but unable to relieve them.

To-day has been talked about and worked up for a week. Turkeys and the
fixings have been at a premium, but they say our dinner is safe. The day opened
splendidly ; just cold enough to induce the boys to play at foot and base ball ;
some of the officers taking hold and seemingly enjoying the sport.

We had dinner at one p.m. The table, extended nearly the length of the bar-
racks, was covered with our rubber blankets, white side uppermost, looking quite
home-like. Our plates and dippers were scoured till we could see our faces in them,

and how we hated to rub them up ! for, according to tradition, the blacker the dipper
and the more dents it had, the longer and harder the service. But it had to be,
and was done, and we had to acknowledge “How well it looks!” When we were
seated, about a man to every ten was detailed as carver ; and a few of us who had
engineered to get near the platters were caught and had to cut up and serve.
We tried in vain to save a nice little piece or two for ourselves ; each time we did
it some one would reach for it. At last we cut the birds into quarters and passed
them indiscriminately. After the meats we had genuine plum-pudding, also
nuts, raisins, &c. After the nuts and raisins were on a few made remarks,
but the climax was capped by our Lieut. Cumston, who, after telling us not to eat
and drink too much, said, ” There is a man in camp from Boston, getting statistics;
among others, wishes to find out how many of ‘ E ‘ smoke.” The lieutenant said
it would be easier counting to ask the question, “How many did not smoke.”
Several jumped up proud to be counted ; among them a few who did occasionally
take a whiff. The joke was soon sprung on them, for when they were well on their
feet, Lieut. Cumston remarked that he had a few cigars, not quite a box, and
hoped they would go round, but those who did not smoke were not to take any.
We had the cigars and the laugh on those who wished to figure in the statistics.
It was a big dinner, and we did it justice, and gave the cooks credit for it.

In the evening Company D and ourselves gave a musical and literary enter-
tainment. Our barrack was full, and the audience often applauded the amateurs.
The programme was as follows : —

Part I.

Song … ” Happy are we to-night, boys” …
Declamation … “England’s Interference” … F. S. Wheeler (Co. D)
Song … “Oft in the Stilly Night” …
Declamation … “The Dying Alchemist” … S. G. Rawson (Co. E)
Readings … “Selections” … J. W. Cartwright (Co. E)
Song … “Viva L’ America” …
Declamation … “Spartacus to the Gladiators” … J. Waterman (Co. D)
Declamation … “The Beauties of the Law” … H. T. Reed (Co. E)
“Contraband’s Visit,” … Myers and Bryant (Co. E)
Song … “Gideon’s Band.” …

Part II.

Song … “Rock me to sleep, mother” …
Declamation. …”Garibaldi’s Entree to Naples “… G. H. Van Voorhis (Co. E)
Song … “There’s music in the air” …
Imitation of Celebrated Actors … H. T. Reed (Co. E)
Declamation. . .”Rienza’s Address to the Romans” … N. R. Twitchell (Co. E)
Old Folks Concert … Father Kemp.
Ending with “Home, Sweet Home,” by the audience.

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