Happy Thanksgiving. While Thanksgiving certainly predates the founding of the United States and stretches back to the initial settlements in North America, it’s notable that the first “National Thanksgiving” was held December 18, 1777. Sheilah Vance writes:
On December 18, 1777, General George Washington’s army celebrated the first national Thanksgiving in Gulph Mills and on Rebel Hill. The celebration caused a one day delay in the army’s march to Valley Forge, which General Washington had decided a day earlier, was to be where the army would make its winter quarters.
The purpose of the Thanksgiving, according to the November 1, 1777 proclamation of the Continental Congress, was for “Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise” and “to inspire our Commanders both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE…”
Reverend Israel Evans, chaplin to General Poor’s New Hampshire brigade, preached at least one of the Thanksgiving sermons. The text of his sermon was printed by Lancaster, Pa. printer, Francis Bailey, who is credited with being the first printer to name, in print, Gen. Washington as “the Father of His Country.” General Washington received a copy of this Thanksgiving sermon on March 12, 1778.
First National Thanksgiving Celebrated by Washington’s Army
Here at “The Gulph” on Thursday, December 18, 1777 Washington’s Army delayed their march into Valley Forge by one day to celebrate the first Thanksgiving of the United States proclaimed by the Continental Congress with Chaplains performing the divine service. This Thanksgiving in spite of suffering the day before the march into Valley Forge showed the reverence and character that was forging the soul of a nation.