In 1867, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, my former husband, was the new Governor of Maine after serving an illustrious career as an officer in the Civil War. He was Maine’s first postwar governor and elected on the Republican ticket, which, at that time, was much more like the present Democratic party. In the 1860s, there was no official governor’s mansion in Maine’s state capital of Augusta. Mrs. Chamberlain, the First Lady of Maine (me), remained back home in Brunswick raising the children while Lawrence served four terms as governor.
Thanksgiving in Maine had existed since the colony was founded but before President Lincoln declared the official national holiday, each state in New England celebrated on a different day. Back then, Thanksgiving was more about celebrating the harvest but the tragedy of the Civil War reshaped the way we celebrate the holiday today. Governor Chamberlain’s Thanksgiving Proclamation reflects the mood of the country in mourning the staggering losses in the war while trying to heal the emotional wounds everyone suffered. Governor Chamberlain’s Thanksgiving Proclamation was issued to be celebrated in April but several days in the year were often proclaimed for these purposes in the country in history. A very similar attitude would have been adopted for the traditional November holiday. Thanksgiving in Maine equivalent to our holiday was typically held around November 18.
Here is the image of his actual Thanksgiving Proclamation and the text is below that:
State of Maine.
By the Governor.
In accordance with a venerated custom, and in acknowledgment of our dependence on the Divine favor, I do hereby, with the advice of the Executive Council, appoint
Thursday, the Fourth Day of April next,
to be observed as a day of
Public Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer.
And I earnestly request the people of this State to devote the day to the serious duties it enjoins; that by meditation, penitence and prayer, and recognizing our utter need of His saving power in Christ, we may so humble ourselves before God, as to be spared the chastisement which our sins deserve, and obtain the blessings of His grace upon ourselves, our country, and our fellow men.
Given of the Council Chamber, in Augusta, this sixteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the ninety-first.
Joshua L. Chamberlain.
By His Excellency the Governor.
Ephraim Flint, Secretary of State.