Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Donal Mahoney writes

At Bus Stops on Thanksgiving Day

Before dawn, people
who work on Thanksgiving Day  
wait in the wind for a bus 
to arrive or maybe not.
It's too cold to talk  
so the people stand 
like minutemen and plan 
a revolution that would shock  
nice families who drive by later, 
children tucked in scarves 
and mittens, laughing 
all the way to Nana's house  
for turkey, gravy, stuffing 
and later in the day 
ballerina of whipped cream 
twirling on pumpkin pie.
Thanksgiving is the day 
America asks for seconds
and sorts its servers 
from the served.
 Image result for minutemen images
 Lexington Commons, 19th of April 1775 -- Don Troiani


  1. Prayers of thanks and special thanksgiving ceremonies are common among almost all religions after harvests and at other times. In the English tradition, days of thanksgiving and special thanksgiving religious services became particularly important during the English Reformation. Before 1536 there were 95 Catholic holidays, plus 52 Sundays, when people were required to attend church and forego work and sometimes pay for expensive celebrations. Henry VIII reduced the number to 27, but some Puritans wished to eliminate them all, including Christmas and Easter, and replace them with "Days of Fasting" to seek atonement after unexpected disasters or perceived threats or "Days of Thanksgiving" to celebrate special blessings. Usually these were one-time events, but an annual Day of Thanksgiving began in 1606 following the failure of the Gunpowder Plot (it developed into Guy Fawkes Day on November 5). The Puritans took the practice with them when they emigrated to North America to avoid being forced to follow the dictates of the official Anglican Church. The event that Americans commonly call the "First Thanksgiving" was celebrated by the Pilgrims (as that particular wave of Puritans were called) after their first harvest in 1621. It was probably celebrated around the time of Michaelmas (September 29). Attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims (half of the 100 who had arrived the year before), it lasted three days and was cooked by the only four surviving adult women, along with their daughters and female servants. (However, the two contemporary accounts of "the first Thanksgiving" did not contribute to the traditions that became the American holiday. William Bradford's journal "Of Plimouth Plantation" was not published until 1856; George Morton's lengthy letter sent to London in 1622 as an account of the colony's early history ("Mourt's Relation") was frequently summarized, though never with the Thanksgiving story, and a copy of the manuscript was not rediscovered until 1820 and not published until 1841, when its editor, Alexander Young, added a footnote identifying the 1621 feast as the basis of what was by then an American tradition.)

  2. The practice continued on an irregular basis, however. Samuel Adams drafted a proclamtion for the Continental Congress in 1777, the first year after independence, to designate Thursday, 18 December next, as a day of Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise, and the Continental Congress named one or more such occasions every year. In 1782 it settled on the last Thursday of November, a practice that George Washington, the first president of the newly formed United States, continued in 1789, though he did not proclaim the holiday agin until 1795. His successor John Adams declared Thanksgivings in 1798 and 1799, but the tradition lapsed until 1814.I Eventually, in 1863 president Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens" to be celebrated on the last Thursday of November. That began the annual observance. In late October 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed it as the 4th (not the last) Thursday of November, after the general manager of the Retail Dry Goods Association had warned FDR's closest associate, secretary of commerce Harry Hopkins, that the late date could adversely affect Christmas sales. Atlantic City, New Jersey, mayor Thomas D. Taggart, Jr., called the new holiday "Franksgiving." The late proclamation caused numerous problems, and only 38% of Americans approved of the change, while 62% opposed it. (Republicans opposed it 79% to 21%, but FDR's own Democrats favored the change 52% to 48%). Twenty-three state governments and the District of Columbia recognized the new date, 22 retained the traditional date, and Colorado, Mississippi, and Texas made both dates holidays. In 1940, 16 states still upheld the so-called "Republican" Thanksgiving. It was not until 1941 that a joint resolution of Congress normalized the new date, which FDR then formally designated as Thanksgiving Day; however, Texas did not pass enabling legislation until 1956.

  3. Massachusetts Bay Colony requied all able-bodied males between the ages of 16 and 60 to participate in their local militia. However, in 1645, authorities began selecting and giving additional training to "minutemen" to be ready for repid deployment. As the American Revolution approached, Massachusetts increased their number to about 1/4 of the militia. The first American military engagements against the British occurred on 19 April 1775. The first was at Lexington, which had decide to retain a unitary militia rather than separate it into "training bands" and "minute companies." Captain John Parker commanded 80 militiamen, who formed on the village commons as British advance guard under major John Pitcairn entered the town at dawn. Parker deployed his men in plain sight rather than stationing them behind walls, and did not block the road to nearby Concord, where the British were en route in an effort to seize the rebels' arsenal. He told them, "Stand your ground; don't fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here." Pitcairn or another officer told the militia to "lay down your arms, you damned rebels!" Both commanders gave orders to hold fire, but someone disobeyed, and some of the British troops rushed, without orders, the Americans' position, killing 8 and wounding 10. The American returned fire but only slighly wounded one British soldier before they fled. Lieutenant colonel Francis Smith arived with the main body of British soldiers, restored discipline, and resumed the march to Concord with his 700 men. The 250 minutemen under colonel James Barrett withdrew from the town across the North Bridge to a hill about a mile north, awaiting reinforcements from other nearby towns. While Smith searched the town for weapons and ammunition, which had already been hidden or removed, he sent light infantry across the North Bridge to look for weapons at Barrett's farm, which was secured by three companes (90-95 men) under captain Walter Laurie. When Barrett's Minutemen force grew to over 400, he advanced toward North Bridge and routed Laurie's force before taking up new defensive positions. Smith advanced with two companies of grenadiers, but neither side took action for about 10 minutes (a resident used the opportunity to sell hard cider to the opposing forces). Afterward Smith withdrew, as the miltia forces grew to about 2,000 men, who continued to harrass Smith's retreat to Boston. Smith himself was wounded in the thigh by Parker's force near Lexington, and Pitcairn took command until he too was injured. Only one British officer remained uninjured. The force was saved by the arrival of Earl Percy's relief column of 1,000 men and artillery, though the harrassment continued. Colonel Timothy Pickering, a future secretary of state, could have perhaps cut off Percy's route, but he let them pass. It was nearly dark when Pitcairn's marines defended a final attack on Percy's rear as they entered Charlestown. They had been without sleep for two days and had marched 40 miles (64 km) in 21 hours, 8 hours of which had been under fire. Altogether, the American lost about 50 killed and 20 wounded, while the British lost about 80 killed and 160 wounded. By the morning, over 15,000 militia from throughout New England surrounded Boston.


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