Thanksgiving at Point Lookout, 1863

Trish Thomas

Trish Thomas

Co-owner of Williamsburg Walking Tours since 2011, she offers guided tours of Williamsburg’s history, the African American experience in Williamsburg, and the Civil War in Williamsburg.

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— Williamsburg Walking Tours 

Point Lookout, Maryland was a prison camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. One of the Union doctors — Dr. William Child, Surgeon of the 5th New Hampshire Volunteers — wrote a letter to his wife about his lonesome Thanksgiving at a military hospital on the Chesapeake Bay:


“Point Lookout, Md., Nov. 26th, 1863… 

 "It is thanksgiving day. I shall think of us at your mother’s. It is evening. The day has been fair and warm – the evening is beautiful. The bright moon and the now quiet bay with a score of white sail on its surface make a picture that we do not often see in our inland home.  

 "We have had for dinner a turkey, plum pudding, custard and apple pie, bread, butter potatoes and tea… I hope I can be at home next thanksgiving day.   

 "Last year I was at Smoketown (a hospital near Antietam). How soon the year has gone. But how many changes during the year. Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Brandy Station, Thoroughfare Gap, Gettysburg, Falling Waters are places that will be ever fresh in my memory…  

 "Please tell me all about your thanksgiving dinner and visit. Who was there – did they miss me – did they wish me there.   

"I did not think very much of home to-day until we came to supper. Then when we gathered around our rough table in our rude, frail tent it was difficult to restrain a tear. There was the familiar turkey... but where were the loved ones. For a few moments there was silence – then one after another mentioned ‘home’ and friends and of previous army thanksgivings and soon the conversation became general – the turkey carved, the dishes served and all hands fell to with commendable zeal."  

Interior Ward I - Antietam Hospital. Lady on left, Miss Hall. Source: Western Maryland Regional Library -
Interior Ward I - Antietam Hospital. Lady on left, Miss Hall. Source: Western Maryland Regional Library -

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