Throwback Thursday: February 24, 2022Matt Thorenz
Americans have celebrated Presidents Day on the third Monday in February since 1971, but the roots of this holiday can be traced back to 1879, when Congress passed an act to make the 22nd of February, George Washington’s Birthday, a holiday within the District of Columbia. Although the holiday is meant to commemorate all individuals who formerly held the office of the Presidency, the day is usually associated with George Washington, the first president, and Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, as their birthdays both occur in February.
This menu, possibly from the Isaac Nicoll Post, Grand Army of the Republic, is an example of one of the many ways in which Americans celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12), itself a holiday in many states throughout the country. The Isaac Nicoll Post, Grand Army the Republic, was a veteran’s organization named in the memory of Captain Isaac Nicoll, a member of the 124th New York State Volunteers from Washingtonville who was killed on the 2nd day of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. The post served as a social club for veterans who served in the Union during the American Civil War, and would raise money to support fellow veterans in need as well pay for interment and funeral services for their members. Although they frequently met at Hallock’s Hall, which has since been demolished, they also held services and dinners at the library. The menu for this occasion consisted of Roast Chicken in Giblet Gravy, Cranberry Jelly, and Cold Ham. Despite the image of a Union, and Confederate soldier on the front cover of the booklet, the closing ceremonies of a typical meeting were anything but forgiving to former combatants:
“Commander.—Is there any further business to come
before this Post?
[If there is none proposed, the Commander will
give three raps, when the officers and comrades will
rise, the latter forming in one or more ranks as prescribed
on page 20.]
Commander.—Comrades, our duty for this occasion
is performed. As we go from this place, let us
not forget to take with us into our daily lives
that Fraternity of feeling which should bind us
together as comrades, that Charity which shall
prompt us to the noblest sacrifices for the needy
and destitute wards of our Grand Army, and that
Loyalty which shall bind us to a faithful performance
of our duties as citizens and to an undying
vigilance, which is the price of liberty.
Senior Vice-Commander, on what rests the hope
of our Republic?
Senior Vice-Commander.—One country
and one flag!
Commander.—Junior Vice-Commander, how may
our country be kept undivided and our flag
Vice-Commander.—By eternal vigilance’
‘which is the price of liberty„..
Commander.—Officer of the Day, what should be
the doom of all traitors?
OFFICER OF THE Day (stepping in front of the Commander,
smartly drawing his sword, and assuming
the position of “guard,” as do all the officers.)-The
Penalty of Treason is Death!
All the Comrades Respond.—The penalty of Treason
Commander.—Such be the doom of all traitors, and
may God keep you true in Fraternity, Charity,
[The O. D. collects the Rituals and cards.]
I declare Post, No,——, Department of ,
Grand Army of the Republic, closed.”
McLaughlin III, E. J. (1994). Around the Watering Trough: A History of Washingtonville, N.Y. Washingtonville Centennial Celebration, Inc.
Grand Army of the Republic (1921). Ritual of the Grand Army of the Republic. Headquarters Grand Army ofthe Republic Indianapolis, IN.