Posts tagged ‘U.S. Military Academy’

SHAKO: How Thanksgiving Started In the Midst of a Terrible War


Thanksgiving Day 1863 as envisioned in Harper’s Weekly.

Maybe you’ve already read or heard some of the annual Thanksgiving Day news pieces about the Pilgrims’ first Thanksgiving in Plymouth, Massachusetts or about what they really ate at that first thanksgiving meal — and who was or wasn’t there — or how President Franklin D. Roosevelt was persuaded by the retail industry to move the holiday up a week in 1939 — to extend the Christmas shopping season and bolster the economic recovery from the Great Depression.

But here at the 4GWAR blog, we’re mindful that the first official national day of Thanksgiving came in the midst of a terrible Civil War that had cost thousands of lives and, in 1863, was still far from over. It seems remarkable that President Abraham Lincoln decided what the country needed to do was pause and consider what it did have to be thankful for despite all the carnage.

As we have done on previous Thanksgiving mornings, we present what Mr. Lincoln had to say about all that 159 years ago.

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

“Peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union,” not a bad goal to pray for this Thanksgiving.

U.S. Army drill sergeants serve an early Thanksgiving meal to trainees of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment at Fort Jackson, South Carolina on November 23, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Robert Timmons.)

By the way, it’s important to note the call for a day of national thanksgiving was first raised by prominent writer and editor, Sarah Josepha Hale.

Happy Thanksgiving — and safe travels — from 4GWAR!

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SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

November 24, 2022 at 12:18 am 2 comments

SHAKO: Service Academies’ Graduations

Long Hard Road Over, But the Journey’s Just Beginning.

For the first time since 2019, America’s four military and naval service academies were able to hold traditional commencement events outdoors, with friends and families on campus, instead of viewing a video at home.

Annapolis, Maryland

At the U.S. Naval Academy graduation in Annapolis, Maryland on May 28, history was made when Vice President Kamala Harris became the first woman commencement speaker to address graduating midshipmen.

“Midshipmen, you are tireless; you are ambitious; you are a fierce fighting force,” the vice president said. “You are idealists in the truest sense; you are the embodiment of American aspiration, so hold onto that because in your career you may witness some of the worst of humanity.”

In her keynote address, Harris told the graduates they would take the same oath to the U.S. Constitution as she did during her vice-presidential swearing in — to support the nation’s Constitution and defend it against all enemies — an oath that has its roots in the founding of our nation. And no matter what changes in our world, the charge in this oath is constant, she said.

“Remember that, as you walk out into the world, because the world you all are walking into is rapidly changing,” Harris said.

(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Midshipmen 2nd Class Krystyna Bartocci)

The 1,084 graduates consisted of 778 men and 306 women. Of that number, 784 (547 men, 237 women) are now Navy ensigns. And 274 (212 men and 62 women) are now 2nd lieutenants in the Marine Corps.

After three cheers for those they leave behind, the newly commissioned U.S. Navy ensigns and Marine Corps second lieutenants of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Class of 2021 tossed their covers at the conclusion of the graduation and commissioning ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.


Colorado Springs, Colorado

The 1,019 cadets graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado on May 26 heard that the balance and stability in the world which has existed for more than 75 years is now at risk. And, Army General Mark Milley — the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff —  told the recently-commissioned young officers that it will be their job to maintain a now fragile world peace.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor Cokley)

Right now, Milley said, the United States is in great power competition with nations like Russia and China. That competition must not escalate, he told the new second lieutenants.

The threat landscape that exists now, Milley said, includes artificial intelligence, robotics, human engineering, hypersonics and long-range precision fires that all provide capability beyond what has ever existed in human history.

“The country that masters these technologies, combines them with doctrine and develops the leadership to take advantage of it — the side that does that best — is going to have a decisive advantage at the start of the next war,” Milley said. “It’s your challenge to be on that side. You will lead us as a nation, not just as an Air Force or a Space Force.”

(U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sergeant Laurel M. Richards)

When the speeches were over, the awards given and the commissioning complete, students-turned-officers threw their caps in the air as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, the “Thunderbirds,” performed a fly-over.


West Point, New York

The 996 graduating cadets of the U.S. Military Academy’s Class of 2021 had Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a retired Army general and West Point grad as their commencement speaker on May 22.

(DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)

Among those lessons were the value of being well prepared; learning to focus; following with loyalty; questioning with rigor, character, discipline, teamwork; mastering one’s trade; telling the truth; treating people with dignity and respect; and leading with honor, he said.

“Those values are the lasting legacy of West Point. Those are the guideposts that will steer you right when you face the hardest decisions of your lives,” he said.

Austin said the cadets will face new challenges and adversity in a rapidly changing world.

“You’re about to graduate into a changing country and a changing world where many of the old ways of doing business don’t hold up anymore,” he said. “You’re seeing raw divisions at home and the painful aftermath of the pandemic.

(DoD Photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jack Sanders)


New London, Connecticut

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Thieme)

President Joseph R. Biden. delivered the keynote address at the Coast Guard Academy during the 140th Commencement Exercises on May 19. The Coast Guard Academy graduated 240 new officers along with seven international students.

In his remarks, the president noted the Class of 2021 “is just over one third women.” He noted he had recently nominated Vice Admiral Linda Fagan, an academy graduate form the Class of 1985, to be the Coast Guard’s first female four-star admiral. “We need to see more women at the highest levels of command,” Biden said.  “We have to make sure that women have the chance to succeed and thrive throughout their careers,” he added.

“The class of 2021, you have it all. You really do. And we need you badly,” Biden said, adding: “that’s not hyperbole; the country needs you.

“The press always asks me,” he continued “why I’m so optimistic about America’s chances in the world. And I’ve said from the time I decided to run, ‘Because of this generation.’ You’re the most progressive, best-educated, least prejudiced, most open generation in American history. We need you badly. You’re ready; it’s time to get underway.”

May 31, 2021 at 2:13 am 2 comments

FRIDAY FOTO (May 28, 2021)

The Long Gray Line.

(U.S. Army Photo by Cadet Tyler Williams) Click on photo to enlarge the image.

The graduating class of cadets march across the reservoir bridge to Michie Stadium for graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York on May 22, 2021.

It was the first West Point graduation since 2019 where cadet families were allowed to attend. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, friends and family couldn’t witness the ceremony in person in 2020.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, a retired Army four star general and West Point graduate, was the commencement speaker for the Class of 2021.

We’ll have more details on this commencement and all the other service academy graduations in a roundup on Monday (May 30).

May 28, 2021 at 11:24 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (April 19, 2019)

Abandon … Boat.

Sandhurst 2019

(U.S. Army photo by Amanda Lin)

Members of the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Team (there were also Gold and Gray teams) compete in the zodiac challenge at the 51st Sandhurst Military Skills Competition at West Point, New York,  on April 12, 2019.

The rigorous, two-day competition encompasses physical and mental challenges that reflect the tempo, uncertainty and tasks of combat operations — including physical fitness, marksmanship and land navigation challenges.

While it is called the Sandhurst Military Skills Competition after the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) in the United Kingdom, the annual competition has always been held at West Point. Sandhurst was started in 1967 when RMAS presented West Point with a British Officer’s sword to use as the prize for a competition to promote military excellence.

Each team consisted of 9 primary and 2 alternate members, including at least one female team member.  Teams were assessed on a variety of individual and squad warrior tasks.

The competition included 49 teams from around the world, including 14 teams from 13 countries: Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Korea, Thailand, Colombia, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Chile and Brazil . The British fielded two teams, and West Point fielded 16.

In addition to West Point, the U.S. Air Force (last year’s winner), Coast Guard and Naval academies sent teams. There were also teams from ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) programs at the following U.S. universities: Austin Peay State University, California Polytechnic State University, Central State University, Creighton University, Florida State University, Lehigh University, Tarleton State University, University of Delaware, University of North Georgia, Utah Valley University, Virginia Military Institute, John Hopkins University, Embry-Riddle University, Marquette University, Edinboro University and the University of Hawaii.

The West Point Black Team won the competition. For details on how other teams fared  click here, and click here for more photos.

April 19, 2019 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment


February 2023


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