The Cost of the War
These illustrations published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in December 1865 mark the war’s end and portray its costs. Winslow Homer’s “Thanksgiving Day—Hanging Up the Musket” celebrates a soldier’s return to civilian life. Significantly, the decommissioned rifle (marked “1865” on its butt) will be hung beneath a musket from the Revolutionary War: the American Revolution created the Union, but the war so recently concluded had saved it. In “Thanksgiving Day—The Church Porch,” Homer depicted a uniformed soldier leaving a Thanksgiving service on crutches, one of his pant legs clearly empty.
Emily Dickinson’s “Thanksgiving Day” reflects on memory and absence, noting especially the “sharp subtraction” that mark the rituals of Thanksgiving.