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by on June 18, 2015

June 18, 2015.  The bicentennial of the battle of Waterloo, one of the most important events in early nineteenth century European history.  At that battle, an Anglo-Allied army commanded by the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Gebhard Blucher and defeated the French army commanded by Napoleon.  The battle put an end to the so-called “Hundred Days” marking the period between Napoleon’s return from exile on Elba to the restoration of King Louis XVIII on the throne of France.  It also marked the end of twenty years of European conflict in which the United States was both directly and indirectly involved.

Earlier this year I worked with Dr. Stephen Randolph, The Historian of the Department of State, to locate American diplomatic reporting about that event.  One of the documents we located in the series, Despatches from Diplomatic Officers, 1789-1906 (NAID 603720) is the July 25, 1815, despatch by U.S. Minister to Great Britain John Quincy Adams (this document can be found on roll 15 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M30).  Adams had only recently presented his credentials as the new U.S. diplomatic representative in Great Britain when the United States and Great Britain renewed diplomatic relations after the War of 1812.

Among other things, the report, in Adams’s distinctive handwriting, includes brief mentions of the defeat and the battle, notice of Napoleon’s surrender, a comment on the powers performed by Louis XVIII, and reaction of the French people to the restoration:

  • ”The external combination against Napoleon has again overpowered him, probably as before with the assistance of internal treachery.”
  • “After having been defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, he abdicated again the Imperial dignity, and finding it impossible to escape, surrendered himself by going on board the British Ship of War Bellerophon, Captain Maitland.”
  • ”Louis 18th has again been restored, or rather permitted by the Allies to issue Proclamations and Ordinances as king of France – In other respects the allies treat France as a conquered country – levying contributions; taking possession of public property; and appointing Governors in the Provinces overrun by their arms.”
  • ”No act of any sort, expressive of the consent of the French People to be ruled by the Bourbon family has appeared. On the contrary manifestations of the strongest repugnancy against them are daily occurring under the half a million of foreign bayonets by which they have been restored.”

Despatch No. 6 from American Legation Great Britain to Department of State, July 25, 1815



The newspaper clippings mentioned are not among the Department of State records preserved in the National Archives.

Unlike present-day reporting, which is almost immediate, Adams’s despatch did not arrive in the Department of State until September 10, 1815, making for a period of 47 days in transit.

Scholars and others use the series Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), the official documentary publication of American foreign policy, and other printed primary sources, as sources of easily-accessible documentation.  Strict reliance upon published documents, however, can lead one astray if the point you are trying to draw is not the same as that intended by the compilers of the publication.  Thus, it can be important to go back to the original sources.

A case in point relates to the timing of the U.S. public statement on the Japanese bombing of Chinese cities in 1937.  Japan’s indiscriminate bombing of Chinese cities in 1937 shocked the world.  The United States, through its embassy in Tokyo, made a government-to-government protest and subsequently made a public statement.  The League of Nations publicly condemned Japanese actions, too.

Following the documentation published in the special FRUS-like volumes on U.S.-Japan relations for the period 1931 to 1941 published in 1943, some writers have left out the government-to-government contact and set the chronology as follows:  a League of Nations committee publicly adopts a condemnatory resolution on September 27 and the next day, the United States, through the Department of State, publicly supports the League.  Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull (Secretary of State at the time of the events in question) followed this line in his 1948 book The Memoirs of Cordell Hull.  After noting the September 27 League adoption he wrote “In a statement the following day we at the State Department supported this finding . . . ” (p. 559).  John Dower, in his seminal book War Without Mercy, put it this way: “On September 28, 1937, one day after a resolution on the subject was unanimously adopted by an advisory committee to the League, the Department of State denounced Japan . . . ” (p. 38).

Unfortunately, Hull, Dower, and others who follow the printed documentation, have the chronology wrong.  While the U.S. did issue a public statement on September 28, and that statement did include a censure of Japanese actions, that was not the first U.S. public issuance with such criticism.  On September 22, 1937, even before the League of Nations took action, the U.S., through the Department of State, issued the following press release reproducing the text of the government-to-government note delivered by Ambassador Joseph C. Grew to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that same day (from Press Releases, 1912-1990, NAID 602158).  (Grew’s report on the delivery of the note is published in the special volumes on Japan.)  The September 28 statement merely repeated one sentence from the earlier release.

Airplanes filled the sky over Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.  D-Day.  Some planes dropped bombs; some planes towed gliders; some planes dropped paratroopers; some planes dropped . . . paper.  Paper in the form of propaganda leaflets.  The propaganda was aimed both at the French and at the Germans.

Two days after D-Day, William Phillips, then working in the U.S. Embassy in London, sent his colleague James Clement Dunn, Director of the Office of European Affairs in the Department of State, copies of several of those leaflets (now found in file 811.20200/6-844 of the Central Decimal Files, 1940-1944, NAID 302021).  Two examples of the leaflets follow.

The first example, addressed to the “Citizens of France” by Dwight D. Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, informs them that “The day of deliverance is coming.”  Among other things, this leaflet states (translated from selected portions of the text):

-We will destroy the Nazi tyranny root and branch, so that the people of Europe are reborn in liberty.

-The courage and the immense sacrifice of millions who fought under the banner of the Resistance have already contributed to the success of our arms.

(Continuing translated text):

-The presence of the enemy among you has imposed the tragic necessity of aerial bombing and military and naval operations that have caused you so much loss and suffering. You have accepted these sacrifices with courage and in the heroic tradition of France, as it was the inevitable cost to which we all had to consent to achieve our goal: liberty.

-I am counting on your help for the definitive crushing of Hitlerite Germany and for the restoration of traditional French liberty.

-Once victory is won and France is liberated from the oppressor, the French people will be free to choose, as soon as possible under democratic methods, the government under which they want to live.

-The enemy will fight with the courage of despair. He will employ all means – no matter how cruel – to try to block our progress. But our cause is just, our arms powerful.  With our valorous Russian allies, we march towards certain victory.

The second example is aimed at German troops.  The front says “Four Front War” and illustrates the existence of the four fronts: the Eastern front (“Ostfront”), the Southern front (“Sudfront”), the Home front (“Heimatfront”), and the Western front (“Westfront”).  Note how the arrow showing the Cross-Channel attack points to Calais, not Normandy, apparently as part of the continuing misinformation campaign aimed at diverting German attention away from the primary landing area.


“Four Front War”



The second page says “East front . . . . Home front . . . . South front . . . . and now West front.”  The numbered paragraphs describe the reverses befalling Germany on the three fronts listed.  The leaflet closes with:







“Four Front War” reverse



Source and Notes:

William Phillips to James C. Dunn, June 8, 1944, file 811.20200/6-844, 1940-44 Central Decimal File, Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

I thank my colleagues Ashby Crowder and Sylvia Naylor who provided the translations of the documents used to prepare this post.

The Historical Office at the Department of State recently published a history of the documentary publication now referred to as Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS).  The book, entitled Toward “Thorough, Accurate, and Reliable:” A History of the Foreign Relations of the United States Series, also is available online.  The history describes the origins and evolution of the series and includes information on the production of the volumes.

A recently found document provides a good illustration of the early 20th century production process.  The FRUS volume for 1908 included Despatch No. 265 from the U.S. Embassy in St. Petersburg, Russia.  In that despatch, Secretary of Embassy Montgomery Schuyler reported the signing of a convention relating to the preservation of peace in the Baltic region.  The image below is how the document appeared in its published form.  While marked as an extract, there is nothing to indicate how much of the document is not included:


The original document follows.  As you can see, it is marked for the typesetter.  The word “Extract” is penciled in at the top of the first page, and directions to omit the final four paragraphs are penciled in the left margin of each page.  Finally, the document is stamped to indicate that it was published in the 1908 FRUS.

From the perspective of over 100 years, it seems clear that the more interesting parts of the despatch, the Ambassador’s analysis, were omitted.  But given that the volume was issued less than 4 years after the date of the document, that information was considered too sensitive for public release and only the fact of the signing of the convention could be published.

Today, of course, the producers of FRUS in the Historical Office compile and produce a manuscript from copies of the documents, so the originals will not include publication markings.  More importantly, when excisions are made in documents, readers are informed of the amount of text (number of lines or pages) that is omitted.


Source: Despatch No. 265, from Embassy Russia, April 25, 1908, Numerical File 25818, Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives.  Also available on roll 1172 of National Archives Microfilm Publication M862.


Today’s post was written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver.

On February 28th, 1876, four Crow Indians enlisted in the U.S. Army as Indian Scouts at Fort Ellis Montana. Those four men: Curly, Goes Ahead, White Man Runs Him, and Hairy Moccasin, were under the command of Colonel Gibbons when on June 21, 1876 near Rosebud, Montana, they were turned over to Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The rest, as they say, is history.

With the battle (of Little Bighorn, or Greasy Grass) behind them, the four men returned to the Crow Indian Reservation to live out their lives, as one sees when working in the Crow Indian Agency files contained within Record Group 75 at the National Archives at Denver. Record Group 75, Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, is a rich collection that often paints a full, cradle-to-grave snapshot of Native American life. These diverse documents chronicle the work of the agencies managing Indian reservations across the country. To demonstrate this, let us examine the historical record of Hairy Moccasin following that fateful afternoon Custer ordered him away before the famous last stand.

We first catch up with Hairy Moccasin 15 years later in an 1891 tribal census from the Census Rolls and Tribal Enumerations, 1889-1920 (NAID 1756288). He is married to Quick and the pair have two sons – Fire Head and Kills the Mud Thrower. Quick’s 70 year old mother also lives with them.

1 (Census, series NAID 1756231)-res

Detail of 1891 Tribal Census, Household of Hairy Moccasin


As the records show, the next ten years would be a tumultuous time for the young family. In the below entry from the series Registers of Indians by Families, 1901-1904 (NAID 1184790), 48 year old Hairy Moccasin is now listed alone with two different children. According to birth and death registers also maintained by the agency, both Fire Head and Kills the Mud Thrower passed away in 1893. Quick gave birth to Bird Eggs and Mary Hairy Moccasin before her own death on August 16, 1901 at the age of 40. The tragedies seemed to pile on as Hairy Moccasin lost his new daughter on March 7, 1902, followed by the death of Bird Eggs on October 1, 1903. Within 12 months of this 1902 family register entry, Hairy Moccasin was all alone.

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Detail, 1902 Family Registry



Five years later Hairy Moccasin filed claim on a parcel of reservation land, as noted in this reservation tract book (from the series Tract Books, 1884-1907, NAID 1910428). The patent was granted in December 1907 and later records will indicate he remained a farmer for the rest of his life.

3 (Tract Book, series NAID 1910428)-res

Detail, Reservation Tract Book


From a 1912 ledger in the Allotment Registers, 1907-1922 (NAID 1803560) we see an example of Hairy Moccasin’s “signature.” In the early 20th century it was found that many American Indians who could not write did not feel the traditional marking of an “X” was definite, personal, or binding when signing documents; as a result, the Bureau of Indian Affairs switched to using an individual’s thumbprint in some situations.

4 (Allotment Register, series NAID 1803560)-res

“signature” of Hairy Moccasin in an Allotment Register, 1912


In 1921 the Crow Indian Agency took an interest in ensuring that the veterans of the Indian Wars were accorded any due benefits and a flurry of correspondence over the next 20 years was sent between Montana and Washington DC – such as this 1921 letter from the Correspondence Files, 1910-1958 (NAID 1135936) discussing the pension applications of the scouts still alive, including Hairy Moccasin.

5 (Letter, series NAID 1135936)-res

Letter from the Crow Agency to Byington & Wilson, December 5, 1921


Any relief Hairy Moccasin might have received from a military pension was short lived, however, as only 11 months later he succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 68. We also note here that at some point he remarried, now leaving behind a widow named Strikes First.

6 (Death Certificate, series NAID 1135936)-res

Death Certificate of Hairy Moccassin, 1922, Correspondence Files (NAID 1135936)

Even after death the record trail continues as the Crow Indian Agency approved, recorded, and saved wills of tribal members. Here is the final will of Hairy Moccasin, disposing of his land, horses, and finances (Copies of Wills and other Heirship Documents, 1911-1939, NAID 1807683).  While we now recognize Strikes First as the widow, there is nothing here indicating the relation, if any, of the other three beneficiaries.

7 (Will, series NAID 1807683)-res

Will of Hairy Moccasin


This is just one of the many stories that can be found in Record Group 75. Recognizing the tremendous historical value of these records, National Archives Research Services staff across the country have been working on a multiyear project to create a new website better detailing these holdings nationwide and how to find them. To access the website and learn more information about American Indian holdings at the National Archives, check out the webpage Researching American Indians and Alaska Natives.