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Today’s guest blogger is Mark C. Mollan, a reference archivist specializing in records of the U.S. Navy and Maritime agencies at Archives I.
When Herman Haupt reluctantly left the war on September 14, 1863 (150 years ago this week), he was not technically in the Army. Although addressed as General, Haupt rarely wore the full uniform, never received an officer’s commission, and also never accepted military pay. However, Haupt’s strongest legacy lay in his innovations of the U.S. Military Railroad Division of the War Department during America’s Civil War. Well known and researched are Haupt’s development of the trained Army corps and the techniques they would employ to repair damaged railroads and bridges seemingly as quickly as the Confederates could lay them to waste. Of greater testament to Haupt’s abilities (and even more well-known), he fully realized the potential of the railroad for scheduled delivery of supplies, equipment, and personnel that would ultimately overwhelm the resource bereft Confederate States. Equally as important, ever more far-reaching, and almost completely overlooked by historians, Haupt also developed the idea that would streamline shipping, leading to our current global economy and ushering in the box-store era.
By November 11, 1862, Major General Ambrose Burnside had been in command of the Army of the Potomac for three days after the final sacking of his predecessor Gen. George B. McClellan. In preparation for an attack on Fredericksburg, Burnside would need a fully operational Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad (RFP) to supply his army, and his chief railroad authority General Herman H. Haupt immediately set to repairing the rail line between Aquia and Falmouth, Virginia, as well as the wharf at Aquia. Haupt preliminarily kept the Army of the Potomac supplied through the Alexandria and Orange Railroad, but its single track and poor repair would greatly hamper Haupt’s ability to keep the Army supplied at Fredericksburg. Burnside, Haupt and Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army Montgomery C. Meigs agreed supplies would run on the RFP, after repairs could be completed. Haupt sent his best engineer to Aquia Harbor to repair the damage that Burnside himself had inflicted only months before to deprive oncoming Rebel forces of the potentially important port facilities. It was also on this day that Haupt put in an order to Meigs for 25 Schuylkill barges for immediate delivery, which Meigs ordered personally to ensure it was swiftly done.
“Transportation on the Potomac”, ca. 1862 or 1863. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress. See full citation at the end of the blog.
Haupt knew from his efforts after the failed Peninsula Campaign that funneling war materiel through Aquia Harbor would require chartering scores of all types of domestic shipping vessels to transport supplies from Alexandria to Aquia then on to Falmouth, across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg. Haupt was also fully aware the costly delays in transferring goods from ship to rail at Aquia would expend invaluable time and resources. To ease the shipping transfer, when Haupt received his barges on November 17, he had them lashed together and rigged with railroad tracks allowing 8 railroad cars to traverse the breadth of two barges, comprising up to a half train of supplies, without break of bulk. In the following report to QMG Meigs, Haupt recounts the success of the initiative and advocates for its widespread use citing a savings of $1,352,000 for the Quartermaster’s coffers per year (see image of page one below).
RG 92 (Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General); Consolidated Correspondence File, 1794-1915 (NARA Online Identifier 300350); File: Alexandria to Aquia Creek–Transportation; Document: Letter from Haupt to Meigs, Nov 29, 1862. For pages 2 through 4, see thumbnails at the end of this blog.
Haupt would continue to use this operation through June with the pulling out from Chancellorsville to run supplies through Virginia to meet General Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg. For nearly 8 months, Haupt would run supplies on these barges, employing the first documented example in world history of continuous and successful application of roll-on/roll-off cargo, without break of bulk. And the idea would remain far ahead of its time. The U.S. military would not try the tactic again until World War II with the purchase of several train-bearing vessels at the behest of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself. And commercial application would not come until the 1930s with the advent of Sea Train running goods to and from Cuba via railcars lashed on ships. But it would not be until the 1950s, and the advent of the US interstate highway system and developments in interstate transportation that Malcom McLean would again apply the idea experimenting with trucking to give rise to today’s container shipping.
Although differences between the War Department and himself, and an on-going legal battle back in Boston, compelled Haupt to resign before the end of the war, Haupt’s innovations in military railroad applications secured Union victory, and informed the use of railroads in wartime for decades and many conflicts to come. Haupt also proved ahead of his time applying the first large-scale use of “non-break of bulk” cargo; the principle force behind our current system of transporting nearly all the commercial goods the world population produces, buys, and consumes; no less than the foundation of today’s global economy.
**Photograph from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC; Title: Transportation on the Potomac. Cars loaded at Alexandria can be carried on barges or arks to Aquia Creek, and sent to stations where the Army of the Potomac is supplied without break of bulk; Creator: Andrew J. Russell, Photographer.
The National Archives holds records relating to many firsts:
First atomic bomb.
First man on the moon.
Here is another first. This is Lucile Atcherson.
[Source: Lucile Atcherson; Official Personnel Folders-Department of State; Record Group 146: Records of the U.S. Civil Service Commission; National Archives, St. Louis, MO]
The following seemingly innocuous paper documents her “first.” Lucile Atcherson was the first woman appointed as a United States Diplomatic Officer or Consular Officer (the U.S. did not establish the unified Foreign Service until 1924, at which point Diplomatic and Consular Officers became Foreign Service Officers). Other women had previously served in the Department of State or overseas, but all of the latter had been in clerical positions.
[Source: Department of State to Lucile Atcherson, December 5, 1922, file: 123 At 21-, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National Archives, College Park, MD]
Atcherson accepted the offer of appointment. Even though her career was short, her breakthrough into the male-only world of U.S. diplomats eventually saw Madeline Albright, Condoleeza Rice, and Hilary Clinton serve as Secretary of State and head of the Foreign Service.
Lucile Atcherson was born in October 1894 in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Smith College in 1913 and subsequently did graduate and research work at Ohio State University and the University of Chicago. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement and during World War I worked overseas in the American Committee of Devastated France. She spoke French, German, and Spanish.
Atcherson began her quest to join the American diplomatic corps in 1921, enlisting the support of political leaders in her home state of Ohio. Department of State officials tried to steer her towards a clerk position where her war relief experience might be helpful. Instead, in May 1921, she applied for a position as a Diplomatic Secretary (a secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the time was one of importance; secretaries performed substantive work, not clerical duties, under the direction of the chief of mission). Her application was accepted and she subsequently passed the July 1922 Diplomatic Service examination, at which point she was placed on the list of those eligible for appointment. As noted in the document above, she was notified of her appointment as a Secretary in December 1922.
Atcherson accepted her appointment and spent her first two years of service in the Department of State. For most of that period she worked in the Division of Latin-American Affairs. She also spent time in the Bureau of Indexes and Archives where she made a good impression in the use of the Department’s codes and ciphers.
After two years in the Department, the Office of Foreign Personnel determined to send Atcherson overseas in order for her to experience the real work of a Diplomatic Secretary and to see if a woman could effectively operate in that arena. She was assigned to the U.S. Legation in Switzerland, then headed by noted American diplomat Hugh Gibson. After her tour of duty in Bern, she was assigned to the U.S. Legation in Panama in early 1927. She was not to be there long. While in Switzerland, Atcherson met Dr. George M. Curtis. They decided to marry and after a short time in Panama, Atcherson resigned, effective September 19, 1927.
While Lucile Atcherson may not have made an impact on U.S. foreign relations, by virtue of her appointment, she opened the door to all the women who followed in her footsteps.
For more information, please consult:
Homer L. Calkin, Women in the Department of State: Their Role in American Foreign Affairs, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1978
Molly M. Wood, “Lucile Atcherson Curtis: The First Female U.S. Diplomat,” The Foreign Service Journal, vol. 90, #7-8, July-August 2013, pp. 44-48.
I thank my NARA colleagues Ashley Mattingly and Erin Townsend for their assistance.
TAGS American Committee of Devastated France
, Consular Officer
, David Langbart
, Department of State
, Diplomatic Officer
, Diplomatic Secretary
, Dr. George M. Curtis
, Foreign Service Officer
, Hugh Gibson
, Lucile Atcherson
, RG 146
Today’s post is written by Cody White, an archivist at the National Archives at Denver. He is not related to Buffalo Bill.
It is said that nobody can stop progress… and apparently not even William “Buffalo Bill” Cody when in the early 20th century he resorted to relying on his clout with President Theodore Roosevelt to prevent development near a town he helped found. A recent find in the Bureau of Reclamation holdings here in Denver are copies of several letters to President Roosevelt as well as original letters to Roosevelt’s cabinet that sought to stop the creation of what ended up becoming the town of Powell Wyoming. Throughout the correspondence, Cody’s overreaching complaint echoes the perennial political issue in the American West: access to water.
Writing from New York and Connecticut, as well as Paris, Milan, and Bautzen, Germany while traveling the world with his famed show, Cody’s Wyoming business ventures were never far from his mind. The correspondence starts in 1902 but it isn’t until 1905 that we see the first letter to President Roosevelt. Cody begins by discussing their common “pioneer” heritage and apologizes for missing the inauguration with the “100 Indians” he had hoped to bring along before getting to the main reason for writing: the rumors of a government-sponsored settlement on the Burlington Railway line in northwest Wyoming.
Cody, as he did with the town that bears his name, had a hand in developing the town of Ralston, Wyoming and fretted that the creation of yet another town five miles to the east would hurt the planned settlement of Ralston. The issue was quickly brought to bear on the Secretary of the Interior and so Bureau of Reclamation officials wrote to reassure Cody that there were no plans for a new settlement. Cody followed up the following year with Bureau of Reclamation Chief Engineer Frederick Newell to ensure water access for Ralston from the canal being built before reaching back out to President Roosevelt in August of 1906. In what seems to be his style throughout these letters, Cody began by stating how much he disliked writing to the President with personal matters before continuing on for several pages about his water rights and the possible town site of Powell.
Correspondence from William Cody to Bureau of Reclamation Chief Engineer Frederick Newell, May 4, 1906.
One year later, like clockwork, Cody wrote Roosevelt again bemoaning how his money invested in Ralston would be lost if another town is created nearby, but it appears that the seeds of settlement had already been planted. A train station had been built along with the Bureau of Reclamation construction headquarters for the area, called Camp Colter. Officials once again replied to Cody but this time with a new caveat; no town would be built unless demanded by settlers.
Cody continued to press his case with Roosevelt the following spring but within months of writing, planning for the town of Powell was made official. Cody fired back to the Secretary of the Interior James Garfield that it was from his urging that the Burlington Railway, which had been the impetus for the settlement in the area, had even been built and so essentially the opening of the Big Horn Basin was due almost entirely to him. If Powell was to be built, Cody wrote, there would be “no earthly chance of Ralston ever becoming a town.”
First page of correspondence from William Cody to Secretary of the Interior James Garfield, December 26, 1908.
The tide was going against Cody, however, as local farmers submitted petitions to the Bureau of Reclamation for the new town that would be closer to their homes. Cody seemed to accept the development grudgingly. In the last few letters from him in the file he shifted his focus to ensuring that the creation of Powell didn’t affect the water for Ralston.
Correspondence from William Cody to Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger, April 20, 1909.
Shortly thereafter, Powell did become a town, incorporated in 1909, and while it may be argued it did hurt the growth of Ralston, both towns are still in existence today.
All documents and quotations referenced above come from RG 115 Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, Entry 3, “General Administrative and Project Records,” boxes 899-912, NARA Online Identifier 562770.
TAGS Buffalo Bill
, Bureau of Reclamation
, Cody White
, James Garfield
, National Archives at Denver
, RG 115
, Theodore Roosevelt
, Wild West
, William Cody
Today’s blogger is Meghan Milam, a summer 2013 intern in the Archives I Reference Section who worked with court records.
Rights guaranteed by the First Amendment are by no means clearly defined. Contentious, news-worthy cases like those involving Pfc. Manning or Edward Snowden bring the debate into the broader public. The phrase “clear and present danger” is used and one can wonder what exactly it means. The Staff of the National Archives Regional Archives System wrote a paper in 1991 describing the usefulness of the records of lower federal courts for looking at how the First Amendment has been upheld, or not upheld. They argue that “the largest segment of First Amendment cases in the regional archives concerns prosecutions under the Alien Registration Act or Smith Act, passed in 1940, which made it a criminal offense to advocate the forceful overthrow of the government.” When working in the lower federal court records, even the tedious work of data entry, you never know what you might stumble across.
While creating a database of Miscellaneous Actions of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, 1941-1951, I noticed the names of petitioners, attorneys, and one Honorable Edward C. Eicher as respondent, coming up again and again. Not only were names repeating, but the type of petition was all the same: writ of mandamus. This type of writ comes from a superior court and tells an inferior court to do, or not do, a certain act. A preliminary Internet search revealed the individuals from the docket were all defendants in a sedition trial from 1944: United States v. McWilliams et al.
Officially a case of the District Court of the District of Columbia, the key players showed up in the court docket of the U.S. Court of Appeals because of the pleas for mandamus. It caught my eye that on July 5th of 1944, James J. Laughlin, whose name appears repeatedly as an attorney for petitioners to the Court of Appeals, appears as a petitioner himself for a writ of mandamus. The respondent is yet again Justice Edward C. Eicher.
The Court of Appeals docket reveals some of the courtroom drama of this largely forgotten trial of the District Court. According to news sources at the time, Justice Eicher kicked Laughlin out of the trial for “tactics designed to delay and obstruct the administration of justice,” and Laughlin was seeking the authority of a higher court to force Eicher to revoke his decision. Laughlin had, in fact, filed an impeachment petition with the House Speaker Sam Rayburn in an effort to have Eicher removed from the trial (see image below). The docket tells that three attorneys, O. John Rogge, Joseph W. Burns, and Philip R. Miller responded as Eicher’s defense.
[Click on the image below to enlarge.]
Record Group 276 (Records of the United States Court of Appeals); Miscellaneous Jurisdiction Case Files, 1941-1975 (NARA Online Identifier 1128311); Document: Copy of the first page of James J Laughlin’s petition for the impeachment of Justice Eicher.
I eventually moved from the docket to the case files of the District Court, and as I sifted through the papers of the trial, what emerged was a messy case of widely varied defendants—from Nazi sympathizers to intellectuals like Lawrence Dennis—being indicted under the Smith Act, as conspiring to “impair the loyalty of the armed forces…and that this was done as part of a gigantic conspiracy with German and Nazi officials whose public program was to destroy all democratic governments and replace them by Nazi governments.” The sheer number of defendants and their lawyers alone would have created chaos in the courtroom, but the tactics of lawyers like James J. Laughlin led to a long and drawn-out trial.
This sedition case of 1944 came to an abrupt halt with the death of Justice Eicher on November 30th, 1944. With Eicher’s death, the case was inevitably declared a mistrial. What I find compelling is that through the simple recordings of the U.S. Court of Appeals docket, a whole world opens up and a story is told. It not only paints details into a picture of the judicial climate of the Roosevelt administration during the early 1940s and the specifics of First Amendment interpretations at the time, but also gives clues that point to attorney behavior and strategies during these sedition indictments. Many clues and questions are bundled into a handful of lines in a 69 year old court docket.
 Staff of the National Archives Regional Archives System. “Fighting Words: Finding the First Amendment in Lower Federal Court Records.” Organization of American Historians 78.1 (1991): 240-48. JSTOR. Web. 1 Aug. 2013.
 Record Group 276, Records of the United States Court of Appeals, Entry 15, Miscellaneous Actions, 1941-1951.
 Black, Henry Campbell. Law Dictionary; Definition of the Terms and Phrases of American and English Jurisprudence, Ancient and Modern, with Guide to Pronunciation. St. Paul: West, 1951. 1113. Print.
 Record Group 21, Records of the District Court of the District of Columbia, Entry 77, United States vs. McWilliams et al.
 Chinn, James E. “Eicher Fights Laughlin Plea for Mandamus.” The Washington Post 8 July 1944: 3. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web. 25 July 2013.
 Chinn, James E. “Eicher Ousts Laughlin From Sedition Trial. ” The Washington Post 6 July 1944: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 August 2013.
 “The Sedition Trial: A Study in Delay and Obstruction.” The University of Chicago Law Review 15.3 (1948): 691-702. JSTOR. Web. 1 Aug. 2013.
 “Sedition Case Mistrial Looms After Justice Eicher Dies.” The Washington Post 1 December 1944: 1. ProQuest Historical Newspapers. Web. 25 July 2013.
Today’s guest blogger is Nick Baric, an archivist in the Archives I Processing Section.
On August 23, 2011, the Washington, DC, area was rocked by the one of the largest east coast earthquakes in recorded U.S. history. Few of us who were around on that day will ever forget where they were when it struck, and many may ponder, “Has it really been two years?” While few visible signs are left of the disaster, the Washington Monument remains closed to this day. Still undergoing repairs, it will be wrapped in scaffolding until 2014.
Almost 125 years prior to that memorable day, another American city not often associated with the phenomenon experienced an earthquake. At 9:50 p.m. on August 31, 1886, residents of the port city of Charleston, South Carolina were startled by an earthquake. Although there was no Richter scale at the time (it would not be created until 1935), experts today believe that the earthquake in Charleston would fall between 6.6 and 7.3. On the other hand, the DC quake – centered in Louisa County, Virginia – “only” registered a 5.8. The impact of Charleston’s earthquake was felt as far away as Boston to the north, Chicago and Milwaukee to the northwest, as far west as New Orleans, as far south as Cuba, and as far east as Bermuda. It caused major damage as far away at Tybee Island, Georgia – which was more than 60 miles from the epicenter. While the 2011 quake caused no fatalities, Charleston’s death toll was disputed but ranged between 60 and 110, damaging 2,000 buildings. It caused an estimated $6 million in damages, (about $150 million in 2013 dollars).
Federal agencies were not spared the quake’s impact. Charleston served as the headquarters for the U.S. Lighthouse Service’s Sixth District (in 1939 the Light House Service became a component of the U.S. Coast Guard). The Light House Tender “Wistaria” soon rendered assistance to the inhabitants of the city by providing food and shelter. Months later, the U.S. Geological Survey inquired in a letter of February 18, 1887, to the Chairman of the Light-House Board as to the time observations of the earthquake at two lighthouses down to the nearest second since these were deemed to be of “especial value in the study of the Earthquake of Aug. 31st”. In the immediate aftermath, Colonel B.B. Smith, Assistant Light House Engineer of the district, inquired in a circular about any damages to lighthouses under his jurisdiction.
Although some of the responses were clinical in their description of the quake and its aftermath, others took on a much more personal tone. In the same way that I recall returning from lunch to my desk on August 23, 2011, and then suddenly feeling the building tremble, the September 12, 1886, letter (see images below) from Patrick Comer, keeper of the Daufuskie Island Light House, depicts a typical evening turning unforgettable. He wrote, “I was on the verandah smoking my pipe … all of a sudden came a slight breeze from the S.E. followed up by a rumbling fearful noise, like the noise of a prairie on fire”.
Record Group 26 (Records of the U.S. Coast Guard); Press Copies of Letters Sent and Received from Headquarters in Charleston, 1866-1928 (NARA Online Identifier 6706482); Folder: ”Reports re. the earthquake of Aug. 31, 1886″
In another letter dated September 2, 1886 (see images below), John M. Doyle, keeper of the Bloody Point Light Station, illustrates the quake’s effect on his children (and four legged companion), noting that “my children who had gone to bed screamed in terror & the noise was so deafening we could scarcely hear their voices”.
Record Group 26 (Records of the U.S. Coast Guard); Press Copies of Letters Sent and Received from Headquarters in Charleston, 1866-1928 (NARA Online Identifier 6706482); Folder: ”Reports re. the earthquake of Aug. 31, 1886″
Reactions to natural disasters can run the gamut of human emotions. Just as we will not soon forget where we were on August 23, 2011, the civil servants stationed on the coast of South Carolina in August 1886 probably felt the same way.