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Archive for '- Civil War'

On Exhibit: John Wilkes Booth’s Calling Card

Today’s post comes from Emma Rothberg, intern in the National Archives History Office. 

John Wilkes Booth's Calling Card, 04/14/1865. (National Archives Identifier 7873510)

John Wilkes Booth’s Calling Card, 04/14/1865. (National Archives Identifier 7873510)

Tucked in a corner in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC, is a rectangular piece of paper faded grey with time. It is unobtrusive and, due to its small size, could easily be missed among the larger and flashier documents and artifacts. But this card is a reminder of one of the most resonant and well known stories of American history—that of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination by the actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.

Vice President Andrew Johnson, undated. (National Archives Identifier 530496)

Vice President Andrew Johnson, undated. (National Archives Identifier 530496)

On April 14, 1865, Vice President Johnson was staying at the Kirkwood House—a hotel that stood at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.  Also in the hotel, and in a room directly one floor above the Vice President’s suite, was George Atzerodt. He was a fellow conspirator in Booth’s larger plot to murder President Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Vice President Johnson and thus throwing the recently victorious North into chaos and disarray. Atzerodt—a German carriage painter from Maryland who had spent the Civil War years ferrying Confederates across the Potomac—arrived at the Kirkwood House on the morning of the 14th. His task: to assassinate Vice President Johnson.… [ Read all ]

Three Mathew Brady Photographs

In celebration of American Archives Month, the National Archives is teaming up with the Academy of American Poets. Throughout the month we’ll be publishing original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. To view the poets performing their original work, visit the National Archives YouTube Channel. 

Confederate dead behind stone wall. The 6th. Maine Inf. penetrated the Confederate lines at this point. Fredericksburg, VA, 1863. (National Archives Identifier 524930)

Confederate dead behind stone wall. The 6th. Maine Inf. penetrated the Confederate lines at this point. Fredericksburg, VA, 1863. (National Archives Identifier 524930)

Today we have three poems by Eric Pankey, who was inspired by Mathew Brady’s Civil War–era photographs.

Noted photographer Mathew Brady and his associates produced several thousand photographs of battlefields, towns, and people affected by the Civil War.

Among the various scenes the photographers captured were these haunting images related to the Battle of Chancellorsville.

The Battle of Chancellorsville took place between April 30 and May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. The battle saw Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s 60,000 men face Union Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Army of the Potomac, who had more than double in force.

Despite an unlikely Confederate victory, the Confederates sustained heavy losses.

Brady shocked many people when he displayed images of dead soldiers from the battle of Antietam the previous year. Americans were unaccustomed to seeing the reality of war.

Although many photos in the National Archives are attributed to Brady, many were taken by others under his supervision. When Brady … [ Read all ]

Loan to Nevada Museum of Art

Today’s post comes from James Zeender, Senior Registrar at the National Archives. 

Governor Brian Sandoval and Curator Ann Wolfe at Nevada Museum of Art press conference, July 29, 2014. Courtesy Nevada Museum of Art.

Governor Brian Sandoval and Curator Ann Wolfe at Nevada Museum of Art press conference, July 29, 2014. Courtesy Nevada Museum of Art.

The Emancipation Proclamation will be on exhibit at the Nevada Museum of Art for 36 hours from October 30 to November 2, 2014.

This will be the capstone to the museum’s exhibition “The 36th Star: Nevada’s Journey from Territory to State,” which opened on August 2. It features other original documents from the National Archives, including President Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation establishing Nevada as the 36th state in the Union and the state’s constitution transmitted by the Nevada Governor to Secretary of State William Seward. (The Governor sent the constitution in a 175-page telegram that cost $4313.27 at the time (over $60,000 in 2014 dollars).

Nevada became the 36th state in the Union just before the 1864 Presidential election. Its two Electoral College votes for Lincoln played little role in the outcome of the election—Lincoln handily defeated his opponent, Gen. George McClellan, in the popular vote, getting 55% of the popular vote to McClellan’s 45%, and overwhelmed him in the Electoral College vote of 212 to 21.

Governor Brian Sandoval speaks at the press conference. July 29, 2014. Courtesy of Nevada Museum of Art.

Governor Brian Sandoval speaks at the press conference. July 29, 2014. Courtesy of Nevada Museum of Art.

However, Nevada’s votes in Congress for the 13th Amendment—where Lincoln’s opponents posed more of … [ Read all ]

Civil War Fashion: A Facial Hair Frenzy

Today’s post comes from Marisa Hawley, intern in the National Archives Strategy and Communications office.

Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865. (National Archives Identifier 528717)

Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, ca. 1860 – ca. 1865. (National Archives Identifier 528717)

As part of the “six weeks of style” celebration to recognize the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are showcasing fashion-related records from our holdings. This week’s fashion theme is Classy Women (and Men) of the 19th Century.

The 1860s was unquestionably one of the most turbulent decades in our nation’s history. The tension between the North and South states over issues like slavery, states’ rights, and economic disparity had been simmering for nearly half a century. In 1861, the conflict reached a boiling point as the Southern states seceded from the Union and the country engaged in the Civil War.

Despite their numerous ideological, political, and social differences, the North and South certainly had one thing in common: a flair for facial hair.

After the failure of many liberal revolutions in Europe in the late 1840s, beards quickly lost their association with radicalism. In fact, from the mid- to late 19th century, hairiness became synonymous with masculinity, dignity, and power.

Gen. Chris. C. Augur, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865. (National Archives Identifier 528484)

Gen. Chris. C. Augur, ca. 1860 – ca. 1865. (National Archives Identifier 528484)

Men of varying political and social statuses started to embrace all sorts of fascinating facial hair styles: long, … [ Read all ]

Now on display: Whitman’s Report on Cemeteries

In honor of Memorial Day, the 1869 Whitman Report on Cemeteries is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from May 22 through June 5. Today’s post comes from curator Alice Kamps.

Drawing of Shiloh Cemetery from Whitman’s Report on Cemeteries. National Archives, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General

Drawing of Shiloh Cemetery from Whitman’s Report on Cemeteries.
National Archives, Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General

Memorial Day traditions began in the aftermath of the Civil War. The American people were just beginning what historian Drew Gilpin Faust called “the work of death.”

An estimated 750,000 soldiers died between 1861 and 1865—about 2.5 percent of the population. Never before or since has war resulted in so many American casualties. The task of locating, identifying, burying, and mourning the dead was overwhelming.

Walt Whitman wrote of the nation’s shared suffering in his epic 1865 poem, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d:

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men, I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the slain soldiers of the war,
But I saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest, they suffer’d not,
The living remain’d and suffer’d, the mother suffer’d,
And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer’d,
And the armies that remain’d suffer’d.

In his Personal Memoirs, Ulysses S. Grant described an open field after … [ Read all ]