Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Archive for '- Civil War'

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 ]

Celebrating a commitment to civil rights at the Johnson Presidential Library

Throughout the month of April, the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library will be exhibiting four cornerstone documents of civil rights. The “Cornerstones of Civil Rights” exhibit will run from April 1 through 30.

The exhibit will feature two documents signed by President Abraham Lincoln: an authorized, printed edition of the Emancipation Proclamation; and a copy of the Senate resolution proposing the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery.  

It will also include two documents signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965These are the four “cornerstone” documents on which modern civil rights legislation is enacted.

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

Civil Rights Act of 1964, National Archives Identifier 299891

The exhibit links Lincoln and Johnson as two great civil rights champions in the nation’s history. Their conviction, commitment, and force of will to secure equal rights for all fundamentally changed American society.

In the exhibit are two hats owned and worn by the two Presidents—a Resistol beaver cowboy hat that accentuated Johnson’s Texas roots, and one of Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hats.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

President Abraham Lincoln’s stovepipe hat will be on display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library through the month of April. Photo credit: Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, Vermont.

The exhibit coincides with the Civil Rights Summit, this year’s premiere event of a multi-year anniversary celebration of President Johnson’s prodigious … [ Read all ]

Celebrating the life of an ancestor who was a “12 Years A Slave”

This past summer, Vera Williams attended her annual family reunion and Solomon Northup Day. The day honors her great-great-great grandfather, Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and forced into slavery in 1841. When Northup escaped, he wrote a book about his experiences and—most shockingly for that era—took his kidnappers to trial. The book was recently made into the movie 12 Years A Slave.

Solomon Northup Day was founded by Rene Moore, a local citizen of Saratoga Springs, NY, and has been celebrated for the past 15 years. Williams has helped organize family attendance to the events and manages a Facebook page for Solomon Northup Family and Friends. Relatives come together from across the country—including Williams’s own mother, who was honored this year as Northup’s oldest living descendant.

William fholding a first edition of "12 Years a Slave," written by her great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Northup. Williams purchased the book from Lyrical Bookstore in Silver Springs where she was attending the 15-year celebration of Solomon Northup Day.

Williams, center, holding a first edition of 12 Years a Slave, written by her great-great-great-grandfather Solomon Northup. Williams purchased the book from Lyrical Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she was attending Solomon Northup Day.Vera Williams has worked at the National Archives since 2010, but she had no idea that records documenting her family history were in her workplace.

This year, the attendees included film executives, actress Lupita Nyong’o, and other representatives from the movie 12 Years A Slave. Moore had contacted Fox Searchlight Pictures to tell them about the annual celebration, and in … [ Read all ]

Tasty tidbits for your Thanksgiving table

The best thing about Thanksgiving is gathering around the table, stuffing your faces with turkey, and enjoying the pleasant and agreeable conversation with your extended family. Right? Well, to keep the happy conversation flowing, here’s some fun facts about Thanksgiving to keep your family distracted from explosive topics (you know what they are at your house) while they digest that second slice of pumpkin pie.

We associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but the holiday wasn’t official until October 3, 1789, when President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.

George Washington's October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 10/03/1789 General Records of the United States Government, 1778 - 2006 [National Archives Identifier 299956]

George Washington’s October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 
General Records of the United States Government, 1778 – 2006 [National Archives Identifier 299956]

 

It’s the sesquicentennial of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving declaration. One hundred and fifty years ago, he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, and asked that those being thankful also “commend to His [God's] tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” The President declared that Thanksgiving would be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November.

The third and final page of President  Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106)., 10/03/1863, Page 3 General Records of the United States Government, 1778 – 2006 [National Archives Identifier 299960]

The third and final page of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106).  [National Archives

[ Read all ]

Spielberg Film Festival: Lincoln

Steven Spielberg is being honored by the Foundation for the National Archives for his film legacy, which has brought history to life on the big screen. The National Archives is celebrating the award with a film festival. Lincoln is the last film to be screened. Join us tonight, November 18, at 7 p.m. Tickets are free and distributed an hour before the screening. For details on the award, go here.

Among the official Civil War records preserved by the National Archives is a series of telegrams sent by President Lincoln during his Presidency, including this “bull-dog” telegram to General Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant earned the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant during the Civil War after his 1862 victory at Fort Donelson in Tennessee. For his proven military skills and for his bulldog determination to destroy the Confederate armies, President Lincoln picked Grant in March 1864 to be Lieutenant General of the U.S. Army, making him commander of all Union forces.

In June of that year, Grant set out to capture Petersburg, Virginia, the hub of a railroad system that carried food and supplies to the Confederate capital city of Richmond and to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army. Although the Union’s initial assaults failed to capture the city, they did sever some of these railroad lines. By July both Confederate and Union forces had dug in … [ Read all ]