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Archive for '- Revolutionary War'

Join our Bill of Rights Twitter Contest

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Readers, we now live in a brave new world of abbreviation. What was once Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC. What was once the Science Fiction Channel is now SyFy. For many people, this sentence makes sense: “IMHO this is NSFW” (for the record, this post is). Even the National Archives hasn’t been spared: sometimes we call it the Natty Arches or the Chives.

In this great condensing of America, one item has been spared, however. The Bill of Rights–that great document that contains the first ten amendments to the Constitution–hasn’t been abridged by a single punctuation mark. Until now.

It’s time the Bill of Rights got a hip new upgrade and we need your help. From today through December 15–the 219th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights–we’re asking you to condense each of those amendments into separate bite-sized tweets.

The rules are simple: on the appropriate day shorten the assigned amendment down to as few words (or letters) as possible while retaining the amendment’s meaning, then Tweet us your response using the hashtag #BillofRights.

There’s no limit to how many times you post, and we promise that there will be no actual abridging of the Bill of Rights–this is just a way to think about one of our most important documents. So tweet your hearts out!

We’ve posted the schedule below, and every day on Facebook … [ Read all ]

Thanksgiving, as American as apple pie

Here, in short, are the documents that made Thanksgiving.

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

George Washington's proclamation to give thanks for the Constitution and the country (ARC Identifier 299956)

On October 3, 1789, 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.

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Page one of Lincoln's Thanksgiving Procalamation which set the holiday as the fourth Thursday in November (ARC 299960)

On October 3, 1863, President Lincoln made the traditional Thanksgiving celebration a nationwide holiday to be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. In the midst of a bloody Civil War, President Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation in which he enumerated the blessings of the American people and called upon his countrymen to “set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.”

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday, Pearl Harbor had occured just over two weeks earlier (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

The House Joint Resolution Making the Last Thursday in November a Legal Holiday. FDR would sign this into law on December 26, just two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives)

In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday to the third Thursday of November to lengthen the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy which was still recovering from the Depression. This move, which set off a … [ Read all ]

Tornado saves capital, scares British

The Taking of the City of Washington by the British Forces Under Major General Ross on August 24, 1814... the public property destroyed amounted to thirty Million of Dollars. (148-GW-478)

"The Taking of the City of Washington by the British Forces Under Major General Ross on August 24, 1814... the public property destroyed amounted to thirty Million of Dollars." (148-GW-478)

One hundred and ninety-six years ago today, the British sacked the District of Columbia. They were, in turn, sacked by a tornado.

In 1814, the British wanted revenge. U.S. troops had burned the legislative building,  government structures, and private warehouses in the Battle of York (modern-day Toronto), and the Brits were inclined to teach their former colonies a lesson in how to properly sack a city.

Their charge on the American capital city was led by British Maj. Gen. Robert Ross and Adm. George Cockburn, who burned the Capitol, the White House, the Treasury Department, and plenty of other government buildings without losing a single soldier.

Cockburn was, well, a cocky fellow. Aside from burning much of the District, he did it with an unapologetic gusto. He supped on the dinner that had been prepared for President James Madison before burning down the White House.

While marching back through the city, he also made a stop at the National Intelligencer, where the editor had been “telling some tough stories” about him, and later had all the c’s removed from the press so the editor could no longer spell his name. As a testament to Cockburn’s ego, when he … [ Read all ]

A funny thing happened on the way to the Revolutionary War

"Betsy Ross making the first flag, 1776 [according to legend]" Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer
“Betsy Ross making the first flag, 1776 (according to legend)”

(111-SC-92968)

On New Year’s day in 1776, Gen. George Washington and the Continental Army were laying siege to the British-controlled city of Boston. From Prospect Hill, General Washington ordered the Grand Union flag hoisted “in compliment of the United Colonies,” accidentally ending the Revolutionary War.

Or so the British thought.

In Boston, a speech by King George that offered favorable terms of surrender for the colonialists was making the rounds. Loyalists in the besieged city were elated when they saw what looked like the Union Jack flying above General Washington’s encampment at Prospect Hill, taking it as a sign that the Continental forces has accepted the terms and were calling it quits.

Washington remarked on the event in a letter to Joseph Reed on January 4: “By this time, I presume, they begin to think it strange we have not made formal surrender of the lines.”

That the Grand Union flag was so easily mistaken for the British Union Jack made it clear that, certainly, the 13 colonies had a flag problem.

Thankfully, on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress took up the problem and declared “that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” … [ Read all ]