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Archive for '- Civil Rights'

A glimpse into the Civil War experience of Company F

Today’s blog post comes from Mary Burtzloff, archivist at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

The black leather-bound journal had water stains and mold around the edges. It looked a bit icky, but the contents of the Civil War journal fascinated me.

One hundred and fifty years after our nation’s bloodiest conflict, we are  reminded of the lives and accomplishments of famous men like Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee. The experiences of ordinary Americans (31 million or so who are not featured in films and books) are much more mysterious. What sort of people were they? How did they experience the war? George Boardman’s story helps me relate to those missing multitudes.

I began identifying Civil War–related holdings at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library as I worked on a proposed exhibit. Believe it or not, a 20th-century Presidential library may have records from the 19th (and even 18th) century, too!

My favorite find was the journal of George Boardman, a young man who served in Company F of the 22nd Maine Infantry from October 1862 to August 1863. Mrs. M. Hobart gave the journal to President Eisenhower in 1967. It is currently displayed in the exhibit “Civil War: Lincoln, Lee and More!” at the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas.

The diary entry for George Boardman's Christmas dinner in 1862 (click to enlarge). He

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Emancipation Proclamation: Freedom in Washington, DC

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Image: Petition of Margaret C. Barber, 05/21/1862; Record Group 217; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 4644520)

Nine months before President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he signed a bill on April 16, 1862, that ended slavery in the District of Columbia. The act finally concluded many years of disagreements over ending ”the national shame” of slavery in the nation’s capital.

The law provided for immediate emancipation, compensation to loyal Unionist masters of up to $300 for each freed slave, voluntary colonization of former slaves to colonies outside the United States, and payments of up to $100 to each person choosing emigration. Although this three-way approach of immediate emancipation, compensation, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, it pointed toward slavery’s death. Emancipation was greeted with great joy by the District’s African American community.

The white population of DC took advantage of the act’s promise of compensation. One month after the act was issued, Margaret Barber presented a claim to the Board of Commissioners for the Emancipation of Slaves in the District of Columbia, saying that she wanted to be compensated by the Federal Government, which had freed her 34 slaves.

Image: Petition of Margaret C. Barber, 05/21/1862; Record Group 217; National Archives (National Archives Identifier: 4644520)

Margaret Barber estimated … [ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: My Dear Wife

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Envelope from a letter sent by John Boston to his wife Elizabeth, January 12, 1862, enclosed in a letter from Major General George B. McClellan to the Honorable Edwin Stanton; Letters Received, 1805–1889; Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762–1984, Record Group 94; National Archives Identifier 783102.

During the Civil War, the government moved slowly but steadily from an affirmation of the Constitutional protection of slavery to its complete abolition with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment. This change was in part forced on the Federal government by the growing numbers of enslaved people who fled and sought protection behind Union lines.

John Boston, fleeing slavery in Maryland, found refuge with a New York regiment in Upton Hill, Virginia, where he wrote to his wife who remained in Owensville. At the moment of celebrating his freedom, his highest hope and aspiration was to be reunited with his family.

My Dear Wife it is with grate joy I take this time to let you know Whare I am
i am now in Safety in the 14th Regiment of Brooklyn . . . this Day i can Adress you thank god as a free man I had a little truble in giting away But as the lord led the Children of Isrel to the

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Emancipation Proclamation: Flight to Freedom

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Page 1 of Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Case of U.S. ex. rel. John Wheeler v. Passmore Williamson, 07/19/1855; Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685 – 2004, Record Group 21; National Archives at Philadelphia. (National Archives Identifier: 2641488)

Before the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, many men and women in bondage ran away from their owners to freedom. These escape attempts were dangerous, and not all of them were successful. Abolitionists sometimes helped slaves in their flight to freedom, like these two men in the case of the escaping slave Jane Johnson and her children.

Jane Johnson and her two young sons were enslaved by John Hill Wheeler, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua. While on his way to South America, Wheeler brought Jane and her sons to New York and Philadelphia. Once the three slaves were in Philadelphia, abolitionists William Still and Passmore Williamson helped Johnson and her two sons escape to Boston.

Wheeler petitioned the court to have Williamson return his slaves. In the Writ of Habeas Corpus commanding Williamson to return Jane and her sons, Williamson stated that he was unable to do so:

Passmore Williamson the defendant in the within writ mentioned for return thereto respectfully submits that the within named Jane, Daniel and Isaiah .

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Emancipation Proclamation: Petitioning for Freedom

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

January 1 marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. While this document is remembered for freeing the slaves in the Southern states, petitioners had been attempting to end slavery since the nation’s founding. Petitions by anti-slavery groups were sent to the newly elected Congress soon after it first met.

On December 30, 1799, the Reverend Absalom Jones and other free blacks of Philadelphia sent a petition to Congress. Although they recognized the “blessing” of their freedom, they were concerned about their fellow men: “We cannot be insensible of the condition of our afflicted Brethren, suffering under various circumstances in different parts of these States; but deeply sympathizing with them, We are incited by a sense of Social duty and humbly conceive ourselves authorized to address and petition you in their behalf.”

Page one of the Petition of Absalom Jones, and Others, People of Color, and Freemen Against the Slave Trade to the Coast of Guinea; HR 6A-F4.2; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Record Group 233; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

Jones and the petitioners noted that the Constitution “is violated by a trade carried on in a clandestine manner to the Coast of Guinea.” They also mentioned that the Southerners’ practice of kidnapping free African Americans and transporting them to … [ Read all ]