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Archive for 'Letters in the National Archives'

“I am a little country boy eight years old.”

Today’s guest post is from Sherri DeCoursey, who used the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library to find a special piece of history for her father.

For as long as I can remember, a photo of FDR and a letter have hung side-by-side in the den of Mom and Dad’s home.  The yellowed letter, written by FDR’s secretary Missy LeHand, was in response to a letter my father wrote the President in 1941. My dad—Forest Delano Roosevelt Ferguson—was eight years old in 1941. Dad will be 80 in June of this year.

As familiar as that letter and the President’s photograph were to me, what I had never even pondered until last year was what my father wrote in his letter to FDR.

While visiting my parents in the fall of 2012, I looked at the framed letter and photograph and asked Dad what he included in his letter to the President. He couldn’t recall the details. Who could after 72 years? I continued to ponder what my father as a boy might have written.

What would an eight-year-old Forest Delano Roosevelt Ferguson write to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Perhaps about school? The farm? Family or friends? War? What it was like to grow up in Arkansas? Would any parts of Dad’s personality that I knew so well as an adult be emerging or evident when … [ Read all ]

The Check is in the Mail: The Hunt for Abraham Lincoln’s Congressional Pay Records

Today’s blog post comes from David J. Gerleman, assistant editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln’s two-year stint as a Illinois Whig congressman is one of the lesser-known periods of his eventful life. Had he remained in obscurity, it might have remained the crowning achievement of a fizzled frontier political career.

Having been tasked with looking through the records of the 30th Congress for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, I have gotten to know Congressman Lincoln intimately. Well over a year was spent sorting through the sea of papers generated by Congress for the years 1847–49: handwritten draft bills, printed amended bills, engrossed bills, resolutions, joint resolutions, simple motions, yea and nay journals, petitions, letters, committee papers—all these and more had to be searched for traces of Lincoln. Among the wealth of congressional materials were volumes dedicated to recording minute expenses, such as the cost of firewood, stationary, and glue. There were records of how much paper folders, messengers, and cleaning women were paid, yet one vital component was missing—Lincoln’s pay and mileage records.

Ironically, it was Lincoln’s great rival, Stephen A. Douglas, who helped set off an intense search for pay records of the 30th Congress. While hunting through an odd cache of files in the Auditors of the Treasury Records in pursuit of a Lincoln document involving “Coffee Mill Guns,” … [ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: A Letter Home

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

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation brought freedom to the slaves in the Confederacy. By the war’s end, the U.S. Colored Troops Bureau had recruited hundreds of thousands of black soldiers, who fought for both their own and others’ freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation meant that their military victories resulted in the liberation of others.

Samuel Cabble served in the Massachusetts 55th Infantry. In a letter to his mother and his wife, Leah, Cabble expressed his desire to see his wife freed from slavery:

…though great is the present national difficulties yet I look foward to a brighter day When i shall have the opertunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of freedom I would like to no if you are still in slavery if you are it will not be long before we shall have crushed the system that now opreses you for in the course of three months you shall have your liberty. great is the outpouring of the colored people that is now rallying with the hearts of lions against that very[?] curse that has separated you an me yet we shall meet again and oh what a happy time that will be when this unGodly rebellion shall be put down and the curses of our land is trampled

[ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: “It is my Desire to be Free”

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

Only 100 days after promising in the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation that slaves in the Confederacy would soon be freed, Lincoln fulfilled that promise by signing the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This proclamation changed the character of the war, adding moral force to the Union cause and strengthening the Union both militarily and politically while the rebellion was still in full force.

Despite the expansive wording of the proclamation, which stated ”that all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious areas ”are, and henceforward shall be free,” the Emancipation Proclamation was limited in many ways. It applied only to states that had seceded from the Union and it excused parts of the Confederacy that had already come under Northern control. Most importantly of all, the freedom it promised depended upon a Union military victory.

The Emancipation Proclamation also failed to apply to the slave-holding border states that had remained loyal to the Union, such as Maryland. On April 25, 1864, Annie Davis, an enslaved woman living in Maryland, wrote a brief but touching letter to President Abraham Lincoln, asking if she was free.

Mr. President It is my Desire to be free. to go to see my people on the eastern shore. my mistress wont let me you will please let me

[ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: Freedom in Washington, DC

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

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.

Margaret Barber estimated that her slaves were worth a total of $23,400. On June 16, 1862, slave trader Bernard Campbell examined 28 of Barber’s slaves to assess their value for the Commission. In the end, … [ Read all ]