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.
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 the 1862 Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. He said it was “so covered with dead that it would have … [ Read all ]
Today’s post comes from Tammy Williams, archivist at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library
President Harry S. Truman spent his entire young adulthood in Missouri, a border state during the Civil War. Both of his sets of grandparents owned slaves. Many voters and politicians believed that Truman would carry his region’s prejudices to the White House and would do comparatively little to advance the cause of civil rights. And so Truman’s decision to issue Executive Order 9981 to provide for equality of treatment and opportunity in the military surprised many people.
What led President Truman to this decision? As African American soldiers returned to the United States from fighting overseas in World War II, they hoped to return to a more equitable society. However, many soldiers experienced openly hostile reactions from white Southerners as they wore their uniforms in their hometowns.
Two such cases made national headlines. In Aiken, South Carolina, a bus driver kicked Sergeant Isaac Woodward off a bus for allegedly being disruptive, and a police officer beat him and gouged out his eyes, blinding him. In Monroe, Georgia, a group of white men dragged two soldiers and their wives from a car and shot them.
In September 1946, shortly … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on September 24, 2013, under - Civil Rights, - Presidents.
Tags: African Americans, army, black history, desegretation, Frank Pace, NAACP, Records of Rights, segregation, Truman, veterans, WWII
Today’s post comes from Sara Holmes, supervisory preservation specialist at the National Archives in St. Louis.
Just before 9 a.m. on the morning of July 16, 1973, the fire that had raged over five days was declared out. The firemen’s command post was taken down; engines cleared the scene; and 9700 Page Avenue—home of the Military Personal Records Center (MPR)—was returned to Federal control. Recovery work began, and consultants from the private and public sectors were called to St. Louis under the oversight of the General Services Administration.
Many problems were obvious from the start: there was no electricity; broken water lines continued to flood the building; staff had been placed on leave and needed a place to return to work; records requests still needed to be answered; the sixth floor appeared to be little more than rubble and ashes; and the millions of records in the lower floors of the building were still at risk for damage. It would take an additional week for staff to return to work in makeshift quarters and a contract to be awarded to demolish the sixth floor.
With water still pooling on every floor, concerns grew that the records on the lower floors would soon bloom with mold in the hot St. Louis summer. A thymol solution was sprayed throughout the building as a preventative fungicide. (Although thymol … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on July 16, 2013, under Uncategorized.
Tags: air force, archives, army, Coast Guard., conservation, fire, mold, MPR, nprc, Peter Waters, preservation, St. Louis, water damage
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
Do sideburns set your heart aflutter? It’s been 35 years since Elvis Presley died, but judging from the media coverage and chatter on Twitter with #ElvisWeek, his fan base is still enthusiastic. But the some of the most passionate fan letters about the bewhiskered singer can be found in the National Archives.
In 1958, Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson in Montana were beside themselves (“we will just about die!”) at the idea of Elvis having to take a razor to his sideburns as part of his patriotic duty when he was drafted into the Army in March 1958. They wrote to President Eisenhower, but unfortunately their favorite singer still had to serve—and groom himself according to Army regulations. The letter is now a part of the holdings of the Eisenhower Presidential Library.
Fans also bypassed the President and sent pleas directly to the First Lady, hoping she would be more sympathetic to their cause. But this letter to Mamie Eisenhower did not end up in the Eisenhower Presidential Library records. Instead, the First Lady’s office sent the letter to the Army, with the notation “Respectfully referred for appropriate handling.”
The letter went into Elvis’s Official Military Personnel File, or OMPF, where it became a part of the National Archives as part of the permanent holdings of the National Personnel Records Center in St. … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on August 17, 2012, under Facial Hair Fridays.
Tags: army, Eisenhower Presidential Library, Elvis, Ike, Mamie, national personnel records center, OMPF, sideburns, St. Louis