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Tag: history

The true story behind the Gettysburg sharpshooter

Today’s post comes from curator Bruce Bustard. These photographs and documents are on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, until July 15 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

On July 5, 1863, photographer Alexander Gardner and his assistant, Timothy O’Sullivan, arrived at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg. The battle had ended two days earlier. On parts of the battlefield, bodies were still unburied.

Over the next three days, Gardner did not hesitate to photograph the carnage. On July 6, when he saw the body of a Confederate soldier in an area called “Devil’s Den,” he photographed it. He and O’Sullivan then saw an opportunity for another, more dramatic photograph. They moved the corpse more than 40 yards to what they believed to have been the sharpshooter’s position, and O’Sullivan made another exposure.

The photographs became two of the most famous of the Civil War, but for over 100 years historians did not question the captions Gardner wrote for them in his Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War. These described a “sharpshooter” who had died a slow death and who had spent his final moments thinking of his family. Gardner also wrote that when he returned to Gettysburg in November 1863, the body and the gun were still there.

In 1975, historian William A. Frassanito … [ Read all ]

No, it’s not in the Constitution

These days, pundits, candidates, and party activists like to cite the Constitution of the United States as the moral and legal backing for whatever they’re proposing.

But the Constitution is silent on a lot of things you probably thought it said. Here are eight examples.

The President can veto a proposed amendment to the Constitution.

No. He has nothing to do with the amendments. Congress can propose an amendment with a two-thirds vote of both houses, or a Constitutional Convention can be called by a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures. However, once the amendment is proposed either by Congress or a convention, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

Only one amendment, the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition (the 18th Amendment), was ratified by conventions in the states.

The “Founding Fathers” who wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776 are the same men who wrote the Constitution in 1787.

Only five individuals signed both of these two founding documents. They were George Clymer, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Morris, George Read, and Roger Sherman. Some of the famous signers of the Declaration were elsewhere when the Constitution was being written. Thomas Jefferson was in France as our American minister, and John Adams was American minister to Great Britain.

The Constitution established the system of Federal courts.

No. The Constitution established “one supreme … [ Read all ]

‘Open’ for business

You may have noticed that things look a little different on our website today. That’s because the National Archives just received a digital makeover, streamlining our look and feel and moving some items around on the back end too. While overhauling our website may be our most visible change here, we’ve been making improvements all year to encourage openness and improve accessibility. Here are three other ways we’ve improved:

  • Social media. It’s hard to believe that in 2009 we didn’t have a single blog, Twitter account, YouTube page, Flickr account, or Facebook account. Over the past year we’ve had a veritable explosion of all these–dozens of Facebook pages, participation in Twitter contests, daily blog posts for every audience, viral videos, and millions of Flickr views–as just a few ways we’re helping to bring the Archives to you.
  • Federal Register. Earlier this year a young group of developers helped to revamp the Federal Register, America’s one-stop shop to see what’s going on in the Federal Government. Streamlined, easy-on-the-eyes and intuitive, this new website brought the Federal Register into the digital age.
  • Wiki. Our Archives Wiki just got a nod from the White House, showing up on their OpenGov website as further proof that we’re working to make your National Archives as accessible and interactive as possible. Researchers and users of all kinds
  • [ Read all ]