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Tag: Navy

“A Signal Victory”: The Battle of Lake Erie

Our new Featured Document–Oliver Perry’s letter to the Secretary of the Navy–will be on display from September 10 to 19, 2014, at the National Archives in Washington, DCToday’s blog post was written by former student employee Meghan O’Connor.

Early in the War of 1812, the Americans lost control of Detroit and Lake Erie to the British and their Native American allies. The U.S. Navy sent 28-year-old Oliver Hazard Perry to Lake Erie to build a squadron and retake that important waterway.

On September 10, 1813, the Americans defeated the British on Lake Erie. Commodore Perry declared the naval battle “a signal victory.” In a war marked by early failures, this victory secured Ohio and the territories of Michigan and Indiana. It also provided a needed boost in national morale and marked a rare surrender of a complete Royal Navy squadron.

Letter from Commodore Oliver Perry to Hon. Wm. Jones, Secy. of Navy, September 10, 1813

With a crew that Perry once described as “a motley set, blacks, soldiers and boys,” the Americans met Britain’s powerful Royal Navy on Lake Erie. A flag flew above Perry’s ship, the Lawrence, emblazoned with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” This battle cry was the dying command, in an earlier battle, of Perry’s friend Capt. James Lawrence (for whom the ship was named).

In the middle of … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: That’s not a real beard, Santa!

I was going to try to find another bearded man to feature, but it’s practically Christmas Eve, and let’s face it, Santa Claus has the most famous beard (and reindeer) of all.

It’s like a giant cloud of fluffy white snow around his chin. It’s his defining characteristic. In the middle of July when there’s an older gentleman on the beach sweating under a large white beard, we just know that’s really Santa on vacation.

We have lots of pictures of the jolly old elf in our holdings. Santa Claus was a popular figure for World War II advertisments to encourage citizens to buy war bonds. No word on whether his snowy-white beard was the deciding factor in buying them, but I bet it made buying them more like a Christmas gift and less like a patriotic duty.

But my favorite image of Santa Claus from our holdings is the one above.

The original captions reads: “Personnel of USS LEXINGTON celebrate Christmas with make-shift decorations and a firefighting, helmeted Santa Claus, 12/1944.”

These young men were away from home over the holidays in 1944, but they still managed to bring the spirit of St. Nick to their ship during wartime. Someone took the time to make paper chains and paper tree, and hang a hand-drawn sign. And what else embodies the Christmas spirit like making your fellow serviceman wear a giant beard made of cottonballs?

It must … [ Read all ]

Medal of Honor is now on display at the National Archives

 

The Medal of Honor is the highest honor in recognition of “gallantry in action.” Yet when President Abraham Lincoln signed “An act to further promote the efficiency of the Navy” into law on December 21, 1861, the creation of this honor is just a paragraph in section seven.

Only 200 “medals of honor” were authorized by Lincoln to be awarded to enlisted members of the Navy “during the present war.”  Over the years, the medal has changed, going through revisions to the design, the rules under which it was awarded, and the inclusion of officers and members of the other branches of service. 

It has been awarded fewer than 3,500 times.

One medal is currently on display through January 17, 2012, in the Rotunda of the National Archives.

This Medal of Honor was awarded to Sgt. James Hill, 14th New York Artillery, for extraordinary heroism on July 30, 1864, at Petersburg, Virginia, for capturing a flag and shooting a Confederate officer who was rallying his men.  Hill died in captivity at Andersonville, Georgia, before the medal could be presented.  The medal was designed by William Wilson & Sons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1862.

The display also includes a letter of recommendation to another soldier. After the Civil War ended, the historian of the 37th Massachusetts Regimental Association, recommended that Pvt. Samuel E. Eddy of Company D be awarded a … [ Read all ]

Green Bay Packer, Detroit Lion, or US President?

These days, the average NFL player receives about $1.2 million a year, not a bad paycheck for throwing around the old pigskin. After all, that’s three times what the President makes (though he does get free limo rides), and plenty more than your average blogger does (sigh).

But in 1935, playing football wasn’t the glitzy well-funded enterprise it is today. That’s the year the Green Bay Packers went looking for a center, and found future President Gerald Ford. They offered President Ford $110 bucks a game.  Over the course of a season—14 games—that means Ford would’ve squirreled away $1,540, about $24,000 bucks in 2011 dollars, if he had accepted the draft deal.

Ford declined this offer, and another offer from the Detroit Lions to play professional football, and instead made his way over into Yale to study law, then to the Navy to serve his country, then to the House of Representatives, and finally to the White House where, thankfully, the salary was a bit better.

You can learn more at the Gerald Ford Presidential Library’s Facebook page.… [ Read all ]