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Tag: Robert E. Lee

The 150th anniversary of Pickett’s Charge

Today’s guest post comes from Robert Lee Tringali, program analyst at the National Archives.

Starting on July 1, the last three days have marked the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the turning point of the Civil War. In particular, today marks the anniversary of Pickett’s Charge, the defining event of the battle.

The battle of Gettysburg had raged furiously for two days. On the first day’s action—after bloody fighting at McPherson’s Ridge, Oak Hill, Oak Ridge, and Barlow’s Knoll—Union troops were forced to retreat and occupy a position southeast of town on Cemetery Hill. The second day’s action was marked with savage fighting at Little Round Top, Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, Culp’s Hill, Cemetery Ridge, and Cemetery Hill.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee failed to dislodge the Union forces on both the left and right flanks. Consequently, at a meeting late on July 2, Union General George Meade warned that the following day’s attack would descend upon the Union center. Meade’s reasoning proved correct as Lee’s battle plan for July 3 called for an assault on the Federal center.

The attack was preceded by a massive Confederate artillery bombardment of the Union center. Shortly after 1 p.m., nearly150 Confederate cannon on Seminary Ridge erupted with flame as they fired on the Union lines. They were answered by approximately 100 Union … [ Read all ]

At Gettysburg: Brother v. Brother

Today’s post comes from our summer intern Caroline Isleib.

The Battle of Gettysburg raged 150 years ago today, and many lives were lost or forever changed by the Civil War. It was a war that ripped our country apart and, in quite a literal sense, pitted brother against brother.

“This was never more true than in the case of Wesley Culp and Jack Skelly, two young men who grew up together in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,” writes Jay Bellamy in the latest issue of Prologue, the National Archives quarterly magazine.

Both young men chose to enlist when the war began, but these best friends gave their allegiances to different forces. Culp, who had just moved to Virginia, joined the Hamtramck Guards, which became the Second Virginia Infantry in the Confederate army. Skelly joined the Union’s Second Pennsylvania Volunteers and later the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry.

From prisoner of war camps and hospital infirmaries to battlefields, they frequently came into contact with one another throughout the war. In June 1863, Culp visited Skelly as he lay in a Confederate hospital, due to injuries incurred in battle. There, Skelly asked if Culp ever went back to Gettysburg, and, if so, would he pass along a letter to his sweetheart and their childhood friend, Jennie Wade.

“Within just weeks, remarkably, he had the chance,” Bellamy writes, for Culp was part … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Amnesty for this beard, 100 years later

This week saw the 150th anniversary of the first Battle of Manassas, with hundreds of reenactors and spectators ignoring the extreme heat and coming to the Virginia battlefield.

There was another, stranger Civil War anniversary today.

On July 22, 1975, the House of Representatives joined the Senate in voting to restore full American citizenship to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The joint resolution made the restoration retroactive to June 13, 1865.

More than a hundred years earlier, Lee had signed his Amnesty Oath in Lexington, Virginia, on October 2, 1865, the same day he was inaugurated as president of Washington College. He swore to defend the Constitution and all laws that had “been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves.”

Lee died in October 1870.

Why did it take so long for his citizenship to be restored if he had signed an amnesty oath? According to this Facebook post from the National Archives at Boston, “Apparently Secretary of State William H. Seward had given Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir, and the State Department had pigeonholed the oath.”

The document was filed away with the State Department records, eventually coming to the National Archives, where an archivist came across it in 1970, more than one hundred years later.… [ Read all ]

Baseball and the 13th Amendment

January 31, 1865, was a busy day for the war-torn United States. The House of Representatives passed a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee was named general-in-chief of the Confederate armies.

On January 31, 1919—50 years to the day after slavery was abolished—Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia.

On April 10, 1947—82 years after the Civil War ended—Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball when he was signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers and became the first African American to play in the major leagues. He went to have a successful career in baseball and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. His number, 42, was retired in 1997.

After he retired from baseball, Robinson continued to fight for equal rights and treatment in other ways. The National Archives has some of his letters to politicians, including this letter to President Eisenhower.

Ninety-years after the 13th amendment was ratified, Robinson exercised his first amendment rights in the fight for civil rights.

Read more about Jackie Robinson and civil rights in two Prologue articles: “An Archival Odyssey: The Search for Jackie Robinson” (Summer 1997) and “Jim Crow, Meet Lieutenant Robinson: A 1944 Court-Martial” (Spring 2008). To find out about baseball-related records in the National Archives, check out “Beyond the Box Score” (Spring 2006).… [ Read all ]