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Battle of Guilford Courthouse: March 15, 1781

March 1, 2018 by | 99 Comments

On March 15, 1781, British and American troops clashed at Guilford Courthouse, North Carolina, in one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution and the largest battle in the southern theater. Though the British would technically emerge the victors, the cost of their victory would prove devastatingly high.

Fold3 Image - Statue of Nathanael Greene
Throughout February 1781, the British army under General Charles Cornwallis had been pursuing General Nathanael Greene’s American force through the Carolinas. Although Greene made it to relative safety in Virginia, he decided to lead his troops back into North Carolina to face the British.

Greene took his stand at Guilford Courthouse, a densely wooded area. He arranged his roughly 4,500 troops (about twice the British number) in three defensive lines, spaced a few hundred yards apart, with no men held in reserve. The North Carolina militia was in the front (flanked on either side by cavalry, light infantry, and riflemen), the Virginia militia was behind them, and the Virginia and Maryland Continentals were in the back, off slightly to the right.

The British arrived on March 15th after marching 12 miles. They attacked the Americans’ forward line, with some of the British getting diverted into fights with the cavalry and other troops on the American right and left flanks. When the Americans’ first line crumbled, the British then pushed forward to fight the second line. The American right of this line gave way, while the left held out a while longer.

When the right of the American second line crumbled, the British pushed forward again to encounter the center of the American third line. However, this part of the line contained the most experienced of the American troops, and they succeeded in repelling the British.

Meanwhile, when the left of the American second line finally gave way, the British attacked the far left of the American third line. This evolved into brutal, close fighting, and Cornwallis made the decision to fire his 3-pound guns into the melee. This resulted in casualties on both sides but did make the Americans fighting there pull back.

When Greene saw that the British had reformed their lines and were preparing to attack again, he made the decision to retreat. Cornwallis sent some of his troops to pursue the Americans, but his men were too exhausted to be effective.

With the American retreat, the British were left in command of the field, but their victory was costly. The British had suffered a much higher casualty rate than the Americans, at 27 percent to the Americans’ 6 percent. Cornwallis’ army had been significantly damaged, and this would contribute to his surrender at Yorktown later that year.

Do you have ancestors who fought in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse? Tell us about them. Or learn more about the battle on Fold3.

Texas and California Added to the WWII Draft Registration Cards Collection!

February 22, 2018 by | 16 Comments

Example WWII Draft Registration Card
Fold3 has added two new states to its collection of U.S. WWII Draft Registration Cards! The collection (from the National Archives) now includes Texas and California. The cards in this collection are registration cards for the draft and do not necessarily indicate that the individual served in the military.

There were seven draft registration periods in the United States for World War II service. The first draft registration was held on October 16, 1940—before the United States had entered the war. Men ages 21–36 were required to register at their local draft board. The second draft registration was also held prior to the American entrance into the war, on July 1, 1941. This registration was for men who had turned 21 since the previous registration date nine months earlier.

The third (February 16, 1942) and fifth (June 30, 1942) registration periods expanded the ages required to register; the age ranges for the third were extended to 20–21 and 35–44, while the fifth extended them to ages 18–20. The sixth registration (December 10–31, 1942) was for men who had turned 18 since the fifth registration six months prior. There was also a seventh registration, known as the “Extra Registration,” from November 16 to December 31, 1943, which was for American men ages 18–44 who were living abroad.

The cards from the fourth registration (April 27, 1942; for men ages 45–64) are not included in the WWII Draft Registration Cards but in Fold3’s WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards collection.

Information on the WWII Draft Registration Cards may include the man’s name, address, telephone number, age, place of birth, country of citizenship, name and address of the person who will always know the registrant’s address, employer’s name, place of employment, and a description of the registrant.

Get started searching or browsing the WWII Draft Registration Cards on Fold3!

Black History Month 2018 – Access Black History Records

February 1, 2018 by | 13 Comments

Black History Month

In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 is making the records in its Black History collection available for free through the end of February.

Whether you’re searching for your ancestors or looking for primary documents to help with other research, the Black History collection gives you access to more than a million documents, records, and photos that help to capture the African-American experience during five eras of American history: Slavery, The Civil War, Reconstruction & Jim Crow Laws, World War I & II, and the Civil Rights Movement

Recontruction and Jim Crow LawsAll the titles in our Black History collection contain valuable insight into the history of African-Americans, but titles that are especially rich in information include:

Some examples of interesting records you can find in the Black History collection include:

  • An 1810 inventory for the estate of Joseph Morton, a “free black man”
  • An 1827 inventory for the estate of Thomas Drayton that lists his 160 slaves by family group
  • A Civil War—era photograph of black laborers
  • The service record of Christian A. Fleetwood of the US Colored Infantry, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War
  • A photograph of 3 members of the original black fighter squadron in WWII

Get started searching Fold3’s Black History records here. Or look for individual collections by name here.

Philippine-American War Begins: February 4, 1899

February 1, 2018 by | 96 Comments

The Philippine-American War began February 4, 1899, when shots were exchanged between a small number of American and Filipino forces in a Manila suburb. The war would last three years and end with the Philippines under American control for decades.

Fold3 Image - Artist's depiction of US soldiers in Philippine-American War (from a fictional newspaper story about the war)
The Philippine-American War (sometimes called the Philippine Insurrection) was both a continuation of the Philippine Revolution against Spanish colonial rule and a consequence of the Spanish-American War. During the Spanish-American War (April–August 1898, in which the United States fought Spain over Cuba), the Spanish territories of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines fell into American hands. Filipino fighters under Emilio Aguinaldo helped the Americans defeat the Spanish in the Philippines, as the Filipinos had been working to free themselves from Spanish rule since at least 1872 and saw this as their chance for independence.

However, as part of negotiations between the United States and Spain following the end of the Spanish-American War, the U.S. bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million in November 1898. The Filipinos felt betrayed, since they had believed America to be on their side. Now, instead of gaining independence, the Filipinos believed they were simply trading one colonial power for another.

With U.S. forces controlling Manila and Filipino revolutionaries controlling the rest of the country, tensions were high between the two sides. Things finally came to a head on February 4, 1899, when shots were exchanged between the two sides outside Manila. The Filipinos launched a general offensive the following day. For the majority of the first year of the war, the Filipino revolutionaries fought in the conventional style, but they eventually shifted to guerilla warfare.

Before the war was even over, the U.S. began a pacification campaign, where they used promises of self-government, economic development, and social reform to win the support Filipino elites, in addition to providing schools and public services to gain the support of the average Filipino. These measures undermined the Filipino revolutionaries, and by the summer of 1902, things had calmed down enough for the U.S. to declare the war over, though smaller Filipino uprisings would occur for years to come.

In total, there were 4,300 American deaths, 1,500 of them from battle and most of the rest from disease. The Filipino toll was much higher: 20,000 Filipino fighters were killed, and an estimated 200,000 Filipino civilians died from hunger, disease, and other effects of the war. The Philippines would remain under various levels of American control until 1946, when it finally gained independence.

War of 1812 Pension Files

January 18, 2018 by | 34 Comments

Come explore Fold3’s growing collection of War of 1812 Pension Files!

Fold3 Image - Example War of 1812 Pension Claim
In 1813 and 1816, Congress authorized military pensions for men who had served in the War of 1812. These pensions pertained to men who had served between 1812 and 1815 and had sustained service-related death or disability.

However, later acts passed in 1871 and 1878 expanded the pensions to include more veterans. The 1871 act allowed men who had served at least 60 days during the war to draw a pension, and their widows were eligible to apply as long as the marriage had taken place before the end of the war. The 1878 act expanded the pensions even further to apply to veterans who had served 14 days in the war or in any engagement, and to their widows, regardless of when the marriage had occurred.

Although the specific documents available in a particular veteran’s pension file may vary, common documents are:

  • Declarations of pension
  • Declarations of widow’s pension
  • Adjutant General statements of service
  • Questionnaires completed by applicants (numbered forms)
  • “Pension Dropped” cards
  • Marriage certificates
  • Death certificates
  • Discharge certificates

From these documents you can typically find information such as:

  • Veteran’s age
  • Place of residence
  • Dates of service
  • Place of enlistment and discharge
  • Organization
  • Rank

If the soldier’s widow applied for the pension, additional information available usually includes:

  • Widow’s age
  • Widow’s maiden name
  • Place and date of marriage
  • Date and place of veteran’s death

On Fold3, the War of 1812 Pension Files are organized by state or organization, then by the soldier’s surname and given name.

Although digitization of the War of 1812 pension files was previously temporarily paused, Ancestry, the National Archives, and the Federation of Genealogical Societies are working in cooperation to resume digitization. The first of these newly digitized pension files are already available for free on Fold3, with more to be added to the site in installments throughout 2018 and beyond. So if you don’t see your ancestor’s pension file yet, keep checking back!

Get started searching or browsing the War of 1812 Pension Files on Fold3!

Signing of the Paris Peace Accords: January 27, 1973

December 31, 2017 by | 44 Comments

On January 27, 1973, representatives of North Vietnam, South Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (which included the Viet Cong), and the United States signed the Paris Peace Accords, leading to the end of the United States’ active military engagement in the Vietnam War.

Fold3 Image - Drawdown of US troops following Paris Peace Accords
Though both secret and official peace talks, predominately between the United States and North Vietnam, had been taking place on and off since at least 1968, the breakthrough finally came in 1972. Up until that point, North Vietnam had insisted on an agreement that would ensure a new coalition government, and the U.S. had demanded the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from the south—both non-starters for the other side. But in 1972, the North Vietnamese signaled they would be willing to drop their demand for a coalition government, and the U.S agreed that the north could keep their troops in the south.

In October 1972, American diplomats led by Henry Kissinger and a North Vietnamese delegation led by Le Duc Tho created a near-final agreement that led Kissinger to announce that “peace is at hand.” However, the South Vietnamese government, under President Nguyen Van Thieu, found the agreement unacceptable, feeling that the deal did not look after South Vietnamese interests, and the peace talks fell apart in December.

Following the U.S.’s 11-day Christmas bombing campaign at the end of 1972, the North Vietnamese agreed to resume negotiations in January. The final deal, which was not much different than the one agreed to in October, was secured on January 23, 1973. Then the formal peace agreement—officially named the “Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring the Peace in Vietnam,” but informally called the Paris Peace Accords—was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973. Key points of the agreement included a cease-fire, the U.S. withdrawal, and the return of American prisoners of war.

Although from the U.S. perspective the agreement was meant to end the war, it only really ended the U.S.’s active military involvement. In December 1974, the North Vietnamese broke the cease-fire and attacked the south at Phuoc Long. Despite a promise to the south that the U.S. would take retaliatory action if the north violated the peace agreement, the U.S. did not provide the south with military aid. In late April 1975, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, fell to the north, and the entire country was reunited under a northern, communist government.

Learn more about events in the Vietnam War on Fold3.

Christmas during World War I

December 19, 2017 by | 64 Comments

This holiday season, learn more about what Christmas was like for men in the U.S. and Commonwealth militaries during World War I—through the words of the men themselves. Fold3 has numerous histories, narratives, and even books that capture how the holidays were (or weren’t) celebrated by the men “over there” during the Great War. A few are excerpted below:

“To add to the worries the first shipment of rations was lost in transit but the boys made merry on tomatoes and onions for Christmas dinner.” –Richard Charms, 21st Engineers, WWI Officer Experience Reports – AEF

“It was snowing as the train pulled out and just enough had already accumulated to give the countryside a real Christmas appearance. The atmosphere, cool and bracing as it seemed to us when we boarded the train, turned out to be, as our journey lengthened into hours, downright cold and disagreeable, heat unfortunately not being a necessity for military travel in France.” –E.B. Tolman, 505th Engineers, WWI Officer Experience Reports – AEF

“Christmas day all Catholics were allowed off ship to attend Mass; men who had never seen the inside of a Catholic church turned Catholic for the day.” –Louis E. Clark, 6th Engineers, WWI Officer Experience Reports – AEF

“On Christmas day, the ‘Northland’ steamed into Liverpool and anchored. Christmas dinner consisted of jam, slum, bread and meat, meat which not even the best of Epicureans could name, but openly suspected by all to be a species of the sea-gull.” –16th, 17th, and 19th-21st Aero Squadrons, Gorrell’s History – AEF Air Service

“During the Christmas holidays it was expected many would get furloughs or passes to go home for the day. These leaves did not materialize owning to a ruling of the Post Commander, possibly issued because of the measles epidemic, which was daily growing worse.” –47th, 49th, and 50th Aero Squadrons, Gorrell’s History – AEF Air Service

“A great deal had been heard or read about our troops fraternizing with the enemy during the Christmas seasons of the previous years of war, but there was none of that during the Christmas of 1916. There was no cessation of hostilities. The lines were held with the same keenness, and there was considerable aerial and artillery activity throughout the day and night.” –Over the Top with the Third Australian Division, Military Books

“Christmas was hardly a ‘cheerful’ day. When the rain and duties permitted we spent the time trying to make up some back sleep which was urgently required. Everybody attempted something in the nature of X’mas dinner of course, though there was little but rations to do it on and it had to be consumed standing up, holding food or mugs at arm’s length, to avoid the cataract from one’s hat.” –The History of the 2nd Light Horse Regiment, Military Books

Learn more about Christmas or other holidays during World War I by starting a search on Fold3.