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Records about Abraham Lincoln

April 14, 2016 by | 16 Comments

Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad
April is the anniversary of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. If you’re interested in learning more about our 16th president, you can find a multitude of primary documents and images related to his time in office and assassination on Fold3.

A convenient place to get started looking at records related to this president is Fold3’s Lincoln page. From this curated page, you can look at selected portraits and documents pertaining to Lincoln, start a search of the Lincoln Assassination Papers, and see memorial pages about people and events in Lincoln’s life. The Lincoln Assassination Papers are a particularly rich source of interesting documents about Lincoln—particularly his death and the investigation that followed.

While Fold3’s Lincoln page is a great starting place for Lincoln records, you can find even more documents and images in many of Fold3’s other Civil War titles. A simple way to find these records is to search for “Lincoln” in the Civil War Collection. Since this will return more than a hundred thousand results, you can try limiting your results by using a more specific search, such as [“Abraham Lincoln” OR “President Lincoln” OR “A Lincoln”], though this will likely exclude records that mention Lincoln by any other title or name. Either way, it would probably be helpful to filter out titles in your results that are unlikely to be relevant to President Lincoln. (For example, you could likely filter out the Army Registers, which would eliminate hundreds of irrelevant results.)

Examples of Lincoln records and photos you can find by searching Fold3 include:

  • Lincoln’s order of retaliation to encourage equal treatment of black prisoners of war by the Confederacy
  • Lincoln’s War Order Number 1, ordering the Army of the Potomac to seize the railroad southwest of Manassas Junction
  • Lincoln’s letter of thanks to Admiral Farragut, General Canby, and others for their operations in Mobile Harbor
  • A letter from Lincoln to a Mrs. Faulkner about the release of her brother
  • The Widows’ Pension claim of Mary Todd Lincoln
  • A photo of Lincoln and his son Tad
  • A photo of the train car that carried Lincoln’s body to Illinois following his assassination
  • A photo of the chair Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated

Have you found any interesting photos or documents about Lincoln in Fold3’s collections? Share them with us! You can also add those records to Lincoln’s Honor Wall page for others to see.

America’s First Military Draft Begins: April 16, 1862

April 1, 2016 by | 105 Comments

Application for Discharge on Account of Having Furnished a Substitute
On April 16, 1862, the Confederacy—in need of troops to fight in its armies—passed the Conscription Act, the first effective general military draft in America.

When the Civil War began, the Confederacy had set its volunteers’ terms of enlistment for one year. However, as the year mark neared, it became obvious that the war would last for much longer and that the Confederate armies would need more soldiers. So in April 1862, the Confederacy passed the Conscription Act, which drafted healthy white men ages 18 to 35 for three-year terms (later acts would extend the ages first to 18 to 45, and later to 17 to 50). The Confederate Congress also extended the terms of those already serving under one-year enlistments for another two years (though the soldiers would effectively serve for the duration of the war).

The act allowed those drafted to find substitutes to serve in their place (though this would be discontinued in December 1863) and exempted men serving in occupations deemed critical to the war effort or civilian life. In the fall of 1862, exemptions were also extended to those who owned or oversaw 20 or more slaves.

The Federal government instituted its own draft a year later, in March 1863. The Enrollment Act called on men ages 20 to 45 to register for the draft. As in the South, substitutes were allowed, or else men could pay a $300 commutation fee (though commutation fees were eventually banned in 1864). Like the Confederacy, the Federal government allowed some exemptions for certain occupations, physical disability, and religious conscientious objectors.

Conscription was partially meant to encourage voluntary enlistment, as those who joined as volunteers were eligible to receive bounty money (enlistment bonuses) from states, counties, cities, and the federal government—in some cases totaling a sum upwards of $1,000. However, these bounties created the problem of bounty jumping, wherein men would volunteer, collect the money, then desert and re-enlist elsewhere and collect that money as well.

Group of men accused of inciting and participating in a draft riot

In the Union and Confederacy, conscription was generally a disproportional burden on the poor, since they were unable to pay for a substitute or a commutation fee. But while the draft was hated in both the North and the South, it was only in the North that it sparked riots, the most violent of which killed more than a hundred people—many of them black—in New York City in July 1863.

Do you know if any of your ancestors were conscripted during the Civil War? Tell us about them! Or start a search on Fold3 to find more information on this topic.

Access the Civil War Collection

April 1, 2016 by | 1 Comment

Gun squad at drill
Do you have ancestors who served in the Civil War? April 1–15, Fold3 will be allowing free access to our Civil War collection to remember the commencement of the Civil War and commemorate Confederate History Month.

With more than 85 million records, Fold3’s Civil War collection provides a wealth of information for both ancestral and historical research. Explore Civil War soldier records, photographs, original war maps, widows’ pension files, court investigations, slave records, Lincoln records, and more.

The collection includes dozens of titles pertaining to the Union and Confederacy, such as:

Join Fold3 during the month of April in paying tribute to those who fought in the bloody war—both North and South—and discover information about famous participants as well as your own Civil War ancestors through documents, photos, and images that capture the experiences of those involved in America’s deadliest conflict. Then commemorate your ancestors by creating or expanding Memorial Pages for them on Fold3’s Honor Wall.

Visit Fold3’s Civil War page for more detailed overview of the collection. Or get started searching or browsing the Civil War collection here.

British Army WWI Service Records

March 21, 2016 by | 6 Comments

Example of damaged service record
Do you have family members who fought with the British Army in World War I? If so, you might find them in Fold3’s new collection of British Army WWI Service Records (via the National Archives of the UK).

This collection has service records for non-commissioned officers and “other ranks” (soldiers below officer rank) of the World War I era British army. The soldiers in the collection are typically those who were discharged between 1914 and 1920, those who were killed in action or died of wounds or disease during that time, or those who were demobilized at the war’s end. Some of these soldiers may have enlisted as early as 1892. The records do not include those who served with armies from Commonwealth countries, nor those who continued to serve with the British army after 1920.

The range of service records available in this collection is limited by the fact that many of them were destroyed during a 1940 bombing, leaving behind only roughly 40 percent of the original number. However, despite this, Britain’s National Archives microfilmed all the surviving service records, and those records are what appear in this collection. Because of the bombing, some of the surviving service records are damaged, sometimes affecting their readability.

On Fold3, these records are organized by the soldier’s surname. Keep in mind that some names may have been misspelled in the records, and that some soldiers used initials or nicknames instead of their given first name.

The records include various forms, depending on the individual, such as attestation forms, medical history forms, casualty forms, disability statements, regimental conduct sheets, awards, proceedings on discharge, and others. From these records, you may find information like the soldier’s name, age, birthplace, occupation, marital status, regimental number, date of attestation, physical description, and more.

Examples of service record documents include:

Have you found any family members in the British Army WWI Service Records? Tell us about it! Or get started exploring this collection or other International records.

Women in WWII Photos

March 14, 2016 by | 33 Comments

Two nurses in the Admiralty Islands
One of Fold3’s popular World War II collections is the WWII US Air Force Photos (via the National Archives). Among other things, this collection is great for finding photos of American women who served in certain capacities during the war. Although women served in a wide variety of roles at home and abroad during WWII, the images of women in this particular collection of photos tend to focus on three types of American female war workers: Army nurses, WACs (members of the Women’s Army Corps), and Red Cross workers.

Below is a sampling of just a fraction of these types of images:

To find more images of women during WWII, try searching the WWII US Air Force Photos collection for terms related to their roles, such as “nurse,” “WAC,” or “Red Cross.” You can also search for terms like “women” and “girl.” Or use this pre-formatted search as a starting point.

Do you have women in your family who served during World War II or any other conflict? Tell us about them! You can also create or expand a Memorial Page to share their story.

The Battle of Hampton Roads: March 8–9, 1862

March 1, 2016 by | 110 Comments

Hampton Roads Map
On March 8–9, 1862, the ironclad CSS Virginia attacked the Union blockade squadron in Hampton Roads, Virginia, changing the course of naval warfare forever.

The CSS Virginia had formerly been the USS Merrimack, but when the Federals had been forced to abandon Gosport Shipyard (the modern-day Norfolk Naval Shipyard) in 1861, they had scuttled the steam frigate. However, it had only burned to the waterline, preserving the hull and engines. The Confederates refloated the hull and built a superstructure on top with sloping wooden sides covered in iron. They planned to use the newly christened Virginia to break the Union blockade.

Nearly simultaneously, the Union was building its own ironclad vessel, but from scratch. The iron steamer, named the USS Monitor, was nearly completely submerged in the water, except for its deck and revolving gun turret.

On the Virginia’s maiden voyage, it decided to attack the Federal ships in Hampton Roads, the Virginian waterway where three rivers converged before entering Chesapeake Bay. On March 8, the Virginia (along with the gunboats sailing with it) steamed into Hampton Roads and launched its attack, decimating some of the Union ships while sustaining only superficial damage itself, as its iron armor caused shots to more or less bounce off it.

Before it could take on the other Union ships, the tide forced the Virginia to retire for the night, and when it returned the following morning, it found that the USS Monitor had arrived in the night to protect the remaining Union ships. The Monitor and the Virginia dueled for about four hours, during which neither ship sustained serious damage, each protected by their iron plates.

USS Merrimack

Finally, the Monitor pulled away to assess the vessel’s damage, leading the Virginia to believe the other ship was leaving the battle. After the Virginia likewise departed, the Monitor returned only to find the Virginia gone. This confusion caused both sides to declare victory, though historians typically agree the battle was a draw.

Though the Battle of Hampton Roads prevented the Virginia from achieving its objective, the real significance of the battle was its demonstration that wooden ships stood no chance against ironclads, almost instantly outdating navies around the globe.

Do you have any ancestors who fought in the Battle of Hampton Roads? Tell us about them! Or learn more about the battle by searching Fold3.

African-American Medal of Honor Recipients

February 19, 2016 by | 71 Comments

Air Force Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the United States’ highest military decoration for valor. There are currently more than 3,400 recipients of this medal, stretching back to 1863 when it was first awarded. This Black History Month, let’s take a closer look at a few of the African-American recipients.

Robert Blake. Blake was the first African-American to receive the Medal of Honor, in 1864, for actions while serving with the U.S. Navy during the Civil War. William Harvey Carney is sometimes credited as the first African-American recipient since he performed his Medal of Honor action first. However, since Carney wasn’t awarded the medal until 1900, Blake was the first to physically receive it. Blake, an escaped slave, was awarded the medal for “[carrying] out his duties bravely” during an “engagement with the enemy on John’s Island.”

Robert Sweeney. Sweeney is the only African-American (out of 19 total servicemen) to receive the Medal of Honor twice, both for saving drowning shipmates during peacetime, in 1881 and 1883.

Vernon J. Baker. Baker received the Medal of Honor for his “fighting spirit and daring leadership” during a World War II battle in 1945 in Italy. Baker wasn’t awarded the medal until 1997, as part of a review that upgraded the Distinguished Service Crosses of seven African-American WWII veterans to Medals of Honor. Baker was the only one of the seven still alive to receive the honor in person.

Lawrence Joel. Joel was the first medic to be awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, for actions that occurred in 1965. During a 24-hour battle against the Viet Cong, Joel repeatedly risked his life saving wounded men, despite being shot twice himself.

James Anderson, Jr. Anderson was the first African-American U.S. Marine to receive the Medal of Honor. He was awarded the medal posthumously after being killed in action during the Vietnam War when he rolled on top of a grenade to save his fellow Marines.

These are just 5 of the 90 or so African-American Medal of Honor recipients. All Medal of Honor citations up through 2013 can be found in Fold’s collection “Medal of Honor Recipients, 1863-2013.” You can also search the Honor Wall for pages about the recipients.