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TMIH: March 27, 1814 Battle of Horseshoe Bend

March 12, 2014 by | 2 Comments

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend is identified with the War of 1812, but it is also the continuation and culmination of the Creek War of 1813-14. The battle took place two hundred years ago this month on a 100-acre peninsula formed by a horseshoe bend in Alabama’s Tallapoosa River.

Map Image of the Battle of Horseshoe BendOn March 27, 1814, Andrew Jackson and his army of about 2,000 soldiers from the East and West Tennessee militias and the 39th U.S. Infantry surrounded the peninsular and 1,000 Creek Indians, known as Red Stick Creek Warriors. The Red Sticks were fighting against European and American expansion and appropriation of their territory. There were also about 600 “friendly” Native Americans, among Jackson’s men, including 100 Creek.

A couple hours into the battle, a group of Cherokees from Jackson’s ranks swam across the river, stole enemy canoes from the other side, returned for reinforcements, and then paddled back across to burn the village and take women and children prisoners. Jackson’s troops ultimately gained the advantage over the Red Sticks, killing nearly all on the other side. By battle’s end, 557 Creek warriors were dead, another 250-300 more were drowned.

Andrew Jackson was promoted to Major General after the battle and gained a great deal of acclaim which helped propel him to the White House fifteen years later as the seventh president of the United States.

A young Sam Houston, future president of the Republic of Texas wrote of that day: “The sun was going down, and it set on the ruin of the Creek nation. Where, but a few hours before a thousand brave…[warriors] had scowled on death and their assailants, there was nothing to be seen but volumes of dense smoke, rising heavily over the corpses of painted warriors, and the burning ruins of their fortifications.”

Pertinent records on Fold3 include Honor Wall memorials to soldiers who fought at the Battle of Horseshoe bend like John Thrasher, Joseph Beeler and his brother Benjamin, David Beaty’s War of 1812 pension application in which he states he “was at the battle of Horse Shoe,” and index cards for numerous warriors within the final payment vouchers.

TMIH: February 1864 Andersonville Prison

February 25, 2014 by | Comments Off

The most infamous Confederate prison of the Civil War was at Andersonville, Georgia. It was known as Camp Sumter when the first Union prisoners arrived in February 1864. The original stockade was built to house 10,000 men, but as hundreds of captured prisoners arrived every day, the site quickly reached its capacity and exceeded it. Six months later, over 32,000 men lived in deplorable conditions inside the prison. In its 14 months of existence, 45,000 men came through the gates. Nearly 13,000 are buried there.

There were 150 prison camps on both sides in the Civil War, and they all suffered from disease, overcrowding, exposure, and food shortages. But Andersonville was notorious for being the worst. Some men agreed to freedom and fought for the South as galvanized soldiers, fearing the dangers of imprisonment to be greater than those of the battlefield. Eventually, General Sherman’s occupation of Atlanta forced officials to move prisoners to other camps in Georgia and South Carolina.

The only official executed for war crimes in the Civil War was Captain Henry Wirz, the Confederate commandant of Andersonville Prison. He was charged with conspiring with others to “injure the health and destroy the lives” of Union soldiers. While no conspiracy was ever truly proved, public opinion forced a guilty verdict and his execution by hanging.

The National Park Service maintains the prison site, its museum, and the Andersonville National Cemetery. Information about the 150th anniversary of Andersonville Prison is available here.

Despite the terrible death toll, thousands of men survived Andersonville and related their stories. If you had an ancestor confined to Andersonville, or any other Civil War prison for that matter, their tales may have been passed down over the last century and a half. The military records of the men who survived Andersonville Prison can be found in the documents on Fold3. One survivor, R.K. Sneden of the 40th New York Volunteers, was a prisoner there until April 1864. He drew several colorful maps of Camp Sumter and its vicinity that include captions and details of interest.

Black History Month 2014

February 10, 2014 by | 1 Comment

Black History Month

Access the Black History Records

In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 is offering free access to all publications in its Black History Collection through the end of February.

The titles within the collection present revealing documents that cover the history and contributions of millions of African Americans. Slavery Era Titles include records from the Amistad court case, South Carolina Estate Inventories, documents of the American Colonization Society, and two sets of records from Washington, DC, regarding slaves and their emancipation there in 1862. The Civil War Era Titles are the most prolific, with records from the Southern Claims Commission, military service records for the U.S. Colored Troops, and many related publications.

Black History in the Civil WarJoin us as Fold3 recognizes Black History Month with free access to these titles for the month of February. Explore millions of military records, photos, and government records documenting the history of African Americans from before the Civil War to the war in Vietnam. Also, we encourage you to create a tribute on the Honor Wall to recognize African Americans in your family’s history. Launch your journey from Fold3’s Black History Collection web page or browse the collection here.


* Free Access ends February 28, 2014 at Midnight

Monuments Men & The Holocaust-Era Assets Collection

February 6, 2014 by | Comments Off

In theaters February 7th, The Monuments Men movie features George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Matt Damon in roles that reflect the true story of how thousands of art treasures looted by the Nazis were saved from destruction in the final months of World War II.

Hundreds of thousands of records documenting this effort were created in the 1940s through the work of the real-life monuments men. They are available under Looted Valuables in Fold3′s Holocaust-Era Assets Collection.

Looted Art - PicassoDuring the Nazi occupation of countries in Europe before and during the war, paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and many other cultural treasures were stolen from private collections, Jewish homes, and prominent European museums. The Nazis kept the stolen assets as their own or housed them in German museums. As the end of the war neared and the fall of the Third Reich became inevitable, the Allies paired military personnel with scholars who understood the significance and value of the art. The two diverse groups cooperated to ensure that precious items were not destroyed by the Germans, nor bombed by the Allies.

The documents in the Roberts Commission files on Fold3 include information on monuments and looted artwork, and the measures taken to protect them. There are aerial photographs like this one of Florence; card files about the artwork, like Dürer’s “Feast of the Rose Garlands” from Czechoslovakia; geographic working files created after discovering items from the Louvre in good condition; and personnel cards like this one for George Stout, the man tasked “to head salvage work.” He’s played by Clooney in the movie which is based on Robert M. Edsel’s book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

Looted Art - RembrandtThe Ardelia Hall Collection provides a supporting group of records from the four collecting points in Marburg, Munich, Offenbach, and Wiesbaden that include property reports, photos of looted art, masterpieces, and book plates from stolen books, as well as descriptive cards of ceramics, etchings, sculpture, and paintings by Picasso and Rembrandt. More cards, many with photos, can be browsed beginning here.

These and other Holocaust-Era Assets publications, digitized in partnership with the National Archives, represent an astounding collection documenting European cultural history and the role the United States played in protecting that history. Each record has a very real story to tell. Each document represents one piece of an historic account that includes the provenance of great works of art, where they were discovered after the war, how they were repatriated, and the many people and institutions that supported the extraordinary task of saving Europe’s cultural heritage from destruction.

January 1839 Daguerreotype Announced in Paris

January 2, 2014 by | Comments Off

Fold3 This Month in History

One hundred seventy-five years ago, in January 1839, members of the Academy of Sciences in Paris were shown a unique photographic process that literally changed the world as we see it. The inventor, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, called his discovery the “daguerreotype.” It was the first commercially successful form of photography.

Later that year, a British inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, announced his calotype process, making 1839 the year photography was popularized. Some controversies regarding who was first ensued. Daguerre did not claim a patent in France but gave the French government the rights to the process as a gift “free to the world,” although an agent later filed a patent in England on Daguerre’s behalf. As can be imagined, the early history of photography was rife with similar designs, claims to fame and compensation, and many other related intrigues that go hand-in-hand with an invention of such universal significance.

Today, most of us recognize daguerreotypes and may be fortunate to own such historic likenesses of our ancestors. As early as the 1840s, there were daguerreotype studios in the United States. Many early photographs using the daguerreotype process can be viewed online at the Library of Congress and in images like these of Maria Weston Chapman and Daniel Webster in the Boston Public Library Collections on Fold3.

According to the Library of Congress, there were over seventy daguerreotype studios in New York City by 1850. One of those studios was owned by Mathew B. Brady, one of the most notable photographers of the 19th century. By the 1860s, daguerreotypes had been replaced by processes that would allow Brady and his team of photographers to go out into the field where they took remarkable and haunting battlefield images during the U.S. Civil War. The results are available in the Civil War Collection on Fold3.

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year from Fold3

December 20, 2013 by | 1 Comment

Happy Holidays & a Happy New Year from Fold3

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

In an effort to bring a little “home” into their holidays, soldiers fighting on foreign shores in 20th-century wars added traditional touches to their celebrations. Please enjoy a slideshow of Christmas and Hanukkah traditions from the front lines.

Click Here to view the slideshow.

The Storming of Fort Niagara

December 10, 2013 by | Comments Off

Fold3 This Month in History

Fort Niagara, located on the eastern bank of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario, was an early French fortress captured by the British in July 1759. It became a Loyalist base during the American Revolution, but was ceded to the United States at the end of the war, although not completely controlled by American troops until 1796.

At about the midpoint of the War of 1812, the fort once again became a British stronghold. After only seventeen years under American control, Fort Niagara was re-captured by the British two hundred years ago this month, on December 19, 1813. As a strategically important U.S. garrison on the Canadian border, anyone commanding the fort controlled river and portage access between two Great Lakes—Ontario and Erie. It was a critical portal to Ohio, Michigan, and the American Midwest.

During the War of 1812, the British were garrisoned across the river at Canada’s Fort George. Tensions were obviously high between the two forts, occupied by opposing armies, and they frequently exchanged artillery fire. The Americans succeeded in capturing Fort George in May 1813 yet abandoned it in early December, burning the fortress and the surrounding town. Although in ruins, Fort George was quickly reoccupied by British forces, giving them a prime position to attack the American garrison across the river. Late on the night of December 18,, five hundred British troops crossed the river south of Fort Niagara, marched north, raiding and burning villages en route, surprising the American defenders, and easily taking the fortress before dawn on the 19th. They held it for the duration of the war.

The Treaty of Ghent, signed to end the War of 1812, declared that captured territory be returned “status quo ante bellum,” meaning that anything captured by the British during the war was returned to the United States, including Fort Niagara. Although it has not been an active military post since 1940, the site is still in use today. The “French Castle,” built by France in 1726 still stands and “Old Fort Niagara” is now an historic site. Its importance in several wars over three centuries is revealed through reenactments, exhibits, tours, and events.

Explore the War of 1812 Collection on Fold3.