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Spanish Flu Pandemic Begins: March 1918

March 1, 2015 by | 123 Comments

Spanish Flu: 401st Ponton Park
In early March 1918, soldiers with the flu began reporting to the infirmary at Camp Funston, an army training camp in Kansas. Within three weeks, 1,100 men at that camp had also come down with the flu. It was the start of a pandemic that would kill as many as 100 million people worldwide.

Though commonly called the Spanish flu (because of a highly publicized outbreak in Spain), it likely began in Haskell, Kansas, where it spread to Camp Funston and from there to the rest of the world. Wartime conditions, like troop movements and overcrowded cantonments, accelerated and aggravated the spread of the virus, which proved to be much deadlier than the normal flu, in part because of a particularly tough strain of pneumonia that often accompanied it.

119 out of 204 soldiers sick with Spanish flu; 3 die
The Spanish flu afflicted cities across the nation and around the world, but since it disproportionately hit young adults in their prime, the military felt its effects strongly. The US Navy would later estimate that 40 percent of its men had gotten the Spanish flu, while the Army reported 36 percent. Of the three waves of the flu (March–June, September–November, December–March), the second wave was the deadliest for both civilians and for the military. In fact, between September and November, the flu killed about as many soldiers as World War I did in that same time period.

The Spanish flu affected the war itself as it ravaged the armies of both the Allies and the Axis. While many soldiers were sick for three days or so and then began to recover, a substantial number either developed the deadly pneumonia as well or contracted a version of the flu that could kill in as little as 24 hours. For every soldier that died, another four or five were too sick for weeks afterward to carry out their duties. Military attacks and operations on both sides had to be postponed because of the huge number of soldiers incapacitated by the flu.

35 squadron members sick with Spanish flu; 3 of them die
Despite failed attempts by the medical community to control the virus, the pandemic eventually began to die down on its own, with the worst of the third wave finished in the United States by the end of March 1919. By 1920, the danger was finally over.

Learn more about the Spanish flu pandemic on Fold3. The WWI Officer Experience Reports are an especially good source for first-hand accounts about life in the military during the flu pandemic.

150th Anniversary (1865–2015) This Month in the Civil War: Battle of Waynesboro

March 1, 2015 by | 25 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

On March 2, 1865, Philip Sheridan‘s Union troops under the command of George A. Custer defeated Jubal Early‘s Confederate force at Waynesboro, Virginia, ending the last Confederate threat in the Shenandoah Valley.

Both armies had been wintering in the Shenandoah Valley after a series of Union victories that had hit Early’s troops hard. In February, Sheridan received word from U. S. Grant to take his 10,000 men and capture Lynchburg and then meet up with W. T. Sherman‘s forces in North Carolina. However, before he left, Sheridan decided to finish up what was left of Early’s force (which by then had dwindled to about 1,200).

Battle Field of Waynesboro
Early decided to meet the Federals at Waynesboro, hoping to delay them there long enough that he could get his artillery across the mountain and reposition his troops at the more advantageous Rockfish Gap. Early set up his line with the men’s backs toward the South River, leaving his left flank exposed because he thought they would be protected by a dense wood.

Sheridan sent Custer to test Early’s position, and Custer spotted the weakness in Early’s left. On March 2, Custer sent part of his division to attack from the front, while he sent others to hit the left. The left quickly crumbled, and the Confederate line broke. The Federals captured nearly all the Confederate troops, as well as their supplies and artillery, but Early, who had climbed up a nearby hill to reconnoiter, escaped capture.

South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872

February 20, 2015 by | 14 Comments

John Gordon Bill of Sale
Part of Fold3’s Black History Collection is the South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872. Like the title suggests, this item contains bills of sale, inventory and appraisement books, and inventories of estates from the Charleston area of South Carolina between 1732 and 1872. It is a joint project with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Family Search, and the Lowcountry Africana group.

Among other uses, this publication can be invaluable for tracking down African American ancestors in the Charleston area, especially if they were slaves. Because slaves were considered property, when they were sold, a bill of sale was filled out, and when an estate was appraised for tax or probate purposes, slaves were listed and appraised along with the other items belonging to the estate. Such documentation is what makes this collection such a rich resource for finding slave ancestors. However, be aware that since slaves didn’t always have surnames, you’ll most likely need to look for them in this collection through the name of the slave owner.

Some examples of bills of sale and estate inventories include:

  • A bill of sale from 1826 for about 100 slaves, listed by given name
  • A bill of sale from 1804 for 3 slaves that provides both their American and African names
  • A 1757 inventory for the estate of Richard Cochran Ash that lists multiple slaves and their values, including one that was a runaway
  • An 1827 inventory for the estate of Thomas Drayton that lists his 160 slaves by family group

Estate Inventory of Joseph Morton, Free African American, Charleston, SC, 1810
An important thing to remember in African American genealogy is that not all African Americans living in antebellum America were slaves—hundreds of thousands, even in the South, were free. You’ll see this reflected within this collection by the presence of inventories for the estates of free African Americans, which provide interesting insight into the lifestyles and possessions of free blacks.

A few examples are:

  • An 1810 inventory for the estate of Joseph Morton, a “free black man”
  • An 1829 inventory for the estate of John Martin Logan, a “free person”

And even if you don’t have ancestors who appear in this collection—whether slaves, slave owners, or free African Americans—it still provides a fascinating look into America’s slave-owning past. So take some time to search or browse the South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872, on Fold3.

150th Anniversary (1865–2015) This Month in the Civil War: Burning of Columbia, SC

February 10, 2015 by | 54 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

After General Sherman’s destructive march through Georgia at the end of 1864, he turned his army north to the Carolinas. When they reached Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, in mid-February 1865, the Union troops found the Confederates forces already evacuating.

According to Sherman, there was no plan to burn Columbia, aside from destroying strategic locations such as public buildings, railroad depots, and factories. Apparently, when his occupying soldiers entered the city, they found the Confederates had left bales of cotton burning in the city streets, which—when combined with gusting winds—were a disaster waiting to happen. But however the fires began, the fact remains that on the 17th and into the 18th, Columbia burned in a vast conflagration.

Columbia South Carolina destroyed
Although there were attempts to extinguish the fires, the situation was exacerbated by Union soldiers who looted the town and spread the fire, drunk on the widely available liquor and full of animosity toward the state seen as the “cradle of secession.” (For this lawless behavior, 370 soldiers were arrested.) When the fires died down on the 18th, Columbia was a city in ashes: as much as two-thirds of the city had been destroyed.

Sherman’s army pulled out on the 20th to continue north on its campaign. Sherman later remarked on the destruction of Columbia that “Though I never ordered it, and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over it, because I believed that it hastened what we all fought for—the end of the war.”

200 years ago the War of 1812 Ended

February 4, 2015 by | 22 Comments

Treaty of Ghent
This month marks the 200th anniversary of the end of the War of 1812. The hostilities formally ended on February 17, 1815, at 11 p.m., when President Madison exchanged ratification documents for the Treaty of Ghent with a British representative.

Although both countries had been exploring the possibility of peace since almost the beginning of the war, official peace negotiations didn’t begin until August 1814 in Ghent, Belgium. The American delegation was made up of some of the best America had to offer: John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, Jonathan Russell, and James A. Bayard. Britain, on the other hand, sent lesser-known diplomats, reserving its stronger players for the Congress of Vienna, which began around the same time and addressed European issues following Napoleon’s initial defeat.

News of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent arrives in Britain
Although the two delegations came to the table with many issues to negotiate, in the end the treaty avoided virtually all those subjects—as well as the grievances (such as impressment and restriction of neutral trade) that had caused the war in the first place. Leaving to future resolution nearly all issues the two sides disagreed on, the treaty only really ended hostilities and gave each nation back whatever territory it possessed at the beginning of the war. Neither side emerged a clear victor in the negotiations.

The British and American representatives signed the treaty on December 24, 1814, and the British government ratified it a few days later. However, although the Treaty of Ghent was signed in December, news traveled slowly to the Americas, which meant that some battles—most famously the Battle of New Orleans—were fought after the treaty was signed.

Britain receives word of ratification of Treaty of Ghent by US
A month and a half after the British ratification, the treaty finally made it across the ocean to the United States, and on February 16th, the Senate unanimously ratified the treaty. Madison approved it later the same day and then exchanged ratifications with the British on the 17th, ending the war.
Interested in the War of 1812 or have ancestors who served in it? Explore Fold3’s War of 1812 collection, including pension application files and service records.

Access the Black History Records

February 1, 2015 by | 3 Comments

Black History Month

Recontruction and Jim Crow Laws
In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 wants to remind you to access all publications in its Black History Collection.

In order to make browsing these records easier, Fold3 has divided them into the categories of Slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction & Jim Crow Laws, the World Wars, and the Civil Rights Movement. Just select the era you’re interested in to start looking through the associated photos and documents.

Black History in the Civil War
Some of the records contained in our Black History collection are the Danish West Indies Slave Records, Suppression of Slave Trade and Colonization records, Amistad Federal Court records, Amistad Supreme Court records, American Colonization Society records, Court Slave Records for DC, records of the Emancipation of Slaves in DC, US Colored Troops records, Negro Subversion records of the Military Intelligence Division—and many, many more.

Interesting finds in the Black History records include:

  • A letter from Thomas Jefferson to the governor of Georgia about slaves running away to Florida
  • 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 copy of the 13th Amendment
  • A 1914 newspaper article about a black man who disappeared after being taken from his bed by a group of white men
  • A copy of a 1919 newspaper article about a “fiery” anti-lynching address given by a black pastor
  • A photograph of 3 members of the original black fighter squadron in WWII
  • A photograph of President Eisenhower meeting with black leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.
  • A program from the March on Washington

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

Civil War Horse Soldier Artifacts Collection

January 18, 2015 by | 14 Comments

Three-generation Civil War Photo
One of our newest collections on Fold3 is The Civil War Horse Soldier Artifacts Collection. Like the title suggests, this collection contains images of Civil War artifacts from the Horse Solider antique store in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Many of the artifacts are photographs of soldiers, but there are also some images of weapons—like guns and swords—as well as images of belts, drill and tactics manuals, official documents, letters, medals, uniforms, cartridge boxes, mess kits, and other personal effects. Most artifacts included in the collection are accompanied by a detailed written description and history of the item, and many also include a brief biography of the soldier the item belonged to.

Some interesting finds in the Horse Soldier collection include:

.69 caliber rifled-musket

Although we hope that you find something that belonged to one of your Civil War ancestors in the collection, even if you don’t, the artifacts can help you get an idea of the types of items your relatives may have owned during their time in the military.

Interested in Civil War artifacts? Get started searching or browsing Fold3’s Horse Soldier collection here. Or search all Fold3 collections here.