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Gettysburg 150th Anniversary

July 1, 2013 by | Comments Off

Fold3 This Month in History

The Battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863

What can we say today about an event as historically significant and perpetually reviewed as the Battle of Gettysburg? It is seared into our consciousness like no other military engagement—probably as a result of Lincoln’s impassioned Gettysburg Address. Or perhaps because the casualty count was the highest ever on American soil, or that this three-day battle was considered a crucial turning point in the Civil War. No matter whether your allegiance favors the North or the South, both nations suffered greatly. Now, one hundred and fifty years later, we commemorate it.

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought ferociously and courageously by over 160,000 men over three days—1-3 July 1863—in and around the small rural town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The logistics and strategies of the battle are well documented. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia fought the Union’s Army of the Potomac, led by Major General George G. Meade. Lee’s Army made significant progress and gained a good deal of ground during the first two days of battle, yet a Confederate strategy on the third day, known as “Pickett’s Charge,” was repulsed and the Union forced the Confederates to retreat. The result was a massive Union victory, foiling General Lee’s attempted invasion of the north. Casualty estimates range upward of 51,000, including over 7,000 fatalities, with more dying from wounds and infections in the months ahead.

There are grisly stories of the aftermath. The citizens of Gettysburg suffered, too. Thousands of bodies required burial and tens of thousands of injured needed medical treatment. Makeshift hospitals overtook the town. Camp Letterman General Hospital was established east of Gettysburg a few weeks after the battle. It consisted of hundreds of tents and support services. It was winter before the last soldier departed.

It took a week to bury the dead and most were in shallow graves, hastily dug to avoid epidemics. Many Confederates were reinterred years later in southern states, while the Union dead were ultimately reburied in a location set aside a few months after the battle as the National Cemetery at Gettysburg. It was there, on November 19, 1863, that Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address. It was two minutes long and less than 300 words, dedicated to “those who here gave their lives” so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Explore the Civil War Collection on Fold3 to learn more about the Battle of Gettysburg. Locate maps and photos related to the battle, including those by Mathew Brady’s team of photographers. Read Confederate Casualty Reports for first-hand accounts of Confederate officers, and review the military records of many of the soldiers who served on either side.

John Philip Sousa

June 27, 2013 by | Comments Off

Before joining the Fold3 team last year, my wife and I spent twenty-four years in Oregon. There our daughter was a member of the marching band for one of our two community high schools (our sons opting out of that opportunity). As “band parents” we gathered funds for the band, with the stipulation that the band must perform at least one Sousa march each year. To us it wasn’t a marching band without John Philip Sousa.

On the other side of the planet and decades earlier, on July 4, 1918, in Auckland, New Zealand, the Bohemian Orchestra performed a concert that included—in New Zealand—the playing of the Star Spangled Banner followed by John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever, as a “slight mark of appreciation of the great American nation, now fighting with us to uphold the world rule of Right, as against brutality and might.” The program also stated that while Sousa was well known in America for his operas and suites, as “‘The March King’ his reputation is universal.” To the program organizers it seems, it wasn’t an American patriotic tribute without John Philip Sousa.

July 4th Program on Fold3 (WWI State Department Records)

The concert’s program erroneously states that “as soon as the United States entered the great world war, Sousa, at the age of 64, rejoined the Army … .” Actually, Sousa had served two earlier stints in the US Marines, both times as a member of the Marine Band—the first as an apprentice musician, the second as its leader. When he re-reentered  military service in WWI, it was into the U.S. Naval Reserve where, of course, he led the Navy Band. (Where else would you put John Philip Sousa?)

In our home, on the Fourth of July, we play patriotic songs, including—necessarily—several Sousa marches. Books have been written and college courses conducted on the role of music in the human brain. That music has a unique and powerful place in the brain seems unquestionable, and one need look no further for a great example than how a Sousa march thrills.

May your Fourth be blessed with at least one such Sousa thrill.

Flag Day June 14

June 1, 2013 by | Comments Off

Fold3 This Month in History

The Second Continental Congress determined the design of the American flag on Saturday, June 14, 1777. Within the Papers of the Continental Congress on Fold3, we can view the resolution in both the rough journal entry and the transcript journal entry. The latter reads:

Resolved that the flag of the thirteen united states be 13 stripes alternate red and white, that the union be 13 stars white in a blue field representing a new constellation.

Thus was born the famous Stars and Stripes, a flag design that evolved over time as more states joined the Union. There are now 50 stars where there were once 13, and the nation has witnessed 236 years of a unique history. Much of that history is documented in the military records on Fold3, a site which incorporates the U.S. flag into its logo.*

Flag Day is now recognized on June 14, the “birthday” of the Stars and Stripes, as a result of the efforts of a Wisconsin teacher, Bernard John Cigrand. The National Flag Day Foundation explains on its website:

In Waubeka, Wisconsin, in 1885, Bernard John Cigrand a nineteen-year-old school teacher in a one-room school placed a 10″” 38-star flag in an inkwell and had his students write essays on what the flag meant to them. He called June 14th the flag’s birthday. Stony Hill School is now a historical site. From that day on Bernard J. Cigrand dedicated himself to inspire not only his students but also all Americans in the real meaning and majesty of our flag.

As a result of Cigrand’s efforts, Flag Day was officially proclaimed by President Wilson in 1916 to be celebrated on the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777. It was President Truman, however, who signed an Act of Congress on August 3, 1949, establishing June 14 as Flag Day in the United States.

*Fold3′s name and logo were created in honor of our military heroes. Traditionally, the third fold in a flag-folding ceremony honors and remembers veterans for their sacrifice in defending their country and promoting peace in the world.

USCT Service Records Complete through the 138th Infantry – Free through May 31st

May 21, 2013 by | 4 Comments

Substitute Volunteer EnlistmentIn partnership with the National Archives, Fold3 recently finished scanning and publishing the complete set of compiled military service records of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). The collection is comprised of over 3.6 million document images for the 1st through 138th USCT Infantry, the 1st through 6th USCT Cavalry, and the USCT Artillery.

Notably, it was 150 years ago this month, on May 22, 1863, that the U.S. War Department established the Bureau of Colored Troops under General Orders, No. 143. Prior to the Civil War, African American soldiers had served in many battles on American soil, but it wasn’t until the Bureau was created that official regiments were formed. And, while Union regiments had African American soldiers within their ranks prior to Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, it was that famous announcement that officially authorized the service of African Americans in combat.

The most recently published USCT records, the Union Colored Troops 56th-138th Infantry, were scanned directly from the original textual records, while the rest of the collection was digitized from microfilm. Two affidavits of ownership show the dramatic difference in depth and color of the different processes as we compare a page for Adam Hamilton (67th USCT), scanned from paper records, with that of Edward English (5th USCT Cavalry), previously archived on microfilm.

Final Statement
Additional documents from the file of Adam Hamilton, a private in the 67th USCT, illustrate the many types of records we can uncover in this rich collection of military records. Hamilton enlisted January 24, 1864, in Mexico, Missouri. His physical characteristics and place of birth appear on a Volunteer Descriptive List. He was absent from duty in March and April as he was sick with smallpox in hospital at Port Hudson, Louisiana. He died of Variola (smallpox) on April 7, 1864. Although his military service was short, his file includes 24 pages as Hamilton was a slave of John Vivian of Boone County, Missouri, and Vivian was awarded compensation of $300.

Additional documents within the USCT compiled military service records include:

Read more about the U.S. Colored Troops, their service in the Civil War, and access descriptive pamphlets and related resources from the Fold3 description page for Union Compiled Military Service Records – Colored Troops. Explore the complete set of compiled military service records of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) on Fold3 free through May 31st.

This Month in History: Selective Service Act of 1917

May 1, 2013 by | 1 Comment

The first military conscription in the United States occurred during the Civil War, but the military draft process we are familiar with today originated with the Selective Service Act of 1917, passed by Congress on May 18, 1917.

Six weeks earlier, the United States had declared war on Germany and it was soon apparent there were not enough men in the peacetime army (about 110,000) and not enough immediate volunteers. The Selective Service Act required that all men between ages 21 and 31 register for military service. In response, over ten million registered. Not everyone who registered was drafted as there were several exemptions based on dependents, economic hardship, and type of employment. And, as with any government-mandated conscription process, there were protests and rallies against it.

The biggest difference between the Civil War draft and the Selective Service Act of 1917 was that it did not allow for substitutes. Section 3 stated:

No person liable to military service shall hereafter be permitted or allowed to furnish a substitute for such service; nor shall any substitute be received, enlisted, or enrolled in the military service of the United States; and no such person shall be permitted to escape such service or to be discharged.

Ultimately, there were three registrations as a result of the act:

  • June 5, 1917, for men 21 to 30 years old;
  • June 5, 1918, for men who had turned 21 since the previous draft, also followed by a supplemental draft on August 24, 1918; and
  • September 12, 1918, for men 18 to 45 years old.

When the armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, the need for a large army clearly diminished. By 1919, the role of a selective service agency was unnecessary, yet the system was resurrected over twenty years later through the Selective Training and Service Act (STSA) of 1940 as the United States stood on the brink of World War II.

Explore the World War I and World War II collections on Fold3, including WWII “Old Man’s Draft” Registration Cards.

Confederate Civil War Records Free on Fold3 in April

April 3, 2013 by | 3 Comments

Case Files of Applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons
Fun Feature: Have you noticed that the image on the Fold3 landing page for the Civil War Collection changes from “Civil War” to “War Between the States” when you move your cursor over the 150th-anniversary logo? Give it a try. It’s one of the many ways Fold3 recognizes the history of the U.S. Civil War from both perspectives—North and South.

This month, in the spirit of paying tribute to those who fought for the South, Fold3 is offering free access to its rich collection of Confederate Civil War records.

Several of the records and publications from the National Archives’ War Department Collection of Confederate Records (RG 109) are digitized and appear on Fold3. These include Confederate Compiled Service Records, both the Union and Confederate citizens files, and Confederate Casualty Reports. All titles from RG 109 available on Fold3 are listed here with links to each title.

Additionally, Confederate Amnesty Papers, the Confederate Navy Subject File, the Turner-Baker Papers relating to Civil War Subversion Investigations, and files of the Southern Claims Commission are included as part of the free Confederate content for the month of April. Of unique interest, explore the compiled service records for the “Galvanized Yankees,” Confederate prisoners of war who were released by enlisting in the Union Army. Most of the CSA files contain a soldier’s declaration of “Volunteer Enlistment” with an oath of allegiance to the USA.

Learn more about your southern ancestors and those who fought for the Confederate States of America within the Civil War Collection on Fold3.