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Access the Civil War Collection

April 14, 2014 by | 8 Comments

In remembrance of the Civil War’s commencement in April 1861, Fold3 invites you to explore all records in its Civil War Collection for free April 14–30.

Civil War 150th AnniversaryExplore Civil War documents featuring everything from military records to personal accounts and historic writings. Soldier records include service records, pension index cards, “Widows’ Pension” files, Navy survivors certificates, Army registers, and much more. Other record types include photographs, original war maps, court investigations, slave records, and beyond. Items such as the Lincoln Assassination Papers, Sultana Disaster documents, letters to the Adjutant General and Commission Branch, and the 1860 census are also contained in the Civil War Collection.

Confederate-specific records include Confederate service records, amnesty papers, casualty reports, and citizens files, as well as Confederate Navy subject files and Southern Claims Commission documents.

Join Fold3 in its commemoration of the Civil War. Discover information on famous participants as well as your own Civil War ancestors through documents, photos, and images that capture the experiences and vital information 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. Get started searching the Civil War Collection here.

George Washington’s First Inauguration

April 1, 2014 by | 2 Comments

April 30 marks the 225th anniversary of George Washington’s presidential inauguration in 1789. Not only was it Washington’s first inauguration, but it was America’s as well, and although not everything went according to plan, the event set precedents for the many other inaugurations that would eventually follow.

Announcement of Washington's inauguration in the London TimesThe inauguration was originally set for the first Wednesday in March, but the counting of the electoral votes, which would decide the presidential race, was delayed for a month due to bad weather. So Washington wasn’t declared the winner until April 6, and with the time it took to inform him of his victory—and for him to travel to New York City from Virginia—the inauguration wasn’t held until April 30.

Washington was administered the oath of office by the Chancellor of New York, Robert R. Livingston, at Federal Hall on a second-story balcony—so he could be seen by the crowds below. He then appeared before Congress to give an inaugural address, during which he was visibly nervous.

Washington largely avoided specific policy recommendations in his 10-minute speech, which was likely drafted by James Madison. Instead he brought up his reservations about being president and acknowledged God’s role in America’s independence. He also discussed how national policy will inevitably reflect the morality and virtues of lawmakers and the American people, and that Congress should take into account “the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony” when deciding whether to make amendments to the Constitution. Though the speech wasn’t mandated by the Constitution, every president since Washington has followed his example and given an inaugural speech.

After his address was over, Washington and members of Congress attended a church service at St. Paul’s Church. Later in the evening, the inauguration was celebrated with fireworks and other festivities.

If you’re interested in George Washington’s years as president, you can explore Fold3’s collection of his presidential correspondence. Or browse our Revolutionary War collection for his wartime letters to the Continental Congress, as well as the service records, pension applications, and other documents of the men who served under him.

Records from the New York State Military Museum

March 20, 2014 by | 3 Comments

In a partnership with the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, Fold3 has digitized nine titles documenting hundreds of thousands of men who served in the New York National Guard (NYNG) and other New York regiments for conflicts from the Civil War to World War II, as well as the peace-time years between.

NYSMM - Physical DescriptionPublished lists of commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates of regiments organized in the state of New York during the U.S. Civil War can be found in the 8-volume New York Civil War Regiment Lists. The introductory material in some volumes provides historical context for regimental formation, like this 1861 act authorizing a volunteer militia.

Service records and cards are perhaps the most enlightening records as they typically include physical descriptions like height, weight, hair color, eye color and identifying marks. In addition to enlistment and discharge dates, some cards also provide dates and places of birth, occupations, relationships, and residences. In the New York National Guard Personnel Jackets, a document for 18-year-old John P. Badger of the Malone Armory provides his physical description where he also names his father as emergency contact, and a card with his fingerprints. Other such titles include:

Rosters of the New York National Guard can also be found in the New York State Adjutant General Reports, 1846-1995. Depending upon the year, the volume may include documents and reports of federal agencies, photographs, notes on flight and ground training, personnel, and organizational charts. There are 149 volumes, although not every year from 1846 to 1995 is available.

NYSMM - Pistol MatchShooting matches are a National Guard tradition, supported by the Adjutant General. New York National Guard Shooting Matches are digitized publications which include results of the matches from various years between 1924 and 2008. As an example, in the rifle match within the 1935 Governor’s Match, Capt. Devereux of the 107th Infantry scored 100. He also received the high individual score of 97.5 in a pistol match that year. He must have been quite a shot.

Two photograph collections are also part of the NYSMM publications: New York State Military Museum Photos (Civil War – Vietnam War) and WWII 27th Army Division Photos. They include thousands of images like portraits, group photos, equipment, armories, and other subjects pertinent to the New York regiments.

Each of these nine New York titles brings intriguing historic records of guardsmen and their regiments to Fold3 subscribers.

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.