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150th Anniversary (1864–2014) This Month in the Civil War: Battle of Cherbourg

June 1, 2014 by | 15 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

June 19, 1864, saw the most famous Confederate raider, the CSS Alabama, sent to the bottom of the ocean after a battle with the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Cherbourg, France. After two years of disrupting U.S. shipping all over the world—and sinking a Union warship in 1863—the Alabama’s captain, Raphael Semmes, took his ship to France for maintenance and repair.

The Kearsarge, captained by John Winslow, followed the Alabama and waited in Cherbourg’s harbor for the Alabama to reemerge. Semmes, aware that he was blockaded in the harbor, decided to challenge the Kearsarge to a ship-to-ship duel. Winslow accepted, and on June 19, a French ironclad escorted the Alabama to meet up with the Kearsarge in international waters.

The Battle of Cherbourg began about 11 a.m., with the Alabama firing the first shots, and lasted about an hour. The Alabama fired faster but less accurately, and its shells and powder were in poor condition. The Kearsarge, firing more deliberately, eventually struck the Alabama below the waterline, causing it to start to sink. Semmes surrendered, but he and some of his crew were rescued by a British yacht and escaped before they could be captured by the Federals.

Medal of Honor Recipients

May 22, 2014 by | 4 Comments

Medal of Honor Recipients by conflictThe Medal of Honor is the U.S. military’s highest award for valor. Discover more about this nation’s bravest heroes by exploring Fold3’s Medal of Honor Recipients title.

Compiled by congressional committee and originally spanning the years 1863 to 1978, Medal of Honor Recipients was recently expanded to include additional names from 1979 to 2013 for more than 3,400 entries on those who received the Medal of Honor.

The first volume (1863–1978) contains an in-depth history of the Medal of Honor. For instance, did you know that in 1917, 910 names were removed from the Medal of Honor Roll because the Board ruled their actions didn’t merit the award? 864 of them were from the same regiment. This first volume also lists recipients by conflict, recipients by state, foreign-born recipients, recipients in alphabetical order, and other (non-recipient) names mentioned in the citations.

Medal of Honor Recipiants listed alphabeticallyThe 1979–2013 addendum encompasses additions and changes to the earlier volume. It includes information on recent recipients, as well as information on those retroactively given the Medal of Honor (including 22 Asian Americans and 7 African Americans from World War II).

Information included—when available—for each Medal of Honor recipient is name and rank, organization (e.g., company and division), the date and place of their Medal of Honor action, their date and place of birth, and the citation text. Recipients come from all branches of service, and although early citations are often shorter, more descriptive citations are available from about World War I on.

Within the pages of Medal of Honor Recipients, each name preceding a citation is selectable. Selecting the name will bring up a box containing basic information pulled from the citation and the Honor Wall. Selecting the person’s name at the top of this box will take you to the person’s Honor Wall page, which you can explore or expand, depending on your preference.

As we approach Memorial Day, take some time to honor this nation’s heroes by learning more about them and their bravery in Fold3’s Medal of Honor Recipients and on the Honor Wall.

Access the World War II Collection

May 12, 2014 by | 11 Comments

This Memorial Day season, explore Fold3’s World War II Collection for free now through May 31st.

WWII DocumentsFind your family heroes in Fold3’s vast collection of WWII documents, records, and images, including draft registration cards, Army enlistment records, Navy muster rolls, “Old Man’s Draft” registration cards, missing air crew reports, casualty lists, and more.

You can also explore records that provide historical context, such as Navy war diaries, submarine patrol reports, naval press clippings, JAG case files, European Theater Army records, US Air Force photos, and beyond. Also included are the extensive Holocaust Collection and the interactive USS Arizona Memorial.

WWII DocumentsRecent Fold3 member discoveries in the World War II Collection have ranged from records about members’ fathers, uncles, grandfathers, and great-uncles to information that helped fill in the timeline of a specific soldier’s service.

Once you’ve found your WWII relatives, make a Memorial Page for them—or for anyone who served in a U.S. conflict—on Fold3’s Honor Wall. If a search of the Honor Wall for the person’s name doesn’t bring up an existing Memorial Page, easily create one yourself. Not only can you include documents and images from Fold3’s collections on a Memorial Page, but you can upload records and photos from your own collection and add facts, stories, and memories to the page. Create, expand, or update as many Memorial Pages as you’d like: the Honor Wall is a great way to commemorate your veteran relatives and ancestors and share their stories with family and friends.

Get started searching the Honor Wall here or exploring the World War II Collection here.

May 30, 1868:
First Official Memorial Day Observance

May 1, 2014 by | 6 Comments

In the years immediately following the Civil War, one way Americans sought to remember the multitudes of war dead was by holding “decoration days”—days on which they would gather to decorate the graves of those who died in the conflict. Although many local groups and communities had their own decoration days, including well-known ones in Waterloo (New York) and Charleston (South Carolina), the first official observance of what would eventually become Memorial Day took place on May 30, 1868.

Memorial Day Ceremony in ChinaThis Decoration Day (it wouldn’t officially be called Memorial Day until 1967) was coordinated by John A. Logan, a former Union general and at the time commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veteran’s association. In his General Order Number 11, dated May 5, 1868, he designated May 30 “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” In addition to the decoration of graves, Decoration Day was also to be observed with “fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit,” according to Logan.

Veterans and their loved ones, as well as widows, orphans, and other bereaved, responded to Logan’s call with alacrity. That year, 183 cemeteries in 27 states celebrated Decoration Day, and observance only grew in the years that followed. By 1890, all the northern states had made it an official state holiday.

The South didn’t celebrate Logan’s Decoration Day until after World War I, when the holiday shifted from honoring Civil War dead to honoring the American dead of all wars. Instead, Southerners memorialized the Confederate dead locally on days throughout spring and early summer, often on important dates such as Joseph Johnston’s surrender, Stonewall Jackson’s death, or Jefferson Davis’ birthday.

Memorial Day, in the form we know it today, came about in 1967, when Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day to better reflect contemporary usage. Then, the following year, it was permanently moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend.

This Memorial Day, find your military ancestors on Fold3 and memorialize them by creating or expanding a page for them on the Honor Wall.

150th Anniversary (1864–2014) This Month in the Civil War: Death of JEB Stuart

May 1, 2014 by | 7 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

One hundred and fifty years ago this month, JEB Stuart—famed Confederate cavalry commander—was shot during the Battle of Yellow Tavern and died of his wounds the following day, May 12, 1864. During the battle, which would ultimately prove a Confederate loss, Stuart had been firing at a group of Union soldiers, when one Federal, John A. Huff from the 5th Michigan, took aim and shot Stuart. Hit in his right side below the ribs, Stuart was led off the battlefield, having to switch horses when his own became too nervous. He was finally loaded into an ambulance and taken to his brother-in-law’s home in nearby Richmond.

The doctors found that Stuart had sustained severed blood vessels and a perforated intestine, an extremely painful—and fatal—wound. As he lay dying, Stuart got his affairs in order, received visitors (including Jefferson Davis), and led those around him in singing hymns. His final words were, “I am resigned. God’s will be done.” Stuart died at 7:38 p.m., more than 24 hours after being shot. His wife, [] Flora, didn’t arrive until 4 hours after his death due to the difficulty of travel. He was buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

When Robert E. Lee heard about Stuart’s passing, he remarked, “I can scarcely think about him without weeping.” Stuart would be remembered not only for his flamboyant uniform (which included a red-lined cape, golden spurs, and a plumed hat), but also for his skill as a cavalry commander and his ability to provide Lee with up-to-date intelligence on the Union army.

Civil War Photo Collections on Fold3

April 22, 2014 by | 1 Comment

Capturing everything from battlefields to camp life, from enlisted men to generals, photographs from the Civil War document an era that continues to fascinate us 150 years later. The best known of the Civil War photographers was Mathew Brady, but although Brady is practically synonymous with Civil War photography, many of the photographs attributed to him were actually taken by his employees. In addition to Brady and his crew were other photographers, who—like Brady’s men—took their bulky cameras and equipment on the road to document many aspects of the war, making it the first conflict to be so widely photographed.

Andersonville Prison ArtifactsFold3 has three collections of these invaluable glimpses into the past: the Brady Civil War Photos (courtesy of the National Archives), the U.S. Civil War Photos (through the Library of Congress), and the New York State Military Museum Photos—Fold3’s newest addition to its collection of Civil War images. These collections document a vast array of military and non-military subjects, including army and navy life, generals in the field, hospitals, battle sites, prisoners and prisons, railroads, cities, and military equipment. And of course there are multitudes of portraits: of groups and individuals, soldiers and civilians, officers and enlisted men, government officials and women, and many others.

Civil War Photo of PrisonersSome Civil War photographs amuse, like this one of “a muss at headquarters” between a few jokesters in the Army of the Potomac at Falmouth, Virginia, in April 1863. Others educate, like this photograph of artifacts from Andersonville Prison or this image that captures the process of being drummed out of the army. Photos of graves, the newly dead, or those long awaiting burial may shock or sadden, while other images can inspire, such as this photograph of two prisoners of war who escaped twice and traveled nearly 600 miles to reach safety behind Union lines.

No matter the subject, Civil War photographs can provide a powerful connection with the past. Search Fold3’s collection of images for your Civil War ancestors and discover your own connections to this watershed era.

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.