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New Naval Records Added to Fold3!

September 20, 2018 by | 6 Comments

Fold3 Image - Letter from Captain Stephen Decatur to Secretary of Navy Paul Hamilton requesting a court martial for seaman Daniel Dailey after he murdered fellow seaman William Brown.
This month, Fold3 is pleased to highlight two new collections of naval records we’ve added to our archives. The first collection is Letters Received by the Secretary of Navy (“Captains’ Letters”) dated 1805-1885. The second collection is Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy from Commanding Officers of Squadrons between 1841-1886. These letters are in original manuscript form.

The Captains’ Letters collection is organized by year and contains correspondence from captains at sea to the Secretary of the Navy related to a variety of issues, including shipboard discipline, repairs of vessels, and conflicts with foreign governments. For example, this letter is from Captain Stephen Decatur. He was the youngest man to reach the rank of captain in the US Navy. In January 1812 he wrote to Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton requesting a court-martial for seaman Daniel Dailey. Dailey had strangled his fellow seaman, William Brown.

Another example is this letter from Captain Sam Evans. He informed Secretary of Navy Benjamin W. Crowninshield about a duel that had taken place in 1817 between Lt. Richard S. Heath of the USS Saranac and midshipman John D. Hopkins of the USS Enterprise, that resulted in the death of Heath.

In addition to captains’ letters, there are letters from the commandants of navy yards and shore facilities like this letter from Thomas Tingey of the Washington Navy Yard. It’s dated July 1805, and was sent to Congressman Charles W. Goldsborough to inform him that the heavy canvas needed to make sails for the brigs USS Hornet and USS Wasp was available.

Our second new collection contains correspondence from commanding officers of squadrons. This collection is organized by squadron location; date; and finally alphabetized by the author of the letter. In this letter from the James River Flotilla during the Civil War, Commander Maxwell Woodhull wrote to Commodore Charles Wilkes commending a gunner’s mate named John Merrett. Merrett was sick during an engagement at Harrison’s Landing, but managed to get out of bed and report to his station. There he bravely engaged and repelled the enemy, then collapsed from exhaustion and had to be carried to his hammock, where he almost died.

In 1864, the steamship USS Connecticut was part of the North Atlantic Blockade Squadron. In this letter to Rear Admiral Samuel P. Lee from May 1864, Captain John J. Almy described a dramatic four-hour chase to capture the English Steamer Minnie. To avoid capture, the Minnie dumped 40 bales of cotton, but she was still taken. She contained 540 bales of cotton, 25 tons of tobacco, 12 barrels of turpentine and $10,000 in gold, and was one of the most valuable prizes taken during the war. On board, they discovered Lt. Lincoln C. Leftwich of the Confederate Army. He was taken prisoner.

Come search these historic naval correspondence collections and other naval records, on Fold3!

The Civil War Home Front

September 10, 2018 by | 91 Comments

During the Civil War more than two million soldiers left their families, homes, farms, and jobs to join the fight. The women were left to maintain the home front. This shift brought increased responsibility and opportunity that would shape the country long after the war ended.

Fold3 Image - Unidentified Civil War soldiers with women and child
Women were needed to fill critical gaps outside of their typical domestic spheres. In addition to managing homes and families, women worked in factories, mills, and munition plants. They sewed uniforms and bandages. Some served as nurses, such as Carrie Wilkins Pollard, who spent two years caring for the wounded. In 1892, she appealed to Congress and was granted a pension. Although women weren’t eligible to enlist as soldiers, as many as 400 did; many under male aliases.

Occasionally, the battlefront and the home front merged into one. Such was the case for Susan M. Alsop. The young widow was in her early 20s and struggling to maintain her farm when in 1864, the Battle of Spotsylvania raged in her front yard. Her property became a burial ground for many. Twenty years later, soldiers visited the Alsop farm, hoping to mark the exact spot where Union Gen. John Sedgwick was killed. One of them presented a $5 bill to the son of Susan Alsop saying, “On this day twenty years ago I stole a side of bacon from your mother, and I want you to give her this to pay for it.” When Alsop sold her farm in 1895, a newspaper article noted that “the Confederate earthworks were still in a good state of preservation.”

During the war, many soldiers suffered injuries that resulted in life-long disabilities, including thousands of amputation surgeries. After the war, men and women had to navigate and define new roles and responsibilities. Many women had become accustomed to making decisions, managing finances, and operating farms and businesses. With the men back home, adjustments were required. Some had to adjust to the fact that their men were never coming home. The death of 620,000 Americans left the country stunned and mourning. Typical of mourning practices at the time, many widows donned black dresses to express their grief.

Widows of Union soldiers were entitled to a federal pension. Confederate soldiers and widows weren’t eligible and needed to apply to the individual state where they resided to receive a state pension. It wasn’t until the 1900s that federal pensions were available to all Civil War soldiers and widows.

Women emerged from the Civil War with a taste of social empowerment that permanently shifted their attitudes. Wartime exposure to responsibilities traditionally managed by men taught women that they were, in fact, capable of filling these roles. This gave a boost to the suffrage movement, and in 1869, the National Woman Suffrage Association formed with the goal of procuring the vote for American women. Search our Civil War archives, including the Civil War Pensions Index and the Civil War Widows Pensions file to learn more about the role women played during the Civil War!

The Battle of Antietam: September 17, 1862

September 1, 2018 by | 104 Comments

On September 17, 1862, the Battle of Antietam, also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg, was fought. The battle was a decisive engagement in the American Civil War. It was the bloodiest one-day battle in American history, with 3,650 dead and more than 19,000 wounded, missing or captured.

Fold3 Image - Antietam, Maryland. Confederate dead in a ditch on the right wing
The battle came on the heels of the Maryland Campaign, an offensive led by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, that pushed troops northward and into Maryland in early September 1862.

Union troops, under the command of Gen. George B. McClellan, were demoralized. They had suffered defeats, including one at the Second Battle of Bull Run. The tides turned on September 13th, when Union soldiers discovered a copy of Special Order 191. The Order, issued by General Lee four days previously, outlined movement plans for Confederate troops. It was inadvertently left behind at a campsite that was later occupied by Union troops. An ecstatic General McClellan immediately planned a counter-offensive.

Four days later, the two armies met at the Battle of Antietam. During that day, Union soldiers would participate in three major attacks against the Confederacy. The first charge started that morning against Lee’s left flank in a cornfield on a farm occupied by the David R. Miller family.

In the center, a farm lane called Sunken Road (later known as Bloody Lane) became the scene of death and carnage during a fierce battle that resulted in 5,500 casualties. That afternoon, Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside led a battle for control of a stone bridge that spanned Antietam Creek. By the time Burnside took control of the bridge, more than 600 soldiers had been killed or wounded. One of those casualties was Pvt. Peter Mann. His widow Ann gave birth to a baby girl a few months after his death. She named the baby Antietam Burnside Mann. The bridge is still known as Burnside Bridge.

On September 18th, Gen. Lee withdrew his troops from the battlefield. The retreat emboldened the North and paved the way for President Lincoln to issue his Emancipation Proclamation five days later. The Emancipation Proclamation gave a dual purpose to the war; the preservation of the Union and the abolishment of slavery.

Do you have ancestors that fought in the Battle of Antietam? Search our Civil War records to learn more about this battle and other Civil War battles.

New Canadian Records

August 21, 2018 by | 28 Comments

Fold3 Image - WWI Canadian Soldier Example Doc
This month, we are pleased to highlight some of Fold3’s newest Canadian records!

Fenian Raids Bounty Lists: The Fenian Brotherhood was a fraternal organization committed to the establishment of an independent Irish Republic, free from British rule. Though the call for independence had been ongoing for years, the Irish potato famine reenergized the movement. Many believed the British indifference to the famine was purposeful, and even an act of genocide. A brotherhood formed that was actually a predecessor to the modern Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Between 1866-1871, the Fenians launched a series of armed incursions in Canada. They were meant to put pressure on Britain to withdraw from Ireland. The incursions were put down by government forces but resulted in loss of life on both sides.

The raids took place at Campobello Island, New Brunswick; Ridgeway, Ontario; along the Quebec/US border at Eccles Hill and Huntingdon; and in 1871, an attempt was made to invade the province of Manitoba.

To combat the Fenian threat, the Canadian Militia in Ontario and Quebec were called out several times, usually for just a few days at a time. Later, the Canadian government decided that those who were called up in defense of Canada would be provided a grant or bounty of $100 upon application. This collection contains the names of those who applied for this bounty along with related pensions for those who were wounded, sick, or killed in active duty. The collection is organized in alphabetical order.

WWI Canadian Soldiers: We have updated our collection of records for members of the WWI Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). The CEF consisted of about 630,000 Canadians who enlisted between 1914-1918. They served as soldiers, nurses, doctors, and forestry and railway crews. More than 234,000 were wounded or killed while in service.

This collection contains service files from the original records at the Library and Archives of Canada. Each service file contains the soldier’s name, regiment, unit, and HQ file number, along with service file documents. The service file documents (as many as 24 pages for some soldiers) contain things like medical records, dental history, distinguishing physical characteristics, medal forms, and in some cases, photographs. The collection is organized alphabetically.

To search these collections and other Canadian records, visit Fold3.com!

The Bombing of Balikpapan: August 13-18, 1943

August 10, 2018 by | 67 Comments

Fold3 Image - Bombing of Balikpapan
In the early morning hours of August 13, 1943, twelve US B-24 Liberators from the 380th Bombardment Group (also known as the Flying Circus), began a low approach over the harbor of Balikpapan, Borneo. They were about to break records for the longest bombing run in history. Their 17-hour non-stop flight would take the Japanese completely by surprise and result in destruction in Balikpapan.

Intelligence had suggested that Balikpapan refineries were producing half of Japan’s WWII aviation fuel.

Under the command of Lt. Col. William A. Miller, a risky plan was conceived for a bombing run to Balikpapan. Pilots would need to cover 2600 miles – roughly the distance between Los Angeles and New York City.

The planes and crews were readied at the Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin in Northern Australia. Each plane was loaded with six 500-pound bombs, 3500 gallons of fuel, and weighed nearly 66,000 pounds.

The runway at Darwin was especially short and ground crews watched nervously as the planes, including one piloted by Lt. Col. Miller, took off. They cleared the tree line by just inches.

Approaching the harbor, the first plane dropped its load without encountering any resistance. A massive explosion ensued. The next 11 planes encountered flak but managed to successfully drop their bombs on refineries and ships. The harbor exploded into a ball of flame. Burning oil ran down the hillsides. Lt. Col. Miller found the heat so intense that he was forced to drop his load from 7,000 feet.

After the successful run came the challenge of returning to Darwin. The planes headed back to Australia but as they crossed over a Japanese base on Timor, a B-24 piloted by Capt. Doug Craig was engaged by enemy fighters. Craig was forced to take evasive maneuvers all the way back to the coast of Australia. He was short on gas and 100-miles off course when he touched down on a stretch of sand.

Fold3 Image - Curious Australian Aborigines at the site of Capt. Doug Craig's crash landing
The exhausted crew rolled to a stop. As they deplaned they found themselves surrounded by a large group of Aborigines. Craig tried to communicate using exaggerated sign language but was surprised when the Aboriginal leader asked him, “What are you trying to say?” The Aborigines protected the crew until a rescue party arrived.

Days later, the 380th participated in a risky daylight flight to Balikpapan to assess the damage. Another Liberator performed a high elevation photo run of the harbor before dropping his load. The element of surprise was gone, and the Japanese scrambled to engage the B-24. Though riddled with bullets and running on fumes, the plane successfully returned to Darwin. Photos revealed more ships in the harbor and a third bombing run was planned for August 18th. The Liberators successfully bombed the harbor again. They were under heavy attack that resulted in bullet-riddled planes and wounds, but managed to return to Australia. The Flying Circus received a Distinguished Unit Citation. Search our records for the 380th Bombardment Group and others like it on Fold3.com!

The Battle of Amiens: August 8, 1918

August 1, 2018 by | 142 Comments

On August 8, 1918, in Amiens, France, a British-led Allied force of 75,000 soldiers began the Battle of Amiens. It was the first battle of the “Hundred Days Offensive,” a string of German defeats that would eventually lead to the end of WWI.

Fold3 Image - Allies take over German trench on August 10, 1918. Dead German soldiers are seen in trench.
Under the direction of British Fourth Army commander, Sir Henry Rawlinson, the offensive was planned in part by French General Ferdinand Foch to protect the Paris-Amiens railway that served to supply the front lines. Troops from Britain, France, Australia, Canada, and the US joined forces to defeat Germany.

At 4:20 A.M., the battlefield was cloaked by a smoke screen laid by the Royal Air Force. Guns blazing, the Allies charged towards German trenches. The intense artillery attack lasted 5 hours and caught the Germans completely by surprise. Many surrendered immediately.

German General Erich Ludendorff referred to the first day of battle as “the black day of the German Army,” because so many Germans surrendered. German spirits were low and according to Ludendorff, “depressed down to Hell.”

The Battle of Amiens effectively ended trench warfare on the Western front because of the speed of the Allied advance. The Germans trenches were overrun pushing the enemy back. Allies captured large numbers of artillery and gathered them in a “captured gun park,” near Amiens.

By August 11, troops had advanced eight miles and 26,000 German soldiers were either captured, killed, or injured. The Allies suffered losses too with more than 19,000 casualties.

Allies were also successful in capturing the Amiens gun, an 11-inch Krupp naval gun that had been mounted on a rail car. The gun had been shelling Amiens all summer, wreaking havoc in the city.

The advantage Allied forces gained at Amiens continued for the next 100 days until the Armistice of November 11, 1918 was signed that ended WWI.

To learn more about the Battle of Amiens or other WWI battles, search our archives!

New British Military Award Records on Fold3!

July 18, 2018 by | 25 Comments

Fold3 Image - WWII Distinguished Conduct Medal Citation
This month we’re excited to highlight some of the British military records we’ve added to our collection!

British WWII Commando Gallantry Awards:
This collection contains the names of nearly 500 British Commandos who earned a Gallantry Award during WWII. The awards include Victoria Crosses, Distinguished Service Orders, Military Crosses, Distinguished Conduct Medals and Military Medals. The collection is alphabetized and includes rank, regiment, and the date the award was issued. In some instances, the full citation was published in the London Gazette. Where applicable, that citation is attached in the comment field.

British WWII Distinguished Conduct Medal Citations:
These records are an alphabetized list of non-commissioned officers and men in the army who were awarded the second highest award for gallantry during WWII. The records are cross-referenced to the London Gazette publication dates and tell the stories that inspired the award.

WWII Distinguished Flying Medals for British Soldiers:
This collection is an alphabetized list of nearly 6,500 recipients of the Distinguished Flying Medal award. The index was transcribed from surviving Recommendations. In some cases, they contain a cross reference to the publication date in the London Gazette. Where no Recommendation was found, the relevant press release is entered.

British Companions of the DSO Awards, 1923-2010:
This collection is an alphabetized list of recipients of the DSO Award and subsequent First, Second, and Third Bar awards from the British Navy and Royal Marines. The records are primarily from WWII, but pre-war and post-war campaigns are also included. The records include birthdates, family members and other biographical information along with the reason for the award recommendation.

British Recipients of the Military Cross:
This collection contains records for recipients of the Military Cross during WWI. The collection is alphabetized and includes name, rank, and battalion or sub unit and other biographical details. Military Crosses are cited in the London Gazette and those citations are attached, including the confirmation of the existence of that issue.

Search Fold3 for these are other international collections today!