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August 18-21, 1864: The Second Battle of Weldon Railroad (Globe Tavern)

August 2, 2023 by | 81 Comments

The Second Battle of Weldon Railroad, also known as the Battle of Globe Tavern, was fought near Petersburg, Virginia, on August 18-21, 1864, as part of the larger Petersburg Campaign. The Weldon Railroad was a Confederate supply line that ran from Richmond, the capital of the Southern States, to Wilmington international seaport in North Carolina. During the battle, Union forces successfully captured the railroad and destroyed sections of the track, cutting off the supply line. The victory came at a cost, with some 2,500 Union soldiers being captured and taken prisoner. Three days of fighting resulted in 4,300 Union casualties and 2,250 Confederate casualties.

Globe Tavern

On August 17, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered the Union Fifth Corps, who were under the command of Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, to capture a section of the Weldon railroad. The railroad was a major supply line for Lee’s army, which faced shortages and possible starvation without supplies.  

At dawn on August 18, 1864, Warren’s troops, who were entrenched near Jerusalem Plank Road in Petersburg, advanced westward toward the rail line. It was the Union Army’s second attempt to sever the railroad track. Two months earlier, during the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road on June 21-24, 1864, Union forces tried but failed and were repelled by the Confederates.

Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren

The Fifth Corps reached the rail line at Globe Tavern by 9:00 a.m. and initially found a relatively weak Confederate defense. They successfully captured the rail line and destroyed sections of the track, heating the metal, and twisting it into the shape of a Maltese Cross, the insignia of Fifth Corps. Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard and Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill sent infantry brigades led by Gen. Henry Heth. They arrived in the afternoon and launched a sharp counterattack.

The next day, August 19, the Confederate brigades led by Maj. Gen. William Mahone launched a massive counterattack when they broke through a gap between Warren’s right flank and Gen. John Parke’s Ninth Corps. The Confederates regained some lost ground but failed to take back the railroad. During fierce fighting, the Confederates took some 2,500 Union prisoners, and another 400 were wounded or killed.

On August 20, both sides regrouped and planned. It was rainy, muddy, and miserable, and no major offensive occurred. On August 21, the skies cleared, and the Confederates launched another counterattack. The offensive failed, and by noon, Confederate troops withdrew to their Petersburg defenses. The capture of the railroad at Globe Tavern was a turning point. It was the first Union victory during the Petersburg siege, and the loss of the railroad had a significant impact on the Confederates. Lee’s army had to create a new supply line. That meant off-loading rail cars and carrying supplies by wagon some 30 miles to Petersburg to keep their troops armed and fed.

If you would like to learn more about the Battle of Weldon Railroad, search Fold3® today.

New Military Records from the United Kingdom!

July 25, 2023 by | 8 Comments

Do you have ancestors that served in the British military? We are pleased to announce that we’ve added nearly half a million new military records from the United Kingdom. Here are some of our new collections:

UK, WWI, 5th London General Hospital, 1917. This hospital on the banks of the River Thames was incorporated within St. Thomas’s Hospital as a Territorial Force military hospital. This collection contains indexed records for 6,972 men and reveals their regiment and rank.

British, French, and Italian wounded soldiers during WWI: Courtesy of the National Library of Scotland

UK, Ireland Army Census, 1911. This collection contains rich details, including birthplace, residence, literacy, religion, employment before enlisting, regiment, and more, for soldiers serving in Ireland in 1911.

UK, Worldwide Army Census, 1911. This census was enumerated in April 1911 and collected information for people living in the British Isles, including the Channel Islands, and those serving overseas. For the first time, this census also enumerated those serving aboard Royal Navy ships.

UK, Rolls of Honour, 1914-1920. This collection contains WWI Rolls of Honour for various cities, towns, villages, and parishes. The rolls might reveal enlistment dates, dates of service, rank, residence, and more.

UK, Highland Light Infantry Chronicle – Index 1908-1920. This indexed list comes from names published in the Highland Light Infantry Chronicle. The list often includes service number, publication date, issue, volume, and rank and service number.

UK, The Times – Index of Casualties, 1914. This collection contains names of British Army non-fatal casualties as reported in The Times. The index includes wounded men, those who returned sick, those who were reported missing, or who became a prisoner of war. This list does not include fatalities.

UK, Princess Mary’s Gift Box POW list, 1914. In 1914, Her Royal Highness Princess Mary, daughter of King George V, and his wife, Queen Mary, appealed to raise funds to send each soldier and sailor a Christmas gift. Men who were prisoners of war did not receive the gift. Following the cessation of hostilities, Princes Mary asked for a list of those who did not initially receive her gift. This collection contains that list of 21,000 names.

UK, University Rolls of Honour, 1914-1918. The First World War interrupted the studies of thousands of young men and women, many of whom served in His Majesty’s forces. This collection contains the names of students from various universities who served in some capacity. It also includes the names of students who died in the service of their country.

Explore these new UK collections today on Fold3® and watch for additional UK records coming soon.

Search Tips for Researching Military Records on Fold3®

July 18, 2023 by | 34 Comments

Military records are a rich resource for genealogical and historical research. These records provide a treasure trove of information and shed light on the details of service personnel and their family members. Many US military records were lost in a 1973 fire, and Fold3® record collections can help recreate the military history of your ancestors. Following are some search tips to help you make the most of records on Fold3®.

From our WWII Missing Air Crew Reports Collection

Use Search Filters: Begin your search on Fold3® by using our search filters. As you enter a search term, a pop-up asks if this is a keyword, name, or place. Selecting a filter will dramatically reduce your results, making it easier to access your desired records. Additional filters like conflict/war, military service number, dates, etc., allow you to narrow your results further.   Military records differ from vital records, and the record you seek may not use a full legal name. Be sure to try name variations like first initial and last name, for example. Researchers can also toggle back and forth between searching collections and our patent-pending Browse experience. To learn more about Browse, click here.

The 1973 Fire at the NPRC: On July 12, 1973, a massive fire broke out at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. It burned for 22 hours and destroyed 16-18 million military files. Records affected included 80% of Army files for Personnel discharged between November 1912 – January 1960; and 75% of Air Force files for Personnel discharged from September 1947 – January 1964. No duplicate copies of these records were ever maintained. These lost records present a roadblock, but other available record sets can help you construct a military history.

For example, if you are searching for a WWII veteran, you might search for records like Unit Histories, Missing Air Crew Reports, Draft Registration Cards, WWII Diaries, or Air Force Photos. Remember that until 1947, the US Air Force was part of the US Army (United States Army Air Force – USAAF). Navy Muster Rolls recorded the movements of troops on transport ships even if they didn’t serve in the Navy, and if your ancestor was sick or injured during their service, the military recorded hospital admissions (though many hospital admissions used only a military service number on the record instead of a name). If you know the infantry regiment or battalion your ancestor served in, that information can also open research avenues.

From our WWII US Air Force Photo Collection

Finding Your Ancestor in Indexed Manuscript Records: Some of our oldest records are handwritten letters, pension files, and other manuscripts from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War. You’ll often find that names appearing within these manuscripts have been indexed.

As you scroll through a manuscript, click ‘Contributions’ to see the indexed names in that record. You can quickly advance to any name mentioned in the record by clicking on that name in the left column, and Fold3® will take you directly to where that individual is mentioned.

For example, this War of 1812 Pension File belongs to Henry Bacon, but Thomas W. Ralph’s name also appears in a letter within the file. By clicking on Ralph’s name, Fold3® will take you directly to where he is mentioned on the record.

You may add additional annotations or transcribe the entire manuscript if you choose. See this short video for instructions on how to annotate Fold3® records.

For more Fold3® search tips and video tutorials, check out our updated Fold3® Help Center. Start searching Fold3® today.

Julius Robert Oppenheimer

July 10, 2023 by | 88 Comments

J. Robert Oppenheimer was an American physicist known for his groundbreaking work in quantum mechanics and theoretical physics. Oppenheimer was tasked with organizing the Manhattan Project, a top-secret program to develop nuclear energy for military purposes during WWII. The project resulted in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following the war, Oppenheimer came under intense scrutiny for possible atomic espionage. He was found not guilty of treason but was exiled from the nuclear establishment. Sixty years later, in 2014, declassified reports revealed he’d been a victim of bias and unfairness.

Oppenheimer’s ID badge from the Los Alamos Laboratory

Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York City on April 22, 1904, the son of a German immigrant father and an American mother. He attended Harvard University and earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He was accepted at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, where groundbreaking research on atomic structure was underway. He later attended the University of Gottingen in Germany and received a Ph.D. in Physics. After returning to the United States, Oppenheimer worked as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

During the 1930s, Oppenheimer belonged to groups known to have communist ties. Though he never joined the Communist Party, he supported some left-wing philosophies. As Hitler and his Nazi party came to power, Oppenheimer withdrew his associations from communism.

When the US became embroiled in WWII, military officials recruited Oppenheimer to work on the top-secret Manhattan Project. Oppenheimer chose Los Alamos, New Mexico, as the location for the research laboratory. He had long admired New Mexico’s stark beauty, having spent time there recovering from an illness. Oppenheimer was appointed the laboratory’s first director.

Los Alamos Laboratory presented an award to J. Robert Oppenheimer at the end of WWII

While working at Los Alamos, Oppenheimer and other prominent scientists learned to harness the power of nuclear fission. They successfully created and tested atomic bombs, ultimately leading to the development of the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, marking the dawn of the nuclear age.

Following the war, rumors of Oppenheimer’s ties to communism emerged. Still, he always flatly denied sympathizing with or supporting communism, saying that what he believed 14 years ago now seems “complete nonsense.” In 1953, Oppenheimer learned federal officials were probing his communist ties. It was the height of the McCarthy era, and officials were concerned that Oppenheimer might be a Soviet spy. The probe led the Atomic Energy Commission to conduct secret hearings in 1954, and though he was declared not guilty, Oppenheimer’s access to military secrets was revoked. Oppenheimer continued his scientific research and lectured around the world.

The Enrico Fermi Award presented to J. Robert Oppenheimer in 1963

In 1963, in a White House ceremony, President Lyndon B. Johnson presented Oppenheimer with the Enrico Fermi Award. The award, the highest honor bestowed by the Atomic Energy Commission, came through the efforts of the late President John F. Kennedy to restore Oppenheimer’s public name.

In 2014, the records from Oppenheimer’s 1954 hearings were declassified. After their release, historians and military experts found no sign of espionage or other evidence that questioned Oppenheimer’s loyalty to the United States.

J. Robert Oppenheimer died of throat cancer in 1967 at age 62. In 2022, the Department of Energy formally vacated the revocation of Oppenheimer’s security clearance. If you would like to learn more about J. Robert Oppenheimer, search Fold3® today.

New Military Records from Washington State

June 28, 2023 by | 15 Comments

If you have ancestors who have served at a military base in Washington State, you’ll love our new collection of US, Washington State Military Records, 1855-1950. This collection contains more than 140 thousand records for servicemembers in Washington State. These records reveal rich details, including birthdate, occupation, family members, military service, and more. The collection dates to 1855, some 30 years before Washington became a state. Here are a few examples of what you might find:

In 1855, the Washington Territorial Legislature passed a law to create the first organized militia. This collection contains muster rolls like this one for the Puget Sound Mounted Volunteers in 1855.

After Washington became a state, the territorial militia became the National Guard. This collection includes the Enlistment Registers for the National Guard in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The register provides information like occupation, age, enlistment date, and regiment.

In 1919, the Department of War ordered states to compile a summary of each WWI veteran’s service. These cards, called WWI Service Statement Cards, include each veteran’s name, age, details of their military service and the rank they attained, serial number, the place of induction, and more.

Veterans who served in the Korean War Era were eligible for a bonus. The Washington Veterans Bonus Claims cards in this collection record the veteran’s name, how long they served, and their bonus amount.

Start exploring our new collection of Washington State Military Records today on Fold3®!

This Unique Civil War Veteran Served In Three Different Nations

June 21, 2023 by | 54 Comments

Sydney Herbert Davies is a veteran of the Civil War. Still, this soldier has the unique distinction of having served in three different nations – Great Britain, the United States, and New Zealand.

Photo Courtesy of Terry Foenander

Born in Dorset, England, in 1838, Davies was the eldest son of Royal Navy Admiral George Davies and Julia Hume Davies. Following his father’s footsteps, he enlisted in the Royal Navy, where he served for six years, followed by six years in the British Army, first in the Cambridge Militia and later as an Ensign in the 2nd Battalion of the 16th Foot. He fought in the Crimean War and was awarded two military medals.

In December 1861, British newspapers reported that Davies had declared bankruptcy. He was purportedly sent to prison. Hearing that Davies intended to leave the country, a judge issued an arrest warrant and ordered him to appear in court two months later, in February 1862.

When the appointed court date arrived, Davies didn’t show, and the British court proclaimed him an outlaw. Davies’s solicitor argued that his failure to appear in court was because his regiment had already boarded a ship in Southampton bound for Canada, and by failing to obey the orders of his superior officers, he was at risk of being court-martialed. The solicitor promised that Davies would soon return to England and sort out his legal troubles with the court.

Letter dated June 9, 1863, in which Sydney Davies details the circumstances of his enlistment into the Confederate Army

Davies sailed to Halifax, Canada, with his regiment and, sometime in early 1863, made his way to New Jersey, where he became acquainted with a government official from the Confederate States of America. The agent, impressed with the skills of a professional soldier, enticed Davies to join the Confederacy. The agent dangled the carrot of an officer’s commission, and Davies accepted. A May 1863 British newspaper reported that Davies was retiring from the 16th Foot.

Davies was hoping for a commission as a Major but was instead commissioned as a First Lieutenant and Drill Master and appointed Adjutant and Assistant Inspector General. His service file is filled with letters Davies wrote to Confederate officials, including the Confederate Secretary of War and President Jefferson Davis, asking for the desired commission. Davies served in Henry Heth’s Division, Walker’s Division, and the 7th Tennessee Regiment. In April 1864, correspondence shows that Davies offered to raise a Confederate battalion of British subjects living in the United States.

Letter dated April 4, 1864, in which Sydney Davies offers to raise a battalion of British riflemen to serve in the Confederate Army.

According to Confederate records, in the Spring of 1865, Davies was captured and taken POW. He was paroled at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered. He never received his desired commission as a Major.

Following the Civil War and with his U.S. military career in shambles, Davies left the United States and sailed for New Zealand. He rose through the military ranks in New Zealand, becoming a constable in the Armed Constabulary and serving in the New Zealand Wars. His financial situation remained precarious, and in 1872 he was sued for failure to pay an innkeeper 20 pounds, saying he didn’t pay because “he had not the money.”  

Sydney H. Davies died in 1915 at the age of 77. He is buried in Dunedin, New Zealand.

If you would like to learn more about Sydney Herbert Davies and read the transcribed letters in his military file, see his Memorial here. Search additional military records today on Fold3®.

June 4, 1944: The Liberation of Rome

May 31, 2023 by | 63 Comments

During WWII, the US Fifth Army liberated Rome on June 4, 1944. Rome had been considered the heart of Fascist Italy under Mussolini’s rule, and the liberation dealt a blow to Nazi Germany’s morale. Rome was one of three Axis capitals and had been under German control since 1943. Not only was the liberation symbolically and strategically important, but defending the city caused Germany to divert resources away from France, further strengthening the Allied position with D-Day landings in Normandy occurring two days later, on June 6, 1944.

Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark

In September 1943, Lt. General Mark W. Clark’s Fifth Army boarded landing crafts and dodged minefields to come ashore at the beaches of Paestum and Salerno. At the time of the invasion, the Fifth Army consisted of the VI American Corps, including the 36th and 45th infantry divisions and the 82nd Airborne Division. It also included the 10 British Corps 46 and 56 divisions, and 7 Armoured Division. Upon landing, the Fifth Army joined forces with the British Eighth Army and endured heavy fighting, advancing north to Naples and capturing the city in October.

The Fifth Army continued the advance northward along the western flank, while the British Eight Army advanced up the country’s eastern side. The winter months brought slow progress with ferocious fighting in rugged terrain as Allied forces crossed swollen rivers and mountain peaks. Relentless rains, snow, and icy winds created a quagmire of mud and made the fierce battle miserable.

By the end of 1943, Allied forces were bogged down at the Gustav Line, with German troops holding Northern Italy and Allied troops holding the southern part of the country. German forces had the advantage of holding the high ground, and they fortified it with land mines, big guns, and concealed artillery to create a solid defense. Allies needed to break through, and Cassino blocked the advance. Monte Cassino, an ancient Benedictine abbey, towered over the city. The Battle of Monte Cassino began in January 1944 and lasted four months with heavy casualties.

To break the stalemate at Cassino, General Clark sent seven divisions to flank the enemy with an amphibious landing at Anzio on January 22, 1944. The landings caught Germany by surprise, and they were forced to bring in reinforcements from their dwindling reserves. Fierce fighting at Anzio continued throughout the spring of 1944. Meanwhile, the rest of the Fifth Army and new reinforcements and equipment, including troops from Poland and France, were contending with German forces at Cassino. With help from the reinforcements, the Allies broke through the Gustav Line in May 1944.  

Soldiers Examine Tank Left Behind as Germans Fled Rome

On May 23, the troops at Anzio broke out of the beachhead and rendezvoused with the rest of the Allied army at Borgo Grappa. At the same time, military officials were in the final planning stages of the D-Day invasion at Normandy. The fighting in Italy had forced Germany to draw away resources which proved advantageous to the Allies along the Western Front.

Back in Italy, the Fifth Army was now just 30 miles outside of Rome. As troops advanced towards the city, they passed the wreckage of German tanks, guns, and equipment left behind as German forces fled.

Lt. Gen. Mark W. Clark and the US Fifth Army Enter Rome

On June 4, 1944, the Fifth Army entered Rome from the south. They were the first Allied forces to liberate a capital city from Fascist control on European soil. City residents greeted American soldiers with cheers and hugs as the troops paraded past historic landmarks, including the Colosseum and the Forum. The liberation of Rome marked a turning point in the Italian campaign, giving a morale boost and hope that a defeat of Germany was possible.

If you would like to learn more about the Liberation of Rome, search Fold3® today!