“Don’t wish to disturb you”
On the afternoon of April 14, 1865, just hours before he assassinated President Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth left this calling card for Vice President Andrew Johnson at his Washington D.C. hotel. Booth’s co-conspirator, George Atzerodt was to kill Johnson that night, but he lost his nerve and did not make an attempt. Historians continue to debate why Booth left his card with Johnson.
Calling card left by John Wilkes Booth. National Archives, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army)
Booth’s calling card is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
Act of March 21, 1864, Public Law 38-30, 13 STAT 30, which admitted Nevada as a state in the Union and enabled its people to form a constitution and state government, 3/21/1864
General Records of the United States Government
National Archives Identifier: 299819
In an effort to ensure Abraham Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, Nevada’s path to statehood was expedited by Union sympathizers during the Civil War. Ultimately it would admitted to the Union on October 31, 1864, just eight days before the Presidential Election.
“driven from their homes by the disloyal Indians…”
Native Americans were caught between the Union and the Confederacy, and the loyalties of several tribes were split. In this letter, U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs, William P. Dole described the plight of a group of Creek Indians. Loyal to the Union, they were driven from their lands by Confederate forces and other Creeks sympathetic to the Confederacy. The refugees eventually fought their way to Kansas, where they faced starvation and harsh winter conditions.
Letter from William P. Dole to the Secretary of the Interior, 03/13/1862
Promoted by election
Election Results from Company F of the 15th Texas Dismounted Cavalry Regiment, 3/9/1864. National Archives Identifier: 3854693
War Department Collection of Confederate Records
Electing junior officers such as lieutenants and captains to higher ranks was common among state troops of both the North and South. This report from Confederate 1st Lt. W. L. Harris of the 15th Texas Dismounted Cavalry certified the results of an election held on March 9, 1864, to fill two vacancies in Company F. The men elected Sgt. William A, Brady and Pvt. Joseph B. Lyas to be lieutenants.
"Serg’t. Stephen A. Swails particularly distinguished himself for coolness and bravery; he is a man in every way competent to do credit in a higher position, and I with pleasure recommend him for a Second Lieutenancy in this Regt."
Letter from Colonel Edward Hallowell to the Governor of Massachusetts, 2/24/1864
Regimental and Company Books of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment (Colored) Regiment, 05/13/1863 - 09/01/1865. Records of the Adjutant General’s Office
Recognizing the abilities of Sgt. Stephen A. Swails, Col. E. N. Hallowell recommends that Swails be promoted to second lieutenant and Massachusetts Governor John A. Andrew commissioned Swails on March 11, 1864. However, the War Department would deny this request because Swails is “of African descent.” Swails would eventually be granted his promotion in 1865 and his seniority adjusted to May 14, 1864—the day he was assigned duty as a second lieutenant.
The Emancipation Proclamation will be on display for just three days this month: February 15, 16, and 17 as part of the National Archives’ celebration of Black History Month.
Due to its fragile condition, it can only be displayed for a limited time each year. The document will be on display in the new David M. Rubenstein Gallery in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
By the President of the United States of America:
Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:
"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.
"TO THE WOMEN OF THE REPUBLIC:
We ask you to sign and circulate this petition for the entire abolition of Slavery. We have now one hundred thousand signatures, but we want a million before Congress adjourns. Remember the President’s Proclamation reaches only the Slaves of Rebels. The jails of LOYAL Kentucky are to-day “crammed” with Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama slaves, advertised to be sold for their jail fees “according to LAW,” precisely as before the war!!! While slavery exists anywhere there can be freedom nowhere.”
"To the Women of the Republic," Address from the Women’s Loyal National League supporting the abolition of slavery, 01/25/1864
From the Records of the U.S. Senate
Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued one year earlier, it applied only to slaves in rebel states. Slaves held in states still in the Union were unaffected. Slavery would not be completely abolished until ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment on December 6, 1865.
(Note: A full transcription of this document is available at Wikisource.)
“I have been in the enemies lines…”
Statement of Hendricks B., Scout. 01/12/1864
By 1864 the ranks of the Confederate Army were thinning as a result of disease and combat. This report from a Union scout highlights another drain on Confederate manpower. More men were refusing conscription and deserting, forcing Confederate home guards and other authorities to spend valuable time and resources hunting them down.
Resolution from the House of Representatives to President of the United States, 01/10/1866
From the series: Papers Relating to Jefferson Davis, 1838 - 1869. From the General Records of the Department of Justice.
In this letter, the House asks the President to communicate the reason for why Jefferson Davis has not been tried for treason against the government.
Store for Freedmen
Union troops successfully occupied the area around Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1862. Even though the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, or Freedman’s Bureau, was not created until March 3, 1865, Union victories along the coast offered newly freed slaves support from the Federal Government. This photograph, taken by Sam A. Cooley on December 18, 1864, shows a store for freedmen in Beaufort.
Photograph of Store for Freedmen in Beaufort, South Carolina, 12/13/1864
The “Battle Above the Clouds,” 150 years ago today:
"Point of Lookout Mountain showing ladders used by Union soldiers at the "Battle Above The Clouds." November 24, 1863. Photograph taken the day after the battle."
From the series: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes
Besieged in Chattanooga following their defeat at the Chickamauga in September, Union forces begin their breakout with a victory in the Battle of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee on November 24, 1863.
FDR reflects on Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address 75 years later:
The 150th Anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: FDR’s View
Today, one hundred-fifty years later, we pause to remember one of the greatest speeches ever made by a US President: Abraham Lincoln’s poetically beautiful Gettysburg Address, given November 19, 1863, upon the dedication of the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
On July 3, 1938, speaking on the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, President Franklin D. Roosevelt reflected on Lincoln and his words:
“Immortal deeds and immortal words have created here at Gettysburg a shrine of American patriotism. We are encompassed by ‘The last full measure of devotion’ of many men and by the words in which Abraham Lincoln expressed the simple faith for which they died.
“It seldom helps to wonder how a statesman of one generation would surmount the crisis of another. A statesman deals with concrete difficulties—with things which must be done from day to day. Not often can he frame conscious patterns for the far off future.
“But the fullness of the stature of Lincoln’s nature and the fundamental conflict which events forced upon his Presidency invite us ever to turn to him for help.
“For the issue which he restated here at Gettysburg seventy five years ago will be the continuing issue before this Nation so long as we cling to the purposes for which the Nation was founded—to preserve under the changing conditions of each generation a people’s government for the people’s good.”
FDR found that Lincoln’s words were timeless. Roosevelt drew strength and insight from the promise of Lincoln’s words while leading the country in the defining battles of his own time.
Lincoln at Gettysburg
150 years ago on November 19, 1863, four months after the battle, President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to dedicate the national cemetery for the Union dead. In his remarks, he paid tribute to the brave men who died there and insisted that their sacrifice would increase the will of the people to fulfill America’s promise. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a rhetorical masterpiece delivered in less than three minutes, defined the war as necessary for the survival of the nation and its ideals.
This rare photo from a glass plate negative by Matthew Brady is the first–and possibly only–photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg.
Dial or dash?
Letter from Captain C. M. McLure to Captain L. B. Norton Praising the Signal Corps Telegraph, 11/12/1863
Union forces used two types of telegraphy: the dial (or Beardslee) and the Morse. The dial telegraph could be set up quickly, giving it great flexibility. Operators needed to be literate but not as highly trained as Morse operators. Chief Signal Officer Albert Myer advocated the dial system; the Military Telegraph Service used the Morse system.
In his letter, Capt. C. M. McClure praised the capabilities of the Beardslee system, which had been successfully employed at Fredericksburg. By the end of 1863, however, the Signal Corps moved towards the Morse system with its relatively stronger signal strength. When Secretary of War Stanton removed Myer as chief signal officer in November 1863, the military primacy of the Morse telegraph was complete.