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.
The Battle of Chickamauga - September 19 - 20, 1863
Confederate General Braxton Bragg’s Army of the Tennessee defeated forces from the Union’s Army of the Cumberland under Major General William Rosecrans in the Battle of Chickamauga in Georgia on September 19-20, 1863. However, Rosecrans’ forces were able to slip away to Chattanooga, and later relieved by forces under Ulysses S. Grant.
Map of the Battlefield of Chickamauga, A. Hager Draft., 04/22/1864. From the series: Civil Works Map File, 1800 - 1947
Photos of the Chickamauga Battlefield from the Mathew Brady Photographs series
"To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department"
The Confederacy depended on enslaved people to build fortifications, cook, drive supply wagons, work in hospitals, and produce munitions. Slave labor also planted and harvested many Southern crops, especially when white males were away fighting. The Union’s decision to emancipate, enlist, and arm black men was an enormous threat to Southern independence. This broadside urged owners to move their slaves away from the advancing Union Army and contribute their “servants” to the cause.
Broadside “To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department”, 09/15/1863. From the War Department Collection of Confederate Records
Quantrill’s Raid, aka the Lawrence Massacre
150 years ago on the morning of Friday, August 21, 1863, William Quantrill and 300 Confederate guerrillas descended upon the quiet town of Lawrence, Kansas. This letter contains a firsthand account of the ensuing raid sent by Captain Sidney Clarke to his supervising officer in Washington, DC. Clarke reported,
“…The attack was made by the notorious guerrilla chief Quantrille with a force of about three hundred men, at sunrise on the morning of Friday the 21st…
The guerrillas entered the city from the south and at once commenced an indiscriminate murder of its citizens. The work of death was continued for three hours and whenever a citizen made his appearance or escaped from a burning building, he was shot down in the streets…”
Over a period of three hours the guerrillas burned the entire business district along with many private residences. Men were shot in the streets, many as they were attempting to escape burning buildings. Others were killed in their homes in the presence of their wives and children. All totaled, nearly 150 citizens died in the massacre.
This guest post was written by Richard Simpson, Archives Intern at the National Archives at Kansas City.
Honoring her husband’s service
This certificate authorizes pension payments of 8 dollars per month to Helena Potter. Helena was the widow of Civil War veteran Private Warren Potter, Company D, 156th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry. Helena’s payments were to begin August 8, 1893, and “continue during her widowhood.”
From the Widow’s Pension File of Helena Potter from the Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs
FREEDOM, Protection, Pay, and a Call to Military Duty!
After President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the U.S. Army began recruiting black men in earnest to fight for the Union Army. The Confederate government regarded captured black soldiers as fugitive slaves, not prisoners of war. It threatened to execute or sell them into slavery. This broadside reassured potential black recruits that the U.S. Government would treat all of its troops as soldiers and retaliate in the event of Confederate mistreatment of black U.S. soldiers, as detailed in Lincoln’s General Order 233, issued July 30, 1863:
"It is the duty of every government to give protection to its citizens, of whatever class, color, or condition, and especially to those who are duly organized as soldiers in the public service. The law of nations and the usages and customs of war, as carried on by civilized powers, permit no distinction as to color in the treatment of prisoners of war as public enemies. To sell or enslave any captured person on account of his color, is a relapse into barbarism and a crime against the civilization of the age.
The Government of the United States will give the same protection to all its soldiers, and if the enemy shall sell or enslave anyone because of his color, the offense shall be punished by retaliation upon the enemy’s prisoners in our possession. It is, therefore ordered, for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed, and for every one enslaved by the enemy or sold into slavery a rebel soldier shall be placed at hard labor on the public works and continued at such labor until the other shall be released and receive the treatment due to a prisoner of war.”
"…The Enrollment is complete except in one sub-district, located in the mining districts where the population consists mostly of Irish & under the excitement of the past week, it would have been indiscreet to have attempted to proceed — it shall be completed however as soon as possible…"
"…Precautionary measures have been taken by this board since the outbreak in New York. To prevent similar recurrences in this district special Watchmen + scouts have been employed. Scouts to bring information from the sections which seemed most turbulent + the Watchmen to gaurd [sic] the office Building, wherein the clothing is stored. Threats have reached me that this Office together with Enrollment + clothing would be destroyed. The danger seemed imminent and the utmost vigilance was required."
Tri-monthly Reports from James Brown to Provost Marshal General James Fry, 07/20/1863
This report reflects the concern and issues raised a week following the the New York City Draft Riots. Violent protests against the Civil War draft, the riots lasted four days and resulted in over 1,000 casualties and millions of dollars of property destruction. Acts of vandalism and destruction were reported throughout the city as the riots spread. The mobs initially targeted government buildings and representatives before focusing their violence towards the African-American community.
Casualty List of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment from the Assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, 07/18/1863
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was one of the most celebrated regiments of black soldiers that fought in the Civil War. Known simply as “the 54th,” this regiment became famous after the heroic, but ill-fated, assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina in July, 1863 (dramatized in the film Glory). Leading the direct assault under heavy fire, the 54th suffered enormous casualties before being forced to withdraw.
The courage and sacrifice of the 54th helped to dispel doubt within the Union Army about the fighting ability of black soldiers and earned this regiment undying battlefield glory. Shown here is one of the 54th’s casualty lists with the names of 116 enlisted men who died at Fort Wagner. Of the 600 men that charged Fort Wagner, 272 were killed, wounded, or captured.
"…Receiving the regimental colors, the Sergeant pressed forward to the front rank near the Colonel, who was leading the assault. He received a severe wound in the thigh but fell only upon his knees. He planted the Flag on the parapet and for shelter lay down upon the outer slope, where he lay until the second Brigade came up - Keeping the colors flying until the second conflict was ended. When our forces retired he followed upon his knees. Upon reaching the Hospital where lay his wounded companions., he said in reply to their cheers ‘Boys, the old Flag never touched the ground.’”
From the service file of Sergeant William H. Carney with Company C of the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Infantry.
If you have watched the movie Glory, you saw a recreation of the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, by the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. But a real-life hero from that battle was Sgt. William Harvey Carney, who was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900—37 years after the assault on Fort Wagner.
Carney’s actions were detailed in the above letter by Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts to Secretary of War Stanton, calling Carney a “brave man,” detailing his determination to keep the flag upright during the attack, and recommending a 30-day furlough so that he could visit his family in New Bedford, MA.
On July 18, 1863, Sergeant Carney led the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry to the rampart amid a barrage of gunfire and planted the nation’s colors there. As the contingent fell back, the young sergeant once again protected the flag despite a rain of bullets that left him severely wounded.
This the act of heroism took place in 1863, but Sergeant Carney was not awarded the country’s highest military honor until May 23, 1900. Although his actions were the earliest by an African American to earn the Medal of Honor, 21 African Americans had received the Medal of Honor by 1900.
Plan and Sections of Fort Wagner, 1863
An ill-fated assault was launched on the Confederate stronghold of Fort Wagner, South Carolina on July 18th, 1863. Leading the attack was the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first official African American units. The 54th lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops in the assault, memorably dramatized in the film Glory.
"Whereas there appears to be much opposition to the operations of the act of enrollment and such opposition seems likely to result in a demonstration which may endanger the safety of the property now occupied by the Provost Marshall’s Office, and the buildings adjoining, which are private property, and are likely to be destroyed or injured to a great extent in case of a disturbance,—
We the undersigned Citizens of Tarrytown do hereby respectfully suggest and ask the removal of said office and for the adoption of such other precautionary measures by the Provost Marshall, as shall tend to secure the safety and tranquility of all concerned.”
Petition from Citizens of Tarrytown to Captain Moses G. Leonard, 07/16/1863
From the series Letters Received (1863-1865) from the Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau
July 13th, marked the 150th anniversary of the New York City Draft Riots, violent protests against the Civil War draft that lasted four days and resulted in over 1,000 casualties and millions of dollars of property destruction. Acts of vandalism and destruction were reported throughout the city as the riots spread. The mobs initially targeted government buildings and representatives before focusing their violence towards the African-American community.