History

The American Civil War Began 154 Years Ago Today

The bloodiest four years in American history begin when Confederate shore batteries under General P.G.T. Beauregard open fire on Union-held Fort Sumter in South Carolina’s Charleston Bay. During the next 34 hours, 50 Confederate guns and mortars launched more than 4,000 rounds at the poorly supplied fort. On April 13, U.S. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the fort. Two days later, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteer soldiers to quell the Southern “insurrection.”

Canada’s Parliament Buildings were Built on top of a Dump Full of Wine, Beer, and Champagne Bottles

Recent archeological digs outside the main buildings of the Parliament buildings in Ottawa have turned up tens of thousands of artifacts from the early 19th century. The site previously was called Barrack Hill and was a staging ground for the British Royal Engineers to undertake the construction of the nearby Rideau Canal. The local town was called ByTown although the name was later changed to Ottawa.

“When you think of early Bytown, it’s often portrayed as a swamp, as a back country area, but it’s interesting to see the officers still enjoyed a gentlemanly life that was expected of them,” said Kopp, who has worked on other archeological digs on Canadian military sites.

There was lots of evidence of drinking — wine bottles, beer bottles, champagne bottles, tumblers and glasses.

A 9th-century “Leechbook”

I have had a few medical problems during my life and have been treated by a number of doctors. I am glad I didn’t live during the 9th century!

“Bald’s Leechbook” is not a book about blood-sucking worms. It’s a medieval tome written in Anglo-Saxon, probably during the ninth century, which outlines the practices of English doctors (sometimes referred to as “leeches” at the time) concerning care and treatment of a variety of human maladies. The book can now be found in London’s British Library.

Wounded as a Slave, Died Free

Thanks to a genealogist’s death certificate research, a Civil War story has been uncovered and the original story corrected.

Hannah Reynolds was the lone civilian death at the Battle of Appomattox Court House. She died a slave at 60, hours before the war to end slavery unofficially came to a close. A century and a half later, Reynolds’ story is being rewritten: a new discovery by a genealogist shows that she lingered for several days — long enough to have died a free woman.

Carignan Soldiers or Soldat Carignan

In 1665 King Louis XIV ordered the Carignan-Salieres Regiment to Canada to help save the Royal Colony from destruction at the hands of the Iroquois Indians. Between June and September 1665, some twenty-four companies of 1200 soldiers and their officers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment arrived in Quebec under the leadership of Lt. General Alexander de Prouville, Sieur de Tracy.

The Carignan-Salieres Regiment was the first regular military unit to serve in Canada. Almost immediately upon arrival, they launched an attack upon the Indians in the dead of winter, and the regiment was almost destroyed. Nevertheless, within months the Regiment stabilized the situation, ensuring the survival of the French colony.

The Regiment established a series of forts along the Richelieu River and conducted another successful campaign into the land of the Mohawk Indians, leading to a long period of peace. The colony prospered as a result. However, King Louis XIV’s plan also included the permanent settlement of many of the soldiers and officers in Canada. Following their service, many of the soldiers stayed on in Canada.

30,000 NYPD Crime Photographs Will Go Online

I like the idea of placing all government information information and photographs online but must admit I am not too thrilled with this announcement. Some of these photos can be gruesome.

Stage Line “accident” December 6, 1919

The New York Police Department (NYPD) has photographed crime scenes almost since the technology was available. Some of these are scenes of traffic accidents, parades, or public events. Others are crime scenes. A new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will support the digitization of around 30,000 of these photographs from 1914 to 1975, making them viewable to the public for the first time. The goal is to eventually place all of the 2.2 million photographs, videos, audio files, and other material online.

Asheville, North Carolina, Unearths 1897 Time Capsule

Asheville city workers Tuesday morning recovered a time capsule from Vance Monument that has been concealed there since 1897 when the monument was constructed and dedicated. It was wedged beneath a Masonic cornerstone block at the base of the obelisk. During the removal, which took more than an hour, bystanders could see a stack of papers and what appeared to be a Bible.

The Alcohol Consumption of Our Ancestors

According to a chart created in 1790 by Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and foremost physician, citizens in the newly-formed United States drank a lot of distilled spirits. An article by Megan Gambino in the Smithsonian web site claims that, by 1830, each person, on average, was swilling more than seven gallons of alcohol per year.

“The tradition in a lot of communities was to have a drink for breakfast. You had a drink mid-morning. You might have whiskey with lunch. You had a beer with dinner, and you ended with a nightcap,” says Bruce Bustard, a curator at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. “There was a fair amount of alcohol consumption by children too.” In fact, drinking was seen as a health benefit, useful to prevent fevers and to ease digestion.

You can read the full article in the Smithsonian at http://goo.gl/0u7tlu.

The History of April Fools’ Day

One of my favorite holidays will occur this week: April Fools’ Day. Perhaps it is not an official holiday but I will suggest it should be. It is a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s friends and neighbors. How did this custom get started? Did our ancestors play similar jokes on their friends? Like many things that started centuries ago, the origins of April Fools’ Day are shrouded in mystery.

Some historians will suggest that April Fools’ Day’s origins may be related to religion. It possibly is derived from the Roman festival of Hilaria, a day of rejoicing, or the Holi festival of India, a springtime celebration of love, frolic, and colors. However, proof seems to be lacking.

Rare 1928 Photos of England in Color

Or should that be spelled “Colour?”

In the late 1920s and early 1930s National Geographic sent photographer Clifton R. Adams to England to record its farms, towns and cities, and its people at work and play. Adams happened to record it all in color using the Autochrome process, something that was radically new at the time. Prior to 1928, many people had only seen black-and-white photographs.

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

California Man Receives a Law Licence to Practice after 125 Years

The California Supreme Court has posthumously awarded a law license to a Chinese immigrant who was barred from becoming a lawyer 125 years ago.

Hong Yen Chang was barred from practicing law in 1890 by the same court because “persons of the Mongolian race” were not granted citizenship.

The Myths of St. Patrick’s Day

Many people of Irish ancestry love to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. After all, it is a great way to celebrate one’s Irish heritage. However, some of the celebrations are a bit questionable. In fact, many of the commonly-held beliefs about St. Patrick are wrong. Before making plans, you might want to consider a few facts:

St. Patrick wasn’t Irish

Patrick was probably born in what is now England, Scotland or Wales around A.D. 390. Different historians have different beliefs about his place of birth. After all, the borders moved a bit over the years as well. Most agree that St. Patrick’s parents were Roman citizens living in the British Isles. Therefore, Patrick himself was a Roman citizen even though he was born somewhere in what is now Great Britain.

The Netherlands to Give a Face to 10,000 Killed U.S. WWII Soldiers

The American War Cemetery in the town of Margraten, the Netherlands contains the remains of more than 10,000 U.S. servicemen who gave their lives to keep the Netherlands and the rest of the world free from tyranny. Through The Faces of Margraten project, during a Memorial Weekend from the 2nd till the 5th of May 2015, the Dutch will pay special tribute to these soldiers by decorating their more than 10,000 graves and names on the Walls of the Missing with personal photos of the soldiers. The project has started a quest to locate more soldiers’ photos. Perhaps you can help.

“Maybe you’re related to one of the soldiers, and have a photo tucked away in an album you haven’t looked through in years. Please look again, and if you find one, help us honor the sacrifices of thousands of other Americans by contributing the photo to The Faces of Margraten,” said Sebastiaan Vonk, chairman of the Foundation United Adopters American War Graves. “Each photo matters, even if the quality is not great, because it means another soldier who will be honored.”

Another Winter in New England: 1888

Boston in 1888 – Click on the Above image to view a larger version.

I suspect most U.S. residents have heard about the severe weather this winter in the northeastern United States. Indeed, a huge amount of snow has fallen in the area and temperatures have been below average as well. However, the area is known for harsh winter weather. This year’s weather, as bad as it has been, is not a record breaker.

For instance, 127 years ago today, on March 11, 1888, one of the most destructive blizzards ever to strike the East Coast raged for 36 hours. Called “the White Hurricane,” the storm produced a combination of blinding snow, deep drifts, driving wind, and severe cold. Monster waves battered the coastline.

The Drinking Habits of our Early New England Ancestors

The image has been often been painted of early new England Puritans and other religious citizens of the day as being strict and never having any fun. I was brought up in New England and always believed that my many Puritan ancestors would never touch liquor. A new exhibit at the US National Archives claims that I was mistaken.

Here are some of the facts cited:

Early Americans even took a healthful dram for breakfast, whiskey was a typical lunchtime tipple, ale accompanied supper and the day ended with a nightcap. Continuous imbibing clearly built up a tolerance as most Americans in 1790 consumed an average 5.8 gallons of pure alcohol a year, 7.1 gallons in 1830, but only 2.3 gallons of pure alcohol a year today.

Samuel Adams was a partner in his father’s malt house and Thomas Jefferson was famed for importing European wines.

Student Seeks to Return Identities to British War Evacuees

Claire Halstead is a PhD student at the Department of History, The University of Western Ontario. She is researching British children who were evacuated to Canada during the Second World War. She has created a database which traces 1,532 children who came through the Children’s Overseas Reception Board (CORB) and an additional 1,600 who came as ‘private evacuees.’

Roughly two million British children were displaced during the Second World War, shipped from London to Commonwealth countries where they would be safe from bombings. As part of Operation Pied Piper, the first wave of evacuations saw 660,000 children, mothers and hospital patients, as well as 100,000 teachers, moved in just three to four days. By the war’s end, the population of Greater London dropped from 8.7 million to 6.7 million.

England’s Immigrant Records 1330-1550 Now Online

A new database revealing data of immigration in medieval England, held in the records at The National Archives, has been launched online. England’s Immigrants 1330-1550 at http://www.englandsimmigrants.com is the result of a major Arts and Humanities Research Council funded research project by the University of York in collaboration with the Humanities Research Institute (University of Sheffield) and The National Archives.

For the first time the database allows researchers to search over 65,000 immigrants who were resident in England during this period by name, nationality, profession and place of residence.

Ancient Pedigree Chart to be Auctioned for Possibly £40,000 ($62,000 US)

Save your pedigree charts. They may be valuable some day! Well, at least one such chart has become valuable. Of course, it is 23 feet long, was written on calfskin in the 1500s, written in Latin, and describes the genealogy of the Kings of England. It is believed be one of only 13 left in the world, and the only one currently available on the open market.

The scroll charts royalty from the legends of Hely and Cassilbellan in the first century BC right up until the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485, with specific mention of King Richard III.

You can read more at http://goo.gl/BeXXe3.

The Search for the Grave of Baseball Hall of Inductee Pete Hill

Pete Hill’s baseball legacy can be summed up among the 75 words inscribed on his Hall of Fame plaque in Cooperstown. Listed among his career accomplishments, Hill is characterized as a left-handed line drive hitter with exceptional bat control who hit to all fields and who roamed centerfield with a combination of speed, range and a rifle arm.

During his career with the Philadelphia Giants, Leland Giants, Chicago American Giants, Detroit Stars, Milwaukee Bears and Baltimore Black Sox in the old Negro Leagues, Hill became known as one of baseball’s most consistent hitters. While playing with Detroit in 1919, Hill clubbed 28 home runs – one shy of the number Babe Ruth had hit while playing in more games.

Grad Student Finds Footage of 1915 Chicago Ship Disaster

A graduate student has found the first-known film clips of the SS Eastland ship disaster that left 844 people dead in 1915. The ship was headed to a company picnic when it capsized in the Chicago River. 2,500 people were on board and on their way to a company picnic when the ship capsized in the Chicago River, killing 844. The accident was the deadliest accident in the history of Chicago.

Jeff Nichols, a University of Illinois at Chicago Ph.D. candidate, recently discovered 100-year-old film clips of the SS Eastland disaster. The first Eastland clip lasts 55 seconds and shows volunteers and first responders walking on the hull of the ship. The second, which is 30 seconds, shows the Eastland being righted.

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