The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

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Selections from MHS in the New "Remembering Lincoln" Digital Collection

On 14 April 1865, while attending a play at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth.  The event was tragic and shocking. Lincoln died the next morning, 15 April, and people all over the country struggled to comprehend what had happened.

Ford's Theatre, a National Historic Site and a working theatre, has recently launched a new digital collection, Remembering Lincoln.  Two dozen institutions, including the Massachusetts Historical Society, have contributed digital images, metadata, and transcriptions of materials about the assassination of President Lincoln to this online collection. Researchers can read first-person accounts of the startling event, examine newspaper articles, explore printed documents and broadsides, and look at artifacts.

Several remarkable manuscripts from the collections of the MHS are included in the Remembering Lincoln collection.  Two letters were written by Augustus Clark, a War Department employee, who was one of the men who moved Lincoln after he was shot from Ford's Theatre to Petersen's boarding house.  One of Clark's letters (addressed to S. M. Allen) fully describes his impressions of the evening and the tragic event.  In the other letter, written to Massachusetts Governor John A.  Andrew, Clark mentions enclosing a piece of cloth with Lincoln's blood with the correspondence.  Both letters (letter to S. M. Allen and letter to Gov. Andrew) and also the towel fragment are viewable on the website. 

Another item featured in the digital collection is an excerpt from the young Boston diarist, Sarah Gooll Putnam.  Only 14 years old in April of 1865, her reaction was poignant.  She drew a shocked face on her diary page along with the following words:   

Now guess my feelings, when coming down to breakfast, at mother's saying "The president is killed!" I stared so [handwritten mark pointing to illustration] for a few minutes without speaking. I cannot realize it yet.  Poor, dear, old, Abe.

Please explore the whole Remembering Lincoln website:  http://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/

 

A browse display of the items that MHS contributed to Remembering Lincoln is also available:  http://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/contributor?uid=40

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 14 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

Military Manuscripts at the MHS and Beyond

It is not uncommon for the MHS library to receive copies of new publications from authors that did research here. In fact, we have an entire set of shelves devoted to displaying this type of new publication. After some time on display, these volumes are typically moved to our closed stacks and then available by request. Less often, we receive a new publication from a researcher that we deem appropriate to move immediately into our reference collection.

We recently received a newly published book called Military Manuscripts at the State Historical Societies in New England (2014). This volume, put together by Paul Friday, provides extensive documentation of manuscript collections relevant to military history in New England. Each chapter shines a spotlight on one individual institution and provides detailed lists of manuscript collections that contain materials related to military matters.

Since I started working at the MHS in 2011, Mr. Friday’s face has been one of the more familiar ones in the reading room. Over the years he placed scores of requests to consult manuscript materials from myriad collections in our holdings. The result is a box-level, sometimes folder-level inventory of military-related papers that the Society preserves. The sources include a large variety of material types, from maps and charts to correspondence and orderly books to printed materials like broadsides. The materials he worked with encompass a large chronology, going back as far as the Pequot War of the 1630s all the way up to the Vietnam War.

The countless hours of work that Mr. Friday did result in extremely valuable identifications of military papers held here. From documenting a single letter by Gen. John Burgoyne in the Bromfield family papers, to identifying thirty-five boxes, seven volumes, and three oversize items in the Clarence Ransom Edwards papers.

In addition to identifying such relevant collections, Mr. Friday also provides explanations in each chapter about the various organization schemes used by the different institutions, catalogs available for researchers (online and physical), procedures for requesting materials, hours of operation, and so forth.

At the back of the volume there are four appendices made up of several glossaries and complementary information. Also, there are five separate indices and a section introducing them.

Because he used available finding aids and collection guides to locate collections with military papers, Mr. Friday acknowledges that each historical society holds additional relevant collections that did not have companion finding aids and so did not show up in the volume. Despite this limitation, the volume as a whole will surely prove a tremendous help for researchers performing primary source research into the military history of New England and the United States. 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 10 April, 2015, 12:00 AM

“More fool than Knave”: Dr. George Logan and the Logan Act

Over the last few weeks the Logan Act, a bill passed by Congress and signed by President John Adams in late January 1799 has been widely discussed in the national news. Here at the Adams Papers, work has just begun on Adams Family Correspondence, volume 13, in which Dr. George Logan, whose actions provoked this legislation, is a major topic of conversation for the Adamses on both sides of the Atlantic.

In September 1798, tensions between France and the United States were running high. The specter of war loomed large as the revelation of France’s bribery attempt in the XYZ Affair and continued attacks on American vessels led to a buildup of American armed and naval forces with growing chants of “millions for defense, but not a sixpence for tribute.” It was in this climate that from their place in Berlin, John Quincy and Thomas Boylston Adams reported on the arrival of Logan in Europe. John Quincy detailed that Logan was claiming to be an envoy representing the Democratic-Republican Party, which opposed John Adams’s administration. At first refused a passport into France, Logan continued to represent himself as officially representing the United States while waiting in the Netherlands, and was eventually granted permission to enter France and given audiences with members of the French government to discuss the differences between the two nations. Thomas summarized his views on Logan—“a villain & a traitor to his Country.”

After Logan returned to the United States in November, he met with President Adams to discuss what he had learned from his meetings with the French government and to convince Adams that the French had peaceful intentions. Abigail’s nephew, William Smith Shaw, serving as John’s secretary, reported to the First Lady, who had remained in Quincy: “[Logan] then said, that he had just come from France and that he had the pleasure to inform the president that the directory had altered their conduct respecting America and had become more pacifick. Why then, said the president, have they not repealed their decrees against our commerce? here Logan stammered and said they were making preparations to do it.” John next asked if Logan believed that France would faithfully maintain a new treaty with the US, and he answered affirmatively claiming “the firm and united conduct of the Americans had proved to the directory the impolicy of their conduct.” Shaw reported that this response made John “burst into a broad laugh.” Adams continued his questioning, as Logan became increasingly uncomfortable until he “seemed to want some lurking place like the Turtle to draw in his head and to hide his face.” From this report, Abigail ultimately concluded in a letter to her husband that Logan was “more fool than Knave.”

Whether fool or knave, hero or villain, the Federalist controlled Congress had no patience with his meddling and passed the act prohibiting unauthorized private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments on behalf of the United States. The law has been in force ever since.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 1 April, 2015, 1:00 AM

Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch Diary, Post 42

The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.

Thursday, March 2d.

Thank God for the triumphant progress of the Union arms, the occupation of Savannah, Columbia, Charleston, and Wilmington.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 31 March, 2015, 12:00 AM

Newly Digitized Photograph Collection

Collection Services at the Massachusetts Historical Society has recently created a collection guide for, and fully digitized, the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment carte de visite album, ca. 1864-1865 (Photograph Collection 228).

The 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment was a "colored volunteer" regiment active from 9 January 1864-31 October 1965. Formed at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts, was commanded by some notable sons of Massachusetts including Charles Francis Adams Jr., Henry S. Russell, Charles Pickering Bowditch, and Henry Pickering Bowditch. The regiment saw some action in the war, notably in a battles which took place at Baylor's Farm and the Siege of Petersburg in Virginia.

This collection consists of a photograph album containing 46 carte de visite photographs of officers from the regiment. In addition to those named above, the regiment included Edward Jarvis Bartlett, Daniel Henry Chamberlain, Patrick Tracy Jackson, and others. The album includes a two-page handwritten index which identifies all but one of the photographs. Each image appears on a page beautifully bordered, as can be seen in the examples presented here.

The cover of the album, also stunning, is embossed: "Col. H. S. Russell. 5th Mass Cavalry" and features the original, still-functioning brass clasps to keep the album closed. Henry S. Russell (1838-1905), an 1860 graduate of Harvard University, served several ranked positions in the Union Army reaching Lieutenant-Colonel of the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry and Brigadier-General of the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry. In 1864, Russell married Mary Hathaway Forbes, the daughter of the influential Boston businesman, railroad magnate, and abolitionist John Murray Forbes, and was a cousin of Robert Gould Shaw, Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Another family connection, but this time within the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, were the brothers Henry Pickering Bowditch (1840-1911) and his younger brother Charles Pickering Bowditch (1842-1921). Both were Harvard educated; Henry being a physician and physiologist as well as dean of Harvard Medical School, and Charles becoming a financier, archaeologist and linguistics scholar.

This is the seventh fully digitized Civil War photograph album at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The MHS has additional fully digitized Civil War materials available, as well. Further Reading: Morse, John T., Jr. "Henry Sturgis Russell." In Sons of the Puritans: A Group of Brief Biographies. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1908:153-162.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Tuesday, 17 March, 2015, 8:00 AM

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