RG 109 Confederate Maps Series Now Digitized and Available Online!

Civil War maps are always popular at the National Archives, and the Cartographic Branch is pleased to announce the digitization of over 100 Confederate maps from Record Group (RG) 109.  All are now available to view or download through our online catalog.

Maps played a very important role during the Civil War. They were instrumental to leaders and generals for planning battles, campaigns, and marches. As a result, thousands of maps relating to the Civil War were created, many of which are held by the Cartographic Branch in a variety of record groups. These maps can include rough sketches created quickly before or during a battle, but can also include maps that were drawn to accompany official reports or even post-war publications. Many are highly detailed and colorized. Civil War maps frequently show topography, ground cover, roads, railroads, homes, the names of residents, towns, and waterways. They can be very helpful to better understand what the land looked like and how it was used during the Civil War era. Maps showing the names of residents can also be helpful to genealogists.

The Civil War maps we are featuring today are all Confederate maps. These maps were captured by or surrendered to the United States at the conclusion of the Civil War, or were later donated to the National Archives by former Confederate leaders. The maps cover areas in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma (Indian Territory), South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. There is also a grouping of miscellaneous maps that show more than one state, which are filed as “US.” Most of the maps are manuscripts, although some are printed maps or even copies of maps. Many of the printed maps are annotated to show troop movements, battles lines, or other important features.

Many of the maps show well known battlefields and locations, such as Shiloh, Antietam, Murfreesboro (Stones River), Richmond, Petersburg, Atlanta, Knoxville, Manassas (Bull Run) and others. A number of maps show the battlefield at Shiloh, which was fought April 2-3, 1862 in southern Tennessee.


Map of Shiloh Battlefield. TN-11.

Many maps also cover lesser known but also very important locations, such as Corinth, Mississippi, the location of a strategic railroad junction and site of a siege and battle. Other lesser known battles with maps in the series include Cross Keys, VA, Prairie Grove, AR, and scores of others.


Sketch of the Vicinity of Corinth, Mississippi. MS-5

The series also includes maps and plans of fortifications, including those that protected Charleston, South Carolina, Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Beaufort, South Carolina. Some fort plans are even included, such as a plan for Fort Waul in Texas and Fort Beauregard in South Carolina (SC-3A), although most of the Cartographic Branch’s fort plans and drawings can be found within RG 77 in the Fortifications File and Miscellaneous Forts File. 


Fortifications at Charleston. SC-8.


Map of the mouth of the Broad River showing fortifications and naval fleet near Beaufort, SC.  SC- 1

Occasionally within the series are printed maps that are based on manuscript maps also located with the series. The first map is an original manuscript map showing a portion of the battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The back of this map notes that it was to appear in an 1874 atlas. The more finished and printed version of the map is also found within RG 109. It is interesting to compare the two maps.


Manuscript map of troop positions during the Battle of Murfreesboro, TN. TN-5


Printed version of Murfreesboro map. TN-6

During the digitization process, close attention was paid to information written or stamped on the backs of the maps. All maps within the series that contained unique information on their reverse were digitized both front and back. Both sides are available to view in our online catalog.

Many Confederate generals later donated maps to the National Archives to become part of a Confederate archives. Often, the names of the donors or original owners are written or stamped on the reverse of the maps. Names such as General Samuel Gibbs French, General Trimble, General Thomas L. Snead, General Polk, General Thomas Hindman can be found on the backs of many maps. One notable map of the Malvern Hill battlefield includes a notation on the back indicating that it was owned by General Lafayette McLaws, a commander with the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War. Although the general could not remember who drew the map or when it was created, he believed that it came into his possession during the Civil War.


Reverse of a map of Malvern Hill with handwritten note by General McLaws. VA-2 (Image 2)


Map of Malvern Hill Battlefield owned by General McLaws. VA-2

The map of the Murfreesboro battlefield below includes a notation on the reverse that it was “Found at Macon, GA” by a clerk on July 20, 1865, showing yet another way that the National Archives came to hold some of these maps and items and yet again illustrating the unique information that can be found on the backs of many of these maps.


Map of the Battle of Murfreesboro with handwritten notation on back. TN-3


Reverse of a map of the Battle of Murfreesboro showing handwritten notation. TN-3

All of the maps may be viewed at the following link: Confederate Maps. Take some time to browse through these maps, enjoying both the fronts and the backs!

If you wish to view maps from a specific state, see the following link: RG 109 maps by state and click on the state you wish to view. Next, click on the blue link that says “item(s) described in the catalog” that is located near middle of the catalog entry.


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How to Research: Photographs Relating to WWII Marine Corps Units

In this fourth and final post of How to Research WWII photographs, we will provide an example of how researchers can search for and identify images related to a specific US Marine Corps unit.

As is true with the WWII Army, Army Air Forces, and Navy photographs, prior to beginning your search in Still Pictures, it is important to gather as much information as possible about the USMC unit of interest. With that said, the basic information you should have includes:

  • The location(s) and dates where the unit served;
  • Names of personnel attached to the unit;
  • Important facts about the unit, such as battles the unit participated in and the type of equipment they used;
  • and the hierarchical structure of the unit (including any changes).

For the purpose of this blog post, we have chosen to search for photographs related to Marine Observation Squadron Six (VMO-6). Much of the information gathered for this post was found through the use of war diaries, as well as a published history of VMO-6. The following timeline covers the locations, dates, and hierarchical structure of VMO-6 (please note that this is not a comprehensive timeline):

January – February, 1945 – Deployed to Guadalcanal and reassigned to Aircraft, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific.

February 10th, 1945 – Arrived and disembarked at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands. Attached operationally to the 15th Regiment of the 6th Marine Division.

March 1st, 1945 – Reassigned to 2d Marine Aircraft Wing.

March 27th – March 31st, 1945 – Underway for Okinawa.

April 1st, 1945 – VMO-6 came ashore during the Battle of Okinawa and commenced operations from Yontan Airstrip.

July 1945 – The squadron departed for Agaña, Guam where it remained until the end of the war.

The following is a partial list of personnel that were attached to VMO-6 at various times during WWII:

  • Captain Joe W. Fitts, Jr.
  • Captain Donald R. Garrett
  • 1st Lt. Thomas G. Alderson
  • 2nd Lt. Lester E. Bartels
  • 2nd Lt. James A. Calhoun
  • 2nd Lt. Charles Hanmer
  • 2nd Lt. Richard F. Hoffman
  • 2nd Lt. Glenn R. Hunter
  • 2nd Lt. Emanuel Noyses
  • 2nd Lt. Donald H. Rusling

Important facts about VMO-6:

  • As an observation squadron, VMO-6 flew and maintained OY-1 Sentinel aircraft. OY-1 airplanes were referred to as “Grasshoppers.”
  • Grasshoppers were not only used for observation, but they were also used by VMO-6 for medical evacuations.
  • The unit received a Presidential Unit Citation for their activities on Okinawa.

Having gathered all of the pertinent information, the first place to begin WWII Marine research is in Record Group 127, series GW (127-GW): Photographs of World War II and Post World War II Marine Corps Activities, ca. 1939 – ca. 1958.

Unlike the Army, Army Air Forces, and Navy, which provided NARA with a card catalog index that includes caption cards and photo numbers, the Marine photographs in 127-GW are organized by location and subsequently by subject. As a result of not having a caption card index, researchers must physically go through the boxes of prints, reading caption information attached to photographs, in order to identify photographs related to their research subject. Captions vary in detail and specificity. So, while some captions are vague, some will include the unit information. However, more often than not, a researcher will need to use details about the unit and historic context to determine if a photo is relevant to their unit.  

Based on our research, we know that VMO-6 was very active during the Okinawa Campaign. Therefore, we decided to first review the 127-GW boxes that cover Okinawa. However, within 127-GW, there are 14 boxes dedicated just to Okinawa, and each box contains hundreds of photographs. Further, within those 14 boxes, there are photographs that document the activities of many different units. Recognizing that it would take quite some time to review each photo, we wanted to make our search more concise. In order to narrow our search, we reviewed the finding aid (available in the finding aid drawers in the Still Picture research room) and identified several subject headings that appeared to be relevant to our unit. Researchers should note that each subject listing is assigned a divider number. Additionally, the same subject heading might appear more than once.

Here are the photographs we located that are relevant to VMO-6 and their work on Okinawa, which we have organized by the divider number/subject:

127-GW-Divider 519: Camp

While this photo does not specifically list VMO-6 in the caption, it does state that it is a camp for Marines of the 2nd Air Wing, which VMO-6 was assigned to while in Okinawa. Additionally, the photograph shows Yontan Airfield, which is where VMO-6 operated during the Okinawa Campaign.

127-GW-519-117903 (127-N-117903).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-519-117903

127-GW-Divider 529: Scouts, Observation

In our review of divider 529, we were able to identify VMO-6 photographs because several of the captions included the names of VMO-6 personnel, as well as information about the aircraft (OY-1 Sentinel Grasshopper) that VMO-6 flew and maintained. However, there was only 1 photograph within divider 529 that actually listed the unit information in the caption.

127-GW-529-117519 (127-N-117519)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-117519

127-GW-529-117769 (127-N-117769)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-117769

127-GW-529-120606 (127-N-120606)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-120606

127-GW-529-121235 (127-N-121235)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-121235

127-GW-529-125956 (127-N-125956)

Local ID: 127-GW-529-125656

 127-GW-Divider 557: Maps

Again, the caption for this map does not include information that specifically lists VMO-6. However, VMO-6 was part of the 6th Marine Division.

127-GW-557-30255 (127-N-30255).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-557-302255

127-GW-Divider 569: Coastline, Beach

We have included this photograph because it was taken on April 1, 1945, which is the same day that VMO-6 came ashore on Okinawa.

127-GW-569-117242 (127-N-117242)

Local ID: 127-GW-569-117242

127-GW-Divider 637: Aerial

Given that VMO-6 operated from Yontan Airfield, we felt this aerial was relevant to the history of the unit.

127-GW-637-127797 (127-N-127797).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-637-127797

127-GW-Divider 638: No Subject- Aircraft

The date and location of this image indicate that VMO-6 would have witnessed the invasion.

127-GW-638-123414 (127-N-123414).jpg

Local ID: 127-GW-638-123414

After their activities on Okinawa were complete, VMO-6 traveled to Guam. Therefore, for the next step in our research, we decided to search through the 127-GW Guam boxes. Since there are only 6 boxes dedicated to Guam, rather than selecting and sampling subjects, we tried a different approach and reviewed all of the photographs within these boxes (with the exception of subjects that covered civilian activities). Our research paid off because we did locate a group photo of VMO-6. The group photograph was found filed under 127-GW-Divider 1404: Relaxation. Had we done a sampling of subject headings, as we did with the Okinawa boxes, we likely would not have found the image. It appears that the group photo was filed under “relaxation” due to the information provided in the caption, which reads: “Guam…With combat operations on Okinawa behind them, these Marines of Marine Observation Squadron-6, 6th Marine Division, pose for a photograph during a rest and relaxation period.”


Local ID: 127-GW-1404-A332834

Beyond 127-GW, there are other Marine photographic series that may enhance your research. For example, another place to look is within 127-GR: Photographic Reference File, ca. 1940 – ca. 1958. This series has been digitized and made available in the NARA catalog here.

Prior to being sent to NARA, 127-GR was a series of photographs that were selected and maintained by the USMC in order to provide a concise, representative collection of images documenting their activities and personnel. While some photographs can be found in both 127-GR and 127-GW, there are some photographs that were chosen for inclusion in the reference file that may not be easy to find in 127-GW, or may not exist in 127-GW at all.

Like 127-GW, 127-GR is organized by location.  A search through the Okinawa boxes in 127-GR did return a few additional images related to VMO-6 that we did not find (or we accidentally overlooked) in 127-GW:


Local ID: 127-GR-95-121039. Caption: Marine pilots of the little “Grasshopper” observation planes on Yontan airfield, Okinawa, have a sign over the entrance to their bomb shelter which tells how rapidly they take cover when it is necessary. Left to right: 2nd Lt. Donald H. Rusling; Captain Donald R. Garrett; 2nd Lt. Lester E. Bartels; and 2nd Lt. Glenn R. Hunter.


Local ID: 127-GR-103-121629. Caption: RESULT OF AIRBORNE INVASION — This is the wreckage of one of the Japanese bombers converted to a transport for the attempted suicide invasion of Yontan Airfield on Okinawa. One the moonlit night of May 24th, the desperate enemy air invasion was thwarted.


Local ID: 127-GR-103-123728. Caption: On a “go” signal from the traffic control man, a cub plane takes off from the road-runway with a Marine casualty on board. From this improvised airbase near the Okinawa front lines at the town of Itoman, a squadron of the tiny planes shuttled the wounded to rear aid stations.


Key Points to Take Away:

  • As illustrated through our findings, captions can and will include pieces of information that, taken out of context, do not mean much. However, combining the historic context with all of the pieces of information included in a caption, including dates and locations, may help a researcher identify photographs that they may otherwise overlook.
  • Research can be as narrow, broad, or in-depth as you want to make it. 127-GR and 127-GW are by no means the only two available series for WWII Marine research.

The following links will guide users to descriptions of notable photographic series relating to WWII Marine Corps research:

  • 127-GC: Photographs of Marine Corps Activities taken in the United States and Foreign Countries, ca. 1939 – 1958
  • 127-GR: Photographic Reference File, ca. 1940 – ca. 1958
    • This series has been digitized and made available in the NARA catalog here.
  • 127-GS: Photographs of Marine Corps Training and Activities, 1939 – 1958
  • 127-GW: Photographs of World War II and Post World War II Marine Corps Activities, ca. 1939 – ca. 1958
  • 127-MM: Photographs of African Americans and Women in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1943 – 1969
  • 127-MN: Photographs of Navajo Indian “Code-Talkers” in the U.S. Marine Corps, 1943 – 1948
  • 127-PG: Marine Corps Officers, 1804 – 1945
  • 127-PL: Logbooks for U.S. Marine Corps Photographs, 1943 – 1981
  • 127-PX: Indexes to Photographs of Marine Corps and Noted Civilian Personalities, 1927 – 1981

The United States Marine Corps History Division is a great resource that can be used to gather pertinent unit information prior to beginning photographic research. For researchers specifically interested in USMC activities during WWII, the following websites and publications may be of interest:

Looking for another branch of the Military? The following links will take you to previous posts in the “How To Research” series:

  1. WWII Army Units
  2. WWII Air Force Units (Army Air Forces)
  3. WWII Navy Ships and Crew




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Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection

Tucked away at Archives II in College Park, Maryland, in Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment, is a series of magnificent ship drawings known simply as “The Ware Collection”.  Named for Charles Ware, the artist that created them, the collection offers a high degree of detail and an eye-catching splash of red, white, and blue in the flags that stream from the ships.   There are even some cats drawn on beams, for those clever enough to search them out, and a tiny alligator’s head, as well.

Though we have the collection and the name of the collection’s creator, very little is actually known about Charles Ware.  According to a 1943 article in the journal American Neptune, Charles Ware was a civilian sail-maker working at the Boston Navy Yard.  This location was originally called the “Charlestown Navy Yard”, hence the designation on the drawings.  The first record of his being there is September 1st, 1817 and the last record of his presence is on June 25th, 1831.  Records indicate that a warrant sail-maker was appointed to the position held by Ware in 1831 in accordance with a Navy policy that required civilian workers to be replaced with Navy personnel.  Ware protested that he had held the job for fourteen years and was fully qualified to continue on in the position.  He was offered a warrant, if he chose to take it, but there is no record of the warrant ever actually having been issued.  It appears that all of the drawings in the Ware Collection were created during his time at the Navy Yard[i].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. Ship of the Line.

While little is known of Charles Ware, we do know some things about some of the ships that he drew.  For example, the drawings of the Ship of the Line (above), the U.S.S. Lynx, the U.S.S. Spark, the U.S.S. General Pike, and the U.S.S. Constitution depict a cat’s face on the one of the beams of the ship.  In order to locate the tiny face, zoom in to the lower right side of the images and look for a square beam at the very end of the hull with a face on it.  One might surmise that this extra, small touch is a nod to the long-held tradition of having a cat aboard ship to control the mice and rats that can damage both rope and sails.  Rather than a cat on a beam, though, the U.S.S. Alligator depicts a small alligator at the front of the boat.

In addition to the little flourishes noted above, we can track some of the vessels in this collection from the time that they were designed, through their being laid down and commissioned, and onward until they were either lost, destroyed, or sold. For example, the U.S.S. General Pike was constructed at Sacket’s Harbor, New York in 1813.   The ship was the largest of any of the ships built on the Great Lakes.  She carried twenty-six 24-pounder long guns and could fire from either broadside.  After surviving an attack by the British that was intended to sink the boat before it ever left the dock, in which the ship and its cargo were prematurely set ablaze by the Americans to keep them from falling into British hands, the U.S.S. General Pike saw heavy action in the War of 1812 before eventually coming back to New York, where the boat was sold in 1825[ii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. General Pike. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/3281874

The U.S.S. Lynx was a Baltimore Clipper six-gun schooner that was built at the Navy Yard, in Washington D.C. in 1814.  She was placed in service in 1815 and sailed from Boston as part of a nine ship fleet headed to the Mediterranean to fight Barbary pirates.   Arriving off the coast of Africa, the fleet discovered that another squadron had already achieved peace and had treaties in place so, eventually, the fleet left.  During 1817, the ship conducted a survey of the Northwest Coast of the United States, and following that mission, headed for the Gulf of Mexico, where they were to assist in the suppression of piracy based in the West Indies.  In the year 1819, she seized three pirate vessels and all the goods aboard.  Sadly, on January 11th, 1820, the U.S.S. Lynx left Georgia bound for Kingston, Jamaica and neither the boat nor her 47-man crew were ever heard from again[iii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. Lynx. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/3281876

The U.S.S. Spark was a heavily armed brig that had initially been intended for use against the British in the War of 1812.  However, the ship was not finished until 1813, and was not commissioned until 1815.  Instead of fighting the British, the ship was sent to Gibraltar to offer aid in the Barbary Wars.  While there, the ship was successful in its mission and eventually returned home to the United States for repairs in November of 1815.  Eventually, the ship was dispatched to Algiers carrying a diplomatic party and letter from President allowing for the negotiation of peace.  The Spark spent the next nine years in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean fighting pirates before returning home to New York in 1825 and being sold the following year[iv].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. Spark. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/3281882

The schooner U.S.S. Alligator, commissioned in March of 1821, was tasked with combating the slave trade originating on the West Coast of Africa.  To this end, she cruised the waters from Cape Verde south to the equator where she is known to have captured three slave-trading vessels.  After going home for repairs in July of 1821, the ship embarked for the West Indies in early 1822, once again to help combat the slave trade.  At some point in the first days of November of 1822, the commanding officer of the Alligator had received word that pirates had taken several U.S. ships in the West Indies and was sent to get them back.  The Alligator reached the destination of the detained ships on November 9th, 1822 and found that the pirates had possession of an American schooner and a brig.  Met by a force of one ship, two brigs, and five schooners, the Alligator engaged the pirates in battle and managed to recover the U.S. ships, but in doing so, suffered the loss of the commanding officer, who was shot.  All told, the U.S.S. Alligator managed to capture all of the pirate vessels that day, except for one schooner that escaped.  On November 28th, 1822, the Alligator left Manzanas escorting a convoy of ship headed back to the United States[v].  Unfortunately, she then became the first commissioned Navy ship to sink in Florida, when she ran aground in the Florida Keys.  The shipwreck is listed on the National Register of Historic Places by the National Park Service[vi].  The U.S.S. Alligator was also the subject of a remote-sensing survey conducted by NOAA is the summer of 2004 to determine the exact location of the wreck[vii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. The U.S.S. Alligator. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/3281866

Perhaps the most well-known of all the boats illustrated in the Ware Collection is the U.S.S. Constitution.  Originally designed and constructed in 1794, it appears that Ware created an illustration of the vessel sometime later during his tenure at the Boston Navy Yard.  This also appears to be the case for the illustration of the U.S.S. Congress, also designed in 1794 and constructed the following year.  (*Note: this drawing is located in RG19: Records of the Bureau of Ships, 1940-1966, rather than RG 45.)


RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships, 1940 – 1966. The U.S.S. Constitution. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/348

In addition to the ship illustrations that Ware created, he also created a sail design using the phrase, “Free Trade, Sailors’ Rights”, shown below.  This was a strong and recurrent theme during the war of 1812.  “Free trade” referred to the protection of American commerce while “Sailors’ Rights” referred to a desire for the end the British impressment of American sailors[viii].


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/68865650

You can see more of the Charles Ware drawings held at the National Archives here.


[i] “Charles Ware, Sail-Maker.” The American Neptune, Vol. III, No. 3, July 1943, p. 267.

[ii] “USS General Pike (1813).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Aug. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_General_Pike_(1813).

[iii] “USS Lynx (1814).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 June 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Lynx_(1814).

[iv] “USS Spark (1813).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Aug. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Spark_(1813).

[v] “USS Alligator (1820).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Nov. 2016, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Alligator_(1820).

[vi] “U.S. Navy in Florida.” Florida Department of State, Florida Department of State, 2017, dos.myflorida.com/florida-facts/florida-history/us-navy-in-florida/.

[vii] Yorczyk, Rick. “Remote-Sensing Survey for the Remains of the USS Alligator.” NOAA Ocean Explorer Podcast RSS, NOAA, 7 Mar. 2007, oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/projects/04alligator/welcome.html.

[viii] Gilje, Paul A. Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights in the War of 1812. Cambridge University Press, 2013.


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Shifting the Lens on WWI: Stories from the Home Front

Today’s post comes from Marissa Friedman, intern at Historypin. Historypin teamed up with the US National Archives (NARA) to develop the Remembering WWI tablet app, part of the Anonymous Donor Project. You can learn more about the national collaborative Remembering WWI project here.

For the past eleven months, I have scoured NARA’s digitized collections of World War I materials looking for the most compelling, significant, and relevant stories to share with the public through the US National Archives’ Remembering WWI tablet app and Historypin’s companion digital platform. In examining the diverse experiences of Americans on the home front during the war, I’ve had more than my fair share of ”wow” moments of discovery. From profoundly moving to immediately thought-provoking, these WWI materials are full of amazing and sometimes forgotten stories just waiting to be found. Here are a few of my favorite stories I’ve discovered so far:

The Pigeons of Valor collection provides film clips detailing the U.S. Signal Corps pigeon training activities and facilities during the war. This is a great reminder of the limits of technological innovation–despite the fact that the title of first “modern” war is often attributed to World War Idue in part to rapid wartime advancements made in weaponry, medicine, and camera and film technology, both sides often relied on pigeons for crucial and speedy communications. The best part of all? The collection includes film of the commendation ceremony in which pigeons who served honorably during the war received medals! You know you’ve always wanted to see pigeons getting medals.

“Famous war hero pigeons of the Signal Corps, U.S.A., are decorated,” a clip from HOMING PIGEONS (111-H-1220).

The war instigated sweeping changes in American society in terms of gender and gender roles. Women entered the workforce in record numbers to fill the places of men in sent to the front lines, and became literally indispensable to the country’s wartime economy. They found newly accessible occupations in formerly male-dominated fields, especially in industry–they mass produced guns, cars, engines, parachutes, planes, munitions, fabrics, and soaps, large amounts of foodstuffs for the front lines, and so much more. Empowered and employed, women remained pivotal producers and makers on the home front and were involved in labor activism during WWI. The woman brandishing a blowtorch while on the lines in the Packard Motor Car Company factory in Detroit Michigan exudes such a sense of “cool” that I had to highlight this photo from the Women in WWI collection:


Liberty engines manufactured for government use. 165-WW-582-A1

Wartime opportunities for female employment also bolstered the growing suffrage movement and went hand-in-hand with women’s prominent roles as activists, reformers, union organizers, pacifists, and political dissidents. They fought for women’s rights (including suffrage), union rights and labor protections, pacifism and an end to war, social justice, socialism, or simply access to cheaper food for their families. Women demonstrated and marched in the streets, petitioned, gave speeches, organized the day-to-day activities of activist organizations, and produced pamphlets and other forms of mass media. Over five thousand women from Harlem and the East Side descended upon City Hall in 1917 to protest the draft, as pictured below in this photo from the Keeping Peace: Pacifist Activity on the Home Front collection. It is powerful to see a protest of such scale with women engaged in collective political action, and testifies to the pivotal role such women played in the civic fabric of the nation during the war.   


5,000 women in City Hall, New York, registry riot. Policemen clearing City Hall Park after five thousand women from the East Side and Harlem had gathered to petition the Mayor against the draft. When they learned the Mayor was not in his office they refused to leave. A number of policemen were slightly injured in the riot that followed. 165-ww-165A-026

The government used wartime necessity to justify the intensive surveillance of political dissidents (such as socialists, anarchists, and conscientious objectors) and those “alien enemies,” including German-born U.S. residents, spies, and those judged to be sympathetic to the enemy cause. The linking of anti-immigrant sentiments with wartime justifications for repression is a phenomenon not unfamiliar today. The Alien Property Unit, given broad discretionary powers, seized around 25 million dollars worth of immigrants’ property during the war. Alien enemies were required to hand over their weapons to police, were fingerprinted and given special identification cards. Many enemy aliens and political “subversives” were interned or imprisoned, often without much evidence. To top it all off, enthusiastic citizens actively participated in these anti-German surveillance campaigns on the local level. The photograph below, taken from the Under Surveillance: Enemies and Aliens collection, illustrates a famous example of citizen surveillance which occurred in at the shoe shop of C.B. Schoberg in Kentucky. The Citizens’ Patriotic League suspected Schoberg of pro-German sympathies, and he became the subject of an elaborate surveillance scheme involving a dictaphone hidden in his shop by League detectives. In a contemporary world in which  the costs and benefits of security and surveillance are similarly being negotiated, I found this photo and the story behind it particularly striking.


How sedition is ferreted out in Kentucky. A dictaphone was placed in the shoe shop of C.B. Schoberg, shown here (under pretense of men hunting electric light leak) under auspices of Citizens’ Patriotic League. The listening and was located in the 1st. National Bank of Latonia next door whose officers were aiding the League detectives listening in gathered pro-German evidence and arrested Henry Feltman wealthy tobacco merchant J.H. Kruse, wealthy brewer, and two others. The Court of Inquiry for Kenton County sent the case to the Federal Grand Jury to try in August 1918. 165-ww-165A-041

One of the most moving stories I found is the film footage from the Veteran Activists: The Bonus Army Protests of 1932 collection. WWI veterans sought early payment in 1932 for the bonuses they had been promised for their service in the First World War, to be delivered in 1945. In the face of financial ruin precipitated by the Great Depression, veteran activists processed from Oregon to the nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C., growing in numbers along the way, to demand their bonuses. Thousands of veterans lived in well-ordered squatter camps in nonviolent protest for months while Congress refused to meet their demands; the resulting stand-off came to a head when President Hoover called in the Army to forcibly disburse the protesters, labeled “communist” agitators rather than veterans to justify their subsequent treatment at the hands of their own government. Footage of soldiers and police dragging veterans out of abandoned buildings, tanks and soldiers marching down the street, soldiers lobbing tear gas, wearing gas masks, and setting the camps on fire gave me chills. This is a story that needs to be told, and I can’t believe that I had never heard of the Bonus Army protests until I stumbled upon this footage. Here is a newsreel clip highlighting media coverage of the events:

President Hoover’s order putting the Army in control,” a clip from BONUS ARMY RIOTS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 1932 (111-H-1225).

The war effort became integrated into the daily fabric of life for even the youngest Americans, despite the fact that no blood was shed on American soil. I was surprised by the number of photos in NARA’s collection devoted to children’s activities on the home front. Children of all ages became active participants in the war effort, raising money for various wartime campaigns, making toys for refugee children abroad, and marching in parades. High school children received school credit to make gas masks in class (imagine making gas masks in school!), and even young children could help gather the supplies necessary to make these and other wartime equipment–the photo below from the Children’s Activities in WWI collection shows very young Japanese boys in California gathering pits for making gas masks! Could these children grasp the magnitude of the war of which they were somehow a part?  


Japanese School Boys at Berryessa, Santa Clara County, Cal., gathering pits for gas masks. 165-WW-69E-013

These are just a few of the interesting themes and stories that we’d like you to explore in Remembering WWI. This project is a work in progress, and you too can get involved! Here’s how you can help:

  1. Download the app on your tablet and make your own collections from these materials to share and reuse. See here for more information on how to do that.
  2. Visit the digital platform on Historypin to help us fill in more precise date and location information for the WWI photographs and films that are a part of this project. For example, the photograph of the anti-draft women protesters in New York City (mentioned earlier in this post) is missing a day and month. Can you help us locate an exact date for this protest? In addition, many of these photographs are tagged only to a geographic center of a city rather than the exact location featured in the photo. Do you recognize signs, buildings, or street names in the background that can help us place the photographs more precisely?


After signing up for a free Historypin account, use the “Suggest a better location” and “Suggest and better date” buttons found on the sidebar of each piece content.

3. Are there thematic tags that you feel are missing from these photographs? If you were archiving these materials, how would you categorize them? Add your own tags! 


Add a tag to WWI films and photographs from the US National Archives on Historypin.


This project is made possible in part by an anonymous donor and the National Archives Foundation. ​

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Spotlight: The Launch of Sputnik 1

Sixty years ago today, October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union sent into orbit the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1. The beach ball sized satellite, weighing 183.9 pounds, took 98 minutes to orbit the Earth on its elliptical path. Sputnik’s launch captured the world’s attention and caught the American public off-guard. They feared the Soviets’ ability to launch satellites would increase their ability to launch missiles from Europe to the United States.

The launch of Sputnik 1 propelled the world toward new political, military, and scientific developments, marking the beginning of the United States and U.S.S.R. space race. On January 31, 1958, the United States launched its first satellite, Explorer 1.  And by July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act creating NASA as of October 1, 1958.

The Universal News newsreel below, released 3 days after the launch of Sputnik, responds to the launch by explaining how a satellite is sent into space and what it does once there.  Instead of focusing on the launch of Sputnik, which may have caused more panic, the newsreel focuses on the future launch of a U.S. satellite.








Posted in Films, Motion Pictures, Space, Uncategorized, Universal News Collection | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Operation Hi-jump: Exploring Antarctica with the U.S. Navy


In August of 1946, a year after the end of World War II, the United States Navy mounted an expedition to Antarctica officially titled The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program, 1946-1947. The mission, more commonly referred to as Operation Hi-jump, was organized by Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd, Jr., USN (Ret) and led by Rear Admiral Richard H. Cruzen, USN, Commanding Officer. For Byrd, Hi-jump would be his fourth Antarctic expedition and was expected to last six to eight months. The primary goal of the mission was to establish an Antarctic research base, Little America IV.  The navy also spent time training personnel, testing equipment in the cold conditions, and determining the feasibility of establishing and maintaining bases in the Antarctic. Continue reading

Posted in Films, Military, Motion Pictures, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized, Universal News Collection | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Digitization of 26-LG

Many different factors are considered when selecting a series for digitization. Records that are particularly fragile or have high intrinsic value might be digitized to help preserve the originals by reducing the amount of physical handling each item receives. Records that are of high historical value might be digitized for posterity in order to ensure that the images are easily and perpetually available for generations to come. Records that have exceptionally high research value might be digitized to increase access, ensuring that any and all who wish to interact with our nation’s history are able to do so regardless of their ability to visit us in person here in College Park, MD.

Digitizing for public access is absolutely a priority at NARA. More than anything else, we want the public to have access to the records we work so hard to protect and preserve. These images represent who we are as a people, and We The People have not only a right to our history but a responsibility to it as well.

Earlier this year, Still Picture Branch completed the digitization of the series 26-LG: Lighthouses, 1855 -1933. This is a mid-sized series for Still Picture Branch, being just over 84 linear feet, and was a particularly good candidate for digitization due to the age, condition, and research value of the photographs therein. The photographs are Coast Guard records and were created and collected by the Bureau of Lighthouses. Because they were taken between 1855 and 1933, the Albumen, Gelatin-Silver Printing Out, and Gelatin-Silver Developing Out photographic processes are all represented in the series. There are also a few Cyanotypes. Most of the photographic prints were mounted, and mounts often contain caption information that was transcribed during the digitization process.

Images (Including Cyanotypes) of Esophus Island, New York

As of this summer, 26-LG is available in digital form on the National Archives Catalog. To access these images right now simply click here and search or browse for photographs by location. The series was arranged by district number with each district corresponding to a geographic area. Within these districts, 26-LG photos were then arranged in loose alphabetical order according to the name of the lighthouses. This arrangement is reflected in our catalog, where the file units are listed numerically by box number.

If you are starting your search from our catalog homepage and not from this blog, there are two ways to find photographs in 26-LG. The first is to browse by file units as you would following the direct link provided above, and the second is to search the whole series using keywords. To browse by file unit, you must search for “26-LG” in the catalog. Navigate to the 26-LG landing page and click on the link: “1124 file unit(s) described in the catalog.” This will take you to the file unit page that automatically groups the photos by location. When you select the location that interests you, a file unit landing page will provide you access to the images you wish to see. For example, if you click on “Maine — Egg Rock,” you will see a page that contains specific information about the photos of Egg Rock in Maine. Typically there will be nothing extraordinary here. However, you will be able to see that there are 7 Egg Rock, Maine images housed in our catalog. By clicking on either “7 item(s) described in the catalog” or the “Search within this file unit” button, you will be able to access all 7 Egg Rock, Maine photos at once.

Images of Egg Rock, Maine

To search the entire series by keyword, you must again start at the 26-LG landing page on our catalog. This time, select the “Search within this series” button. This will take you to a page where you can search every image in 26-LG at once using keywords in the search bar. You will see that *:* is already in the search bar at the top of the page. This is very important – it tells the catalog to only look at records for the series you have selected. In this case you have selected 26-LG. If you know the name of the lighthouse or location you are looking for, type it in the search bar to the right of the *:* provided. For example, if you wish to look for Egg Rock photos, your keyword search will look like this: *:* Egg Rock. This will take you to all the photos in 26-LG related to Egg Rock. It is important to notice that your search results using this method will often be different – there is an Egg Rock in Massachusetts as well as in Maine, and using the keyword “Egg Rock” returns photos from both locations.

Images of Egg Rock, Massachusetts

The digital images from 26-LG were scanned at high resolution and may be downloaded directly from our catalog. They are not subject to copyright. Researchers are encouraged to access and engage with these images. Please remember to cite them to the Still Picture Branch of the National Archives using the Local Identifier number, which is unique to each photograph and can be found in the National Archives Catalog below the image download button.

New series’ and photographs are continuously uploaded to our catalog. We are excited to share these records with you, and hope you will enjoy these images as much as we do!

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Maps of the Great War: Army Cartography in World War I

One of the most illuminating groups of records found in the Cartographic Branch at the National Archives is Record Group 120: Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I), 1848 – 1942 (seen in our catalog here). These records cover many different aspects of the war. Included are maps from various United States army divisions as well as maps created by cartographers in other allied armies, including France, Britain and Italy. Subjects covered in the records consist of trench layouts, road maps, situation maps, topographic maps and enemy information maps, among others.


RG 120, Entry 61, 11/11/1918. This map, showing the military situation on Armistice Day, is included in a series of situation maps that show daily activity of the French and American forces between September and December 1918 and various days between January and May, 1919.

Depending on what you’re looking for in these records, and especially if you’re just browsing, it’s easy to get lost and explore a number of different threads. There are so many places to look and so many ways to search through the records. You can search by army, division, corps, services and country. The records are organized into entries, which each have a description of what they hold and what types of maps you’ll find there. The record group contains 540 entries, all of which have varying numbers of maps.


RG 120, Entry 225, 1/1/1919. A G-3 situation map showing the locations of units of the 6th, 77th and 81st divisions.

Maps related to transportation are often found throughout the records, including roads and railroads.


RG 120, Entry 164, 1/6/19. This map shows railroads in the area of the 3rd army.

Maps made by foreign allied armies were retained by the United States army and are found in these records. These maps show a different aspect of the types of records used by the allied forces and provide insight into other armies’ cartography.


RG 120, Entry 486, 10/12/1918. This map is part of an entry that includes Italian maps showing enemy information. These maps were produced by the Instituto Geografico Militare (Military Geographical Institute).

Continue reading

Posted in Cartographic Records, Digitization, Graphic Materials, Maps, Military, Photographs, World War I | 1 Comment

Mapping the Civil War: Antietam and South Mountain

The Cartographic Branch holds many maps relating to Civil War battlefields. Today we’re highlighting some maps relating to the battles of Antietam and South Mountain. The battle of South Mountain took place just east of Sharpsburg, Maryland, on September 14, 1862, only days before the larger and better known battle of Antietam. At South Mountain, Northern troops pushed their way through three mountain gaps blocked by Confederates, resulting in a Union victory. However, the fight at South Mountain allowed valuable time for the Confederate Army, which was split into two sections, to reunite and strengthen its position along and near Antietam Creek.


Map of Antietam Battlefield. RG 77, CWMF, G443, vol. 9, pg. 10

The battle of Antietam is remembered as bloodiest single day in American history. By the end of September 17, 1862, after twelve hours of intense fighting, over 23,000 soldiers were dead, wounded, captured, or missing. Both armies remained in position after the fighting subsided. Although most historians view the battle as a draw, Confederate forces retreated from the battlefield on the night of September 18, allowing the Union Army to claim victory. President Abraham Lincoln used this Union victory as an opportunity to issue a preliminary version of his Emancipation Proclamation, a document which altered the purpose of the war from just preserving to Union to also include ending slavery.

Many of the Cartographic Branch’s Civil War maps, including those focusing on Antietam and South Mountain, can be found within various series of Record Group (RG) 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers. Battle maps can be found with the Civil Works Map File (CWMF) series. The maps within the CWMF series are filed according to the agency’s filing scheme. Maryland maps are mainly filed under the letter “F.”  This includes several maps of the Antietam battlefield that were annotated from information obtained from commanding officers to show battle lines, locations of regiments and artillery, and headquarters.


RG 77, CWMF, F73(1). Annotated map of Antietam Battlefield.


RG 77, CWMF, F73(4). Annotated map of Antietam Battlefield.


Reconnaissance map of the ground occupied by General Hooker’s First Corps at Antietam. RG 77, CWMF, F73(5).

Civil War battlefield maps can also be found within the War Department Map Collection (WDMC)  of RG 77. Some of these maps were prepared after the Civil War, often for the preservation and development of Civil War battlefield parks. The map below was created for the Antietam Battlefield Board in the 1890s. It shows important battlefield landmarks like “Bloody Lane” and also shows wartime residents, tree cover, and land use at the time of the battle.


Post-war map of Antietam Battlefield. RG 77, WDMC, 24 -MD

Another map is from a post-Civil War publication and was colored to show Union and Confederate positions and the location of artillery pieces during the battle.


Map showing troop and artillery locations at Antietam. RG 77, WDMC, 33 – MD

Many Civil War maps can also be found in the Colonel W.H. Paine Collection of Civil War Maps. Paine, who served with the Union Army of the Potomac during the C, drafted and annotated many maps, especially for battles in Virginia. He also worked on or collected several maps relating to the battles of Antietam, South Mountain, and Gettysburg. We highlight one map below of the South Mountain Battlefield.


South Mountain Battlefield. Paine Collection, A-7-9.

To view additional maps related to the battles of Antietam, South Mountain, and many others, try searching our catalog to view digitized items or plan a visit in person to the Cartographic Research Room in College Park, Maryland.

For additional information about Civil War Maps at the National Archives, see A Guide to Civil War Maps in the National Archives (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986).

Posted in Cartographic Records, Maps, Military, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Now You See Me, Now You…..Still See Me? Hand-Painted British Dazzle Camouflage Templates from WWI

Record Group 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships contains some of the more colorful ship designs to ever sail in a military fleet. It is in this record group is where you will find the color and design templates for British Dazzle Camouflage.  There are over 300 hand-colored drawings in this series, each of them unique in color scheme and pattern layout.



RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 2, Design A, Port Side (NAID 46740252) and Type 3, Design C, Starboard Side (NAID 46740253).

During WWI, 1914-1918, the Fleet Admiral of the British Navy had a problem.  German U-Boats were sinking British ships at an astonishing rate.  Something had to be done to halt the destruction of the fleet and the loss of life, and that something was what would come to be known as Dazzle Camouflage.  Unlike other types and styles of camouflage, it was not intended to hide the ship, but rather to visually disrupt the outline of the ship to the degree that an observer would have no idea what they were looking at.


RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 8, Design A, Starboard Side (NAID 46740258) and Type 9, Design B, Starboard Side (NAID 46740259).

To torpedo a ship during WWI, a series of three steps had to be followed to successfully hit a ship.  First, the location of the ship had to be ascertained and its course plotted.  Second, the ships heading and speed had to be determined, and finally, the torpedo had to be fired not at the ship, but rather where it was calculated that the ship would be when the torpedo made contact.  The German Navy had a well-deserved reputation for having a very low margin of error when it came to sinking British ships, but it was reported that dazzle camouflage could throw an experienced submariner’s aim off by multiple degrees, meaning a harmless miss rather than a devastating hit.


RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 11, Design C, Starboard Side (NAID 46740261) and Type 14, Design E, Port Side (NAID 46740264).

Dazzle camouflage was pioneered by British naval officer Norman Wilkinson and was based on the theory that, just like stripes on a zebra and spots on a cheetah, stripes and odd patterns on a battleship would make it harder to target by breaking up its outline.  Dazzle camouflage utilized oddly angled lines and very bright colors including green, yellow, pink, purple, blue, and black to make it impossible to determine the size, shape, speed, or heading of a ship.  Also, for added confusion, no two ships were painted alike so that the Germans would have nothing to latch onto as a template for the patterns on the ships.



RG; 19, Camouflage Design Drawings for U.S. Navy Commissioned Ships, U.S. Merchant Ships and British Ships.  Shown above are the design templates for Type 17, Design B, Port Side (NAID 46740267) and Type 17, Design C, Port Side (NAID 46740267)

This type of camouflage enjoyed great success and was eventually adopted by the United States navy, prompting an unnamed American journalist at the New York Times to write, “You should see our fleet, it’s camouflaged to look like a flock of Easter eggs going out to sea.”

By WWII, this type of camouflage was becoming less and less effective because of inventions like radar and range finders and the fact that torpedoes were no longer hand guided.

All of the images shown above in addition to the over 300 other templates in the National Archives holdings are available for viewing online at https://catalog.archives.gov, search “British Camouflage Type” and then choose which “type” (1-20) you wish to view.

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