Thursday, May 23, 2013

A day of remembrance

On the final Monday of May, our nation remembers the men and women who died while serving our nation in the United States military. Formerly known as Decoration Day, the Memorial Day holiday originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that great conflict. Since that time, Memorial Day has been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

One way in which we honor and remember our fallen veterans is to preserve the records that they left behind. Here at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, we have the distinct honor and privilege of caring for those records, and sharing the stories of these soldiers with the public.

One area of our web site that will be of interest this Memorial Day weekend is “The Volunteer State Goes to War: A Salute to Tennessee Veterans.” This online exhibit displays records from the veterans of the Revolutionary War who helped found our state to Tennessee men and women serving in the military today. Featured items include the World War I photographs of Luke Lea, a former U.S. Senator and founder of the Tennessean newspaper; a letter from George Washington to future Tennessean Colonel Meigs; and a resolution commemorating the firing of the first shot in the Spanish-American War by the USS Nashville. The exhibit showcases the experiences of the state’s veterans and tells the stories of how ordinary men and women made America a better place through their courage and perseverance.

A view from the roof of the War Memorial Building, looking north, of the Memorial Day Parade in Nashville, Tennessee. 1946 photo from the Department of Conservation Photograph Collection.

Another area on our web site that will be of interest is a recently updated section dedicated to documenting “Tennessee Confederate Soldiers' Home Applications and Ledgers.” In 1890, the Tennessee Confederate Soldiers' Home opened on the grounds of the Hermitage Plantation, former residence of Andrew Jackson. The Soldiers' Home provided care and housing for aging Confederate veterans who resided in Tennessee. Prior to admission into the facility, these veterans submitted applications to a review board. The applications contain questions designed to determine the applicants’ need and legitimacy for state-funded care. In some cases, no application is available, but names and details are listed in one of two ledgers kept by the home. These records are now indexed and available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives, providing researchers with one more avenue of information about Civil War ancestry.

The Confederate Soldiers Home pictured in this 1908 photo was constructed in 1894 on land originally belonging to Andrew Jackson. The soldiers were removed in 1916 and later moved to the Tennessee Industrial School. The building was eventually destroyed in 1935.

These are just two sources of military records that you can find on our web site. Visit our “Research and Collections” section and click on the “Military Records” link to view more content on our web site. We also encourage you to visit us in person, where you can access these records through the Public Services Section of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

As we pause to remember our fallen heroes this Memorial Day, we also honor them by preserving and protecting their legacy found within these military records. We hope that by sharing these stories with the public, we continue a tradition of remembrance that began following the Civil War and continues to this day.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State.

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