Sunday, September 29, 2019

Gold Star Mothers' Day

By Michelle Smith, Volunteer

Some of the most rewarding aspects of studying our nation’s history are finding familiar voices within its stories and placing our own families’ histories within its framework. While we often focus on the major figures and events of a particular period, the most illuminating and engaging information can be found in the accounts of the everyday people who experienced the time firsthand. Diaries, letters, and other personal documents fill in the gaps left by broad overviews of specific events and show contemporary readers what life was really like during a particular historical moment.

In an effort to locate and preserve such materials, the Tennessee State Library & Archives launched Over Here, Over There, a project to digitize the World War I memorabilia of Tennessee families. Participants in this project were able to share their documents and artifacts with the general public while keeping the originals, allowing their personal histories to contribute to a greater understanding of the war itself, its brave soldiers, and their loved ones back home. After holding digitization events in several Tennessee cities, the collection grew to contain over 1200 items.

Images from an article on the Ring sons in the Nashville Tennessean and the Nashville American, June 30, 1918. TeVA Collection

Several of these items showcase particular families and document their experiences with the war. For example, the Library & Archives now offers a well-rounded collection of information on the Ring family, whose memorabilia was graciously shared by family members at the Franklin digitization event in 2017. Three of the Ring family’s sons, Frank, Nathan, and Joseph, served in the war and their mother, Sarah Frances, later traveled to Europe as a participant in a program for Gold Star mothers and widows. Among the items available to view online are letters between the sons, their mother, and other family members, Sarah Frances’ travel diary, and artifacts and photos that further illustrate the family’s wartime experience.

Letter from Frank M. Ring to his mother, September 8, 1918. TeVA Collection

The sons’ letters offer insight into the conditions that soldiers faced overseas, including the troops’ movement across Europe and their eagerness to maintain contact with their families back home. Thanks to the family’s full collection, we are able to pair the sons’ writing with their photos and to study the war through the lens of their experiences.

Sarah Ring’s diary entry on visiting Frank’s grave at the Somme, August 7, 1933. TeVA Collection

Their mother, Sarah Frances M. Ring, documented her experience with the Gold Star travel program in a well-preserved diary that is available to view via the Library & Archives’ Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). In 1933, Sarah Frances—whose son, Frank, died in combat—joined a group of other women whose loved ones were killed during the war on a pilgrimage to Europe. Her account describes how their travel group tracked their loved ones’ movement through France, highlighting specific places in which important events or actions took place years earlier.

Sarah Frances M. Ring at the Somme Cemetery, standing next to the grave of her son Frank. TeVA Collection.

The family’s collection also includes a photo of Sarah Frances beside Frank’s grave at the Somme Cemetery for American soldiers in France, which adds even more depth to her written account of the visit. Her diary would make a particularly interesting and timely read as the last Sunday in September approaches, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt set as “Gold Star Mother’s Day” in 1936.

In conjunction, these photos, artifacts, and letters construct a quite clear image of what wartime looked like for American families—both here and there. The Ring family’s records preserve an important piece of World War I history and, thanks to their family’s willingness to share them, prove that every contributing voice makes our nation’s history richer.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, September 27, 2019

Searching Mount Olivet Cemetery Records on TeVA

By Jennifer Randles

The Mount Olivet Cemetery Records Digital Collection is now live on the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA). This collection contains records related to Mount Olivet Cemetery, a 206-acre cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. Mount Olivet was established in 1856 by Adrian Van Sinderen Lindsley and John Buddeke. Notable interments include John Overton, Thomas Ryman, Anne Dallas Dudley and several former governors of Tennessee. Florence M. Redelsheimer (1911-1989), once a public relations administrator for Mount Olivet, compiled the physical collection, which includes accounts, correspondence, legal documents, maps, photographs, land records, and cemetery records.

Mount Olivet Cemetery Records Digital Collection on TeVA

Some of the most exciting items in the collection are three interment books spanning the years 1855-1906, which list the people buried in the cemetery and their burial locations. Information on each page includes interment date, names, age, cause of death, and plot location information. These books are part of an ongoing transcription project at the Library & Archives to record information in all three volumes in the collection. The final full transcriptions will be imported into the Genealogy Index Search, while a name index for each page will accompany the volumes in the TeVA digital collection. Currently, volume II and eighteen cemetery maps are available online, while volumes III and IV will be uploaded when transcription is complete. Unfortunately, volume I is not in the collections at the Library & Archives, so it is not part of this project.

Using the Collection

October 1878 interments listing names, ages, causes of death and burial locations.

Since names in the book are listed on each entry page in the digital collection, you can search for a name and go straight to where that person is listed by typing their name into the search box. Try searching with their last name and look through the pages it appears on to find a person, as many people are listed using initials or alternate spellings of their names. Names tagged on the page are listed in alphabetical order, not the order they appear in on the page.

Volume II has an index in the front with page numbers for each name. When using the book’s index, keep in mind that those refer to the page numbers written in the book. Not all pages have numbers written on them, so assigned each image a number to keep track of them. If you are having trouble finding someone, Ask Us a Question!

Each page lists information about the individual buried in a certain plot, such as name, date of interment, age, cause of death, and burial location. Not every piece of information was written down for each person, but there is still a lot of information in the books. Here are two former Tennessee governors in Volume II:

Interment record for Governor Aaron V. Brown.

This record from March 14, 1859 shows that Gov. Aaron Venable Brown was 63 years, 6 months and 21 days old when he died of pneumonia. Unfortunately, it doesn’t list a lot location.

Interment record for Governor Neill S. Brown.

This record from January 1886 lists Gov. Neill S. Brown (spelled as Neil) dying at age 76 due to paralysis.

I love death records and I encourage you to look through the interment book and search for names and dates in the Tennessean newspaper database, available to Tennesseans through the Tennessee Electronic Library. I often find information on the deceased in obituaries and newspaper articles- especially the social column. If the cause of death is an accident or murder, there is likely an article about the event. Just one line in these interment books can lead to fascinating discoveries about people’s lives in the past.

Mirador Viewer

This TeVA collection is also the first to test out a new feature, the Mirador image viewer. Mirador is an open source tool that gives people new ways to interact with items from digital collections around the world. To open a TeVA item in Mirador, click the button next to Print that looks like an M. It will open up in a new tab/window. Mirador is not optimized for mobile devices, so it is best used on desktop or laptop machines.

Mirador button location in TeVA.

Image view with filmstrip navigation on bottom.

Mirador offers more viewing options, such as Image view (with filmstrip on the bottom) or Gallery view (viewing thumbnails of each page in a grid). Users can double-click, use the on-screen controls, or use the scroll wheel on their mouse to zoom in/out and view different parts of the image. Click and drag with your mouse to move around the image.

Some of the most useful features of Mirador are the image controls. Have you ever found a document that is too dark to read, or a shadow covers part of the writing? Mirador’s image controls allow you to adjust the image to make it easier to view details. The great thing is your changes just affect what you’re seeing and not the original file, so you can play with the controls as much as you want without altering the original.

Mirador image manipulation controls.

To use the image controls, click on the “toggle image manipulation” button in the upper left corner of the image viewer. It looks like three horizontal lines with sliders on each bar.

The controls from left to right are:

  • Image Manipulation Toggle (turn tools on/off) 
  • Rotate image 90 deg right 
  • Rotate image 90 deg left 
  • Brightness 
  • Contrast (difference between darks & lights) 
  • Saturation (how much color is in image, for color images only) 
  • Grayscale toggle (turn color images to grayscale) 
  • Invert colors 
  • Reset image (undo all modifications to image) 

See the example images below to learn how you can play with these controls to make details more legible. The original is on the top, and has been modified in different ways in the examples below it. We encourage users to play with these settings and see how much more information you can get from the books.

Examples of image manipulation in Mirador.

We hope you’ll take this opportunity to explore the Mount Olivet collection and play with the new image viewer controls. As the other volumes of interment books are transcribed they will be uploaded to TeVA, so please come back to see when new material is available in the future. Happy searching!

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Monday, September 23, 2019

Tennessee Maneuvers

By Andrew McMahan

Figure 1: Mary Ward, 9, and Raymond Ingram, 12, of the Second Army on maneuvers in Middle Tennessee, April 28, 1943. Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA).

By the autumn of 1942 the United States had been at war for several months. The first few months had not gone well for U.S. forces. The military suffered several setbacks including the surprise attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the capture of Wake Island, and the fall of the Philippines. However, the American military was beginning to gain traction. The U.S. Navy dealt a major blow to the Imperial Japanese Navy at the Battle of Midway in June, American forces joined the fighting against the Axis powers in North Africa, and the First Marine Division landed on Guadalcanal in August, effectively beginning Allied offensive operations in the Pacific. The U.S. Army, in preparation for combat in Europe and other theaters of the war, needed to conduct large-scale maneuvers in order to train soldiers for the coming campaigns.

Figure 2: The maneuver area as shown on the cover of With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee by Gene H. Sloan, 1956.

The Army chose Middle Tennessee to stage these maneuvers because the area’s topography resembled that of Western Europe. These were not the first military training exercises held in the region. During the summer of 1941, General George S. Patton conducted maneuvers in the area around Camp Forrest in Tullahoma. However, the maneuvers beginning in September 1942 were to take place over a much larger area comprised of twenty-one counties. The Second Army, a unit tasked with training soldiers for combat, established their headquarters in Lebanon for the duration of the maneuvers. Soldiers began pouring into the region that September by the tens of thousands. Each unit was assigned to either the Red or Blue army and participated in mock battles across the region. Lieutenant General Ben Lear, commander of the Second Army, stated that the maneuvers would simulate the battlefields of Russia, China, Africa, and the Philippines. The purpose of these exercises was to train troops to prosecute the modern warfare raging on multiple battlefields around the world. The army particularly stressed the importance of coordination between infantry, armor, artillery, and air support.

Figure 3: An M4 Sherman Tank of the 20th Armored Division during a live fire exercise in December 1944. With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.

Several new and specialized units honed their skills while on maneuvers. Several of these later became famous because of their accomplishments during the coming campaigns. Among these was the Second Ranger Battalion. This unit was formed at Camp Forrest on April 1, 1943, and received more specialized training than standard infantry. This battalion, along with several others, received further training from British commandos while in England in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. The Second Ranger Battalion earned its fame on June 6, 1944, when it captured Pointe Du Hoc, a stretch of high ground that overlooked both Utah and Omaha beaches. In order to take this position, the rangers had to scale a high cliff under covering fire from naval artillery. After reaching the summit, the rangers captured the German positions, destroyed several artillery pieces, and held the area against repeated counterattacks.

During the maneuvers in Middle Tennessee, Gene H. Sloan of the Nashville Banner accompanied a “Red Ranger” patrol from the Second Battalion in August of 1943. The patrol’s original mission was to observe Blue troop movements along Highway 10 (U.S. 231). The rangers worked their way deep behind the Blue lines. However, Red headquarters soon radioed the small force and ordered them to disrupt Blue supply columns. Second Lieutenant Remo Cagna led his ranger force, equipped with two armored scout cars and six jeeps, just south of the Fall Creek Bridge near the Wilson County line. He set up a command post 220 yards from the highway and sent riflemen accompanied by bazooka teams down the road in each direction. The rangers remained concealed on the side of the highway and ambushed lone Blue vehicles. In just a few hours, they captured two supply trucks, six jeeps, and a gasoline truck. However, one vehicle escaped capture and the driver alerted Blue forces. Lt. Cagna “destroyed” the captured vehicles and ordered his men to retreat. Blue armor and infantry scoured every road around Lebanon in search of the rangers. Cagna broke his force into small teams and ordered them to make their own way back to friendly lines.

The 101st Airborne Division also took part in the maneuvers, effectively demonstrating the value of airborne troops delivered via parachutes and gliders. Major General William C. Lee commanded the 101st during this time. The paratroopers of this division later distinguished themselves through their exemplary performance in Normandy (Operation Overlord), Holland (Operation Market Garden), and the defense of Bastogne, Belgium (the Battle of the Bulge). During the wargames, Lee needed to have an urgent conference with his staff. However, several of his officers, including Colonel Robert Sink of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, were 150 miles away in Sturgis, Kentucky. After receiving word that Lee needed him and the officers under his command, Col. Sink and his staff boarded an Army plane and parachuted thirty minutes later, landing in front of Gen. Lee’s headquarters.

Figure 4: Troopers of the 502nd PIR, 101st Airborne Division, parachute over Gallatin. With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.

Figure 5: Photograph of a glider landing in a field in Middle Tennessee, June 16, 1943. With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.

Several Middle Tennesseans participated in the maneuvers as soldiers. In some instances, soldiers found themselves engaged in wargames in their own communities. Staff Sergeant James Marshall Donnell, a resident of Middle Tennessee, was with his unit on a tactical problem near Auburntown. Evidently, Donnell knew he was in the vicinity of his hometown, but was unsure of his unit’s exact location. He eventually saw his own pickup truck pull into a field. Upon further inspection, he found that he was on his family’s property. His unit bivouacked in the area, allowing him to walk over to his house and spend the night in the comfort of his own home. U.S. Army units participating in wargames disrupted daily life in the maneuver area. As the preparation of soldiers for combat was critical to the war effort, officials asked that civilians in Middle Tennessee be as accommodating as possible during the exercises. For example, an army officer provided the citizens of Woodbury with a list of several ways to ensure the maneuvers in their area ran smoothly. He requested that residents park their vehicles in their yards, not on the street, in order to keep roadways clear. People were asked to walk to work if possible, or to park their vehicles behind their places of business in order to ease congestion downtown. He asked that residents in Woodbury not sweep trash into the streets. Additionally, he said that people should stay off the road at night when troops were in the area driving vehicles with the headlights out and to avoid shining lights in the soldiers’ eyes. The officer also stressed that motorists should not attempt to pass a military convoy and that the speed limit in the maneuver area was 35 miles per hour, which was strictly enforced by local police and military officials.

Figure 6: U.S. Army vehicles, including two M3 Medium Tanks, on an unidentified road in Wilson County. Looking Back at Tennessee, TSLA.

Several towns in the maneuver area provided entertainment for the troops whenever possible. For example, the citizens of Woodbury served lemonade and cookies and provided musical entertainment for soldiers after the town was “captured” on August 19, 1943. Local citizens opened lounges in several towns, providing soldiers with places to relax, have a cup of coffee, and write letters home. Several churches in Murfreesboro opened lounges for the troops. Not only did these lounges provide services such as checking equipment and mailing letters, they also often furnished entertainment such as ping pong tables, shuffle boards, and records. Additionally, it was not uncommon for locals to invite troops to their houses for a meal or to get a good night’s sleep. In fact, the army actually encouraged civilians to invite soldiers into their homes on weekends, though they asked that locals refrain from feeding troops currently working on field problems.

Figure 7: American Legion Post No. 5 members standing outside a bath house which served soldiers during the Tennessee Maneuvers, June 1944. Library Photograph Collection, TSLA.

The influx of soldiers and equipment into Middle Tennessee had a substantial impact on the region. Thousands of men descended on small towns, often taxing facilities to their absolute limits. Restaurants were among the businesses frequented most by soldiers. The Nashville Tennessean reported that large numbers of soldier-patrons were straining the food supply in Lebanon. The Second Army instructed officers to always keep the conservation of the local food supply in mind, and asked them to work with the local civilian authorities in any way possible if said authorities expressed concern over food shortages. Soldiers were prohibited from purchasing rationed food. No more than 25% of a unit could be authorized leave at any given time, and all units had designated areas allotted to them for leave. A Second Army report cited by Murfreesboro’s Daily News Journal stated, “If the civilian authorities become concerned over possible shortage of food due to presence of soldiers within the maneuver area, we will cooperate with them in any regulations they may promulgate in the matter, even to the extent of requiring soldiers to carry food when visiting or on pass away from their units.” Army officials eventually restricted furlough hours, which lessened the week day rushes of enlisted men to local food vendors.

Housing was also in short supply during the maneuvers. Army officers and other officials from the War Department required places to stay for the duration. Additionally, many wives accompanied their husbands to the maneuver area. These women also required places to live, and sought accommodations in the form of hotels, apartments, and even rooms in private residences. The Second Army attempted to discourage women from following their sons or husbands to the maneuver area, claiming that it distracted the men from the war games and hampered their training. Officials also sought to more closely replicate actual combat conditions and ease overcrowding in the region by barring dependents from accompanying the soldiers.

The maneuvers also brought a boon to businesses in the region. Soldiers with pay in their pockets looking for leisure patronized many local businesses. The establishments that saw large increases in revenue during this time were restaurants, hotels, jewelry stores, and theaters. In fact, the Second Army encouraged businesses to provide discounts for soldiers. The army asked theaters, for example, to provide Sunday movies for soldiers at half-price. The Nashville Tennessean reported in 1944 that the city and the region would likely experience a reduction in retail revenue after the maneuvers concluded, citing the departure of officers and men who were payed an estimated $36,000,000 during the exercises. However, business leaders in Nashville concluded that the maneuvers were “wonderful advertising” for Middle Tennessee and expected many soldiers to return with their families after the war.

Army units operating in and around local farms often caused some property damage. The 2nd Army waged its mock battles in cities, towns, and active farms. Troops often had to tear down fences in order maneuver, and tanks frequently deployed in the fields destroyed crops beneath their unforgiving treads. On November 10, 1942, the Fourth Service Command Rents Board requested that farmers and landowners report any damage caused by military units during the war games. The Army instructed their engineers to repair property damage after maneuvers ended.

Figure 8: An M7 in a wheat field outside of Lebanon prepares to fire its 105mm howitzer. Sloan noted that “Crops took a beating when action became hot.” With Second Army Somewhere in Tennessee.

The Second Army maneuvers also had a drastic impact on Middle Tennessee’s roads. Convoys regularly traveled up and down the highways. Opposing Red and Blue armies used the roadways to maneuver into position. Even much of the “fighting” took place on the roads. The high traffic along with the use of heavy machinery, especially tanks, severely damaged many roadways in the region. Congress appropriated $5,000,000 to be dispersed to the twenty-one counties of the maneuver area for road repair. Government agents were sent to each county in order to provide assistance and oversee the repairs.

Figure 9: U.S. soldiers and a vehicle at Doak's Crossroads in 1943. Note the well-worn state of the road. Looking Back at Tennessee, TSLA.

Figure 10: Soldiers, tents, and trucks near Camp Forrest. Looking Back at Tennessee, TSLA.

The Second Army maneuvers were only part of the contribution made by Tennessee to the war effort, but they were among the most crucial. The long days of marching, camping in harsh conditions, and complex military exercises prepared U.S. soldiers for the coming campaigns. Most of the units that participated in the wargames in Middle Tennessee went to Europe, though a small number also deployed in the Pacific. Lessons learned during the maneuvers here saved lives and helped the Allies push on to the final victory over the Axis powers. Army officers, understanding the great importance of these maneuvers in preparation for future battles, remarked favorably on the conduct of Tennessee civilians. Major Gen. W. A. Burress spoke to Gene Sloan of his and his fellow officers feelings towards Tennesseans, stating, “I can imagine what some city dweller would say if you so much as drove a jeep on his lawn. And if you were to step on his flower bed! Here these folks are as courteous and friendly as if you were doing them a favor instead of them catching hell. You ought to write a book to tell the world what real Americans these Middle Tennessee farm people are. The marvel to each one of us is, ‘How do they do it after three years’?”

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett