Spotlights

The Annapolis Tea Party

Conflict: Revolutionary War

The Burning of the Peggy Stewart, by Francis Blackwell Mayer, 1896

The Burning of the Peggy Stewart, by Francis Blackwell Mayer, 1896

You’re probably familiar with the Boston Tea Party, one of the famous events leading up to the American Revolution. But did you know that the Boston event wasn’t unique? Up and down the East Coast in 1773 and 1774, patriots were demonstrating their opposition to the Tea Act by destroying shipments of tea—sometimes in quite dramatic ways. One such demonstration was the Annapolis Tea Party in Maryland in the fall of 1774.

It all started when the Peggy Stewart sailed into the Annapolis port from London in October 1774. On board were 53 indentured servants and 17 chests of tea (about one ton). The captain hadn’t known there was tea on board until he was already through customs in England, having been told by the merchant who had put the tea on the ship that it was a shipment of linen. But when the ship arrived in Annapolis with tea on board, the ship’s owners and the merchant firm who owned the tea knew they were in for trouble if they tried to take the tea off the ship.

Anthony Stewart, co-owner of the Peggy Stewart

Anthony Stewart, co-owner of the Peggy Stewart

So they told the local tea-boycott committee that there was tea on board and asked what they should do. But in the meantime, Anthony Stewart, one of the owners of the ship, paid the tea tax in order to get the indentured servants off the ship. Even though Stewart had left the tea on board untouched, when the locals found out that Stewart had paid the tax, things did not go well for him or the merchant firm. They had to make multiple apologies in writing, and the committee finally voted that the tea needed to be burned as recompense. However, some citizens demanded that the ship be burned as well, and worried that things would escalate even further otherwise, ship’s owners consented to burning the ship.

So on October 19, they beached the ship with its sails up and colors flying, and set it—and the tea on board—on fire.

Article on the centennial celebration of the burning of the Peggy Stewart, the London Times, 1874

Article on the centennial celebration of the burning of the Peggy Stewart, the London Times, 1874

Read more about the Annapolis Tea Party here, here, or here. Or search Fold3 for newspaper articles on the subject. You can also find out more about the Revolutionary War and the events leading up to it in our Revolutionary War collection.

Building the Alcan Highway

Conflict: World War II

A tractor working on the Alcan Highway, 1942

A tractor working on the Alcan Highway, 1942

In March 1942—in response to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor just 3 months earlier—the U.S. Army began construction on the 1,500-mile-long engineering marvel known as the Alcan Highway, later called the Alaska Highway.

The attack on Pearl Harbor opened people’s eyes to the vulnerability of the U.S. west coast and of Alaska in particular, as its Aleutian Islands were less than 1,000 miles from Japan. Worried that the Japanese might attack Alaska, or at the very least that they could disturb oversea supply routes to Alaska, where thousands of U.S. soldiers were stationed, the military decided to build a land supply route, eventually deciding on an inland road that would connect existing air strips in Canada. Beginning in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, the Alaska-Canada (Alcan) Highway would cut through rugged, unexplored wilderness to the Yukon and then Fairbanks, Alaska, a distance equivalent to the miles between Washington DC and Denver, Colorado. To make things even more challenging, the pioneer road—a temporary dirt road that could later be developed into a gravel or paved highway—would have to be built before winter came, giving them less than a year to get it done.

The Army sent seven regiments of engineers, including three black regiments, to do the job, a number totaling over ten thousand. Each regiment started building the highway at a different spot along the route and then either worked north or south to meet up with other regiments. When they arrived in Alaska or Canada, many engineers were unfamiliar with road building and the equipment they’d be using, but they learned quickly, as they worked ten-hour shifts seven days a week building the pioneer road.

Map of the Alcan Highway

Map of the Alcan Highway

Although the engineers had access to the heaviest-duty tractors and bulldozers available, a lot of work still had to be done by hand, like building bridges and corduroy roads. The crews averaged eight miles a day, and the surveying teams often only worked ten miles or so ahead of them, trying to figure out the best route for the road to take. As they worked, the soldiers were usually completely isolated from civilization, and they got used to eating pancakes or chile con carne three meals a day for weeks at a time.

Aside from the typical hardships that came from such a grueling, labor-intensive task, there were also challenges peculiar to the far northern territory they were working in. The weather was one of these. Though temperatures could climb to the 90s in the summer, in the fall, they plummeted to far below zero. Men had to constantly check for frostbite, and vehicles were left running 24/7 to prevent the fluids from freezing and the metal from cracking.

The terrain was also uniquely difficult. The engineers had to deal with muskeg, which was hard when frozen in winter, but when thawed in the summer turned into what appeared to be a bottomless swamp. They also had to learn to work with permafrost—ground that has been frozen for at least two years—which they quickly learned would thaw into mud if they disturbed the groundcover.

Excerpt from the WWII European Theater Army Records mentioning the importance of the highway

Excerpt from the WWII European Theater Army Records mentioning the importance of the highway

Despite the challenges and the men’s initial inexperience, the pioneer road was amazingly completed in just eight months. After the army engineers finished the pioneer road, civilian contractors were brought in the next spring to turn the pioneer road into a more-easily-traveled highway. Though the Japanese, aside from their 1942 attack on the Aleutian Islands, didn’t cause much trouble for Alaska, the Alcan Highway did prove useful in supplying thousands of planes to the Soviet Union to use in their fight against Germany.

Read more about the Alcan Highway here, here, or here. Or watch a video about it here or see photos here. You can also search Fold3 for documents pertaining to its construction.

Fly Overs

Conflict: World War II

 

A Douglas C-47 flies over the pyramids in Egypt

A Douglas C-47 flies over the pyramids in Egypt.

These World War II pilots got some pretty amazing views—and made for some eye-catching photos—as they flew over different landmarks and landscapes in countries all over the world. Check them out:

A Curtiss C-46 circles the Taj Mahal in India

A Curtiss C-46 circles the Taj Mahal in India.

A formation of planes flies over the Eiffel Tower in France. 1945.

A formation of planes flies over the Eiffel Tower in France. 1945.

A formation of Boeing B-29 “Supefortresses” fly over Mt. Fujiyama, Japan. 1944.

A formation of Boeing B-29 “Supefortresses” fly over Mt. Fujiyama, Japan. 1944.

A Douglas A-20 flies over the English countryside, with a Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” below.

A Douglas A-20 flies over the English countryside, with a Boeing B-17 “Flying Fortress” below.

The first Douglas C-54 “Skyrocket” takes off over an Arab farm in Morocco.

The first Douglas C-54 “Skyrocket” takes off over an Arab farm in Morocco.

Find more photos of fly overs in Fold3’s WWII US Air Force Photos collection.

Medical Civic Action Program

Conflict: Vietnam

Willard Lochridge holds a Vietnamese child while Vernon Cook treats the child for cuts and infections on his leg. 1966.

Willard Lochridge holds a Vietnamese child while Vernon Cook treats the child for cuts and infections on his leg. 1966.

During the Vietnam War an initiative called the Medical Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) was developed by the American embassy in Saigon and the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (USMACV) to provide basic health care to Vietnamese civilians. Initially spearheaded by Army medics and physicians, soon all branches of the American military were participating, many people on a volunteer basis. They worked with medical personnel from the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) and tried to improve relations between the militaries and Vietnamese civilians.

MEDCAP stations were small and temporary, setting up in a village for a few days at most and offering simple outpatient procedures to anyone who wanted to be treated. These treatments mostly included passing out basic medications and vitamins, cleaning infections, dressing wounds, giving vaccinations, providing check-ups, and—for the dentists involved—pulling teeth. One solider observed that it was usually the village kids who showed up first at the MEDCAP stations, with adults gradually coming over any ensuing days that the medics were there. Between 1963 and 1971, an estimated 40 million civilians were treated through MEDCAP, and in one year (1967–68), an average of 15,000 dental treatments a month were provided.

Below are a few images from Fold3’s Marine Corps photos of children treated through MEDCAP.

Vietnam, 1965

Vietnam, 1965

Dr. Premru extracts a tooth. The doctor extracts an average of 40 teeth twice a week at the villages. 1967.

Dr. Premru extracts a tooth. The doctor extracted an average of 40 teeth twice a week in the villages. 1967.

P. T. Buchannan checks a small patient during a Medical Civic Action Program visit. 1968.

P. T. Buchannan checks a small patient during a Medical Civic Action Program visit. 1968.

 

Vietnam, 1966.

Vietnam, 1966.

Dale Farley holds a MEDCAP in Tum Plang. 1967.

Dale Farley holds a MEDCAP in Tum Plang. 1967.

Read more about MEDCAP here or here. Or find many more photos of the program in Fold3’s Vietnam War Marine Corps photo collection.

Captain Sally

Conflict: Civil War

Sally Tompkins

Sally Tompkins

Sally Tompkins was no ordinary woman. Not only did she run a hospital with the lowest death rate of any in the Civil War, but she was also the only woman to be commissioned an officer in the Confederate army.

Sally was born in 1833 into a wealthy family in Virginia, though her father died while she was a child. Not long before the start of the war, Sally and her mother moved from their rural town to the Southern capital, Richmond. After the First Battle of Bull Run, the influx of injured soldiers overwhelmed the hospital system already in place, so President Davis asked that people open their homes to the wounded. Sally convinced a judge named John Robertson to let her turn his vacant home into a private hospital, using the fortune inherited from her father to fund it. She hired a prominent doctor as head surgeon and staffed the hospital with a few other doctors and with female volunteers and slaves. Sally’s hospital—named Robertson Hospital—had 22 beds, and her obsession with cleanliness meant far fewer soldiers died in her care.

Just a month after Robertson Hospital opened, the government decided to close all private hospitals in order to reduce inefficiency and corruption. But Sally wouldn’t let that happen to hers—she arranged a meeting with President Davis and showed him a hospital register that documented her extraordinarily high record of getting wounded men well enough to return to duty. Impressed, President Davis wanted to keep Sally’s hospital open, but the problem was that all military hospitals now had to be controlled by the army. So Davis solved the issue by commissioning Sally as a captain in the cavalry, making her the only female officer in the Confederacy during the war. While Sally accepted the commission, she refused to be added to the army’s payroll, and she became affectionately known as Captain Sally.

Robertson Hospital continued to provide superior care for the duration of the war. By the time it closed in June 1865, only 73 of its 1,333 patients had died, giving it a survival rate of around 94 percent—an unusually high figure for the time.

After the war, Sally continued her charitable works, eventually using up her entire personal fortune helping others. Having never married, in 1905 she went to live at the Richmond Home for Confederate Women, where she died in 1916 at the age of 83.

Death notice for Sally Tompkins, from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Death notice for Sally Tompkins, from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Read more about Sally Tompkins here, here, or here. Or search Fold3’s Civil War collection for documents pertaining to this and other stories.