The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

The Western Front Recedes: The St Mihiel Operation

In the autumn of 1918, the Great War in Europe was nearing its termination after four years of fighting. Beginning in August of that year, the Allies launched what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, a series of attacks against the Central Powers which pushed the Western Front and the German lines out of France and, ultimately, resulted in an armistice. One such two-day offensive occurred near the French town of St. Mihiel on 12-13 September. The action was carried out by the 26th Infantry Division under the command of Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Edwards.

 

 

The 26th was formed by Edwards in the summer of 1917 and the first units of the Yankee Division sailed in September, “the first fully formed American division in France.” Over the next several months the division undertook training in France with their English and French counterparts so that they could acclimate to life in trenches and amidst hostile fire.

Fast forward to September 1918. Edwards and his division were in the area of St. Mihiel as a result of several months of fighting on the move in the northeast of France. Despite the rain and mud that slowed down some units from reaching their start line the night before the offensive, “the attack came off without any major hitch, following a tremendous artillery barrage during the early morning hours of September 12, 1918.”

Here at the Society are the Clarence Ransom Edwards papers, within which are several reports providing details about the operations performed by the 26th Division. One intelligence report, dated September 11 to September 12th, 1918, 16 o’clock to 16 o’clock, states that

The enemy, surprised by our attack, and with all communication to the rear out by our artillery fire, offered what resistance he could during the day, chiefly with his machine guns. In the open country the resistance was very weak. In the woods his machine gun nests proved fairly effective. The first day’s objective was reached before 22 o’clock.

These intelligence summaries, along with correspondence, memoranda, and other materials in the Edwards papers provide detailed insight into some of the operations of the “war to end all wars” and also highlight some of the personal drama between Edwards and his military colleagues. If you would like to learn more, visit the MHS library and see them for yourself!

 

-Shay, Michael E., Revered Commander, Maligned General: The Life of Clarence Ransom Edwards, 1859-1931. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, c.2011.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Saturday, 13 September, 2014, 5:18 PM

This Week @ MHS

It seems that summer is trying to reassert itself here in September but it is quiet and cool at the MHS. There is but one public program on the calendar this week in the form of a Brown Bag lunch talk on Wednesday, 10 September. Come by at noon for "Sculpting the Citizen Soldier: Civil War Memory and the Life Cycle of Monuments," presented by short-term research fellow Sarah Beetham, University of Delaware. In this talk, Dr. Beetham will explore how Civil War citizen soldier monuments have factored into community life in the century and a half since the war’s end. Soldier monuments have been interpreted and interpreted, vandalized and hit by cars, amended and moved to new locations. How do these interventions affect our understanding of post-Civil War memory? This talk is open to the public free of charge. 

There is also a free tour this week on Saturday, 13 September, starting at 10:00AM. "The History and Collections of the MHS" is a 90-minute, docent-led tour that allows visitors to see all of the public spaces at the Society while learning about the art, architecture, history, and collections in the building at 1154 Boylston. The tour is free and open to the public with no reservations required for individuals or small groups. However, groups of 8 or more should contact the MHS before attending the tour. For more information, please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or abentley@masshist.org

And while this September is pretty quiet here at the MHS, seminar season is nearly upon us. Be sure to keep an eye on the online events calendar to see all of the public events on tap later this month and into October. 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 7 September, 2014, 12:00 PM

“Signed, sealed and delivered”: The Treaty that Ended the Revolutionary War

 

"On Wednesday the third day of this Month, the American Ministers met the British Minister at his Lodgings at the Hôtel de York, and signed, sealed and delivered the Definitive Treaty of Peace between the United States of America and the King of Great Britain.” John Adams reported this news to the President of Congress on September 5, 1783 and congratulated Congress on the “Completion of the work of Peace."

It was eight o’clock in the morning when John Adams along with Benjamin Franklin and John Jay, met the British peace negotiator, David Hartley, at his residence in Paris and months of negotiations, first the previous year leading to the preliminary peace treaty, and then in earnest from April until the end of August culminated in this definitive treaty.

While this was no doubt a significant moment—after all, eight long years of war were officially ending with complete American independence—the signing was more of an anticlimax for Adams. His immediate feelings, as he revealed to Abigail the following day, were that as the definitive treaty was no more than “a Simple Repetition of the provisional Treaty,” they had “negotiated here, these Six Months for nothing.” Nevertheless, Adams understood that given the political realities of their position relative to Great Britain, “We could do no better Situated as We were.”

The key provisions of the Treaty of Paris guaranteed both nations access to the Mississippi River, defined the boundaries of the United States, called for the British surrender of all posts within U.S. territory, required payment of all debts contracted before the war, and an end to all retaliatory measures against loyalists and their property. Throughout John Adams’s term as minister to Great Britain in the 1780s, he and the British foreign secretary, the Marquis of Carmarthen, regularly discussed the actions each side saw as breaches of and a failure to fulfill the treaty—a debate that went unresolved until the signing of the Jay Treaty in 1794.

When editors at the Adams Papers Editorial Project are asked to name our favorite document in the immense collection that is the Adams Family Papers, John Adams’s copy of the Treaty of Paris, is certainly a top choice. This duplicate original in the Adams Papers is the only original not in a government archive. One can easily imagine that the legal- and legacy-minded John Adams was keen to retain a copy of this founding document over which he had so long toiled so far from his home for his posterity. Of particular interest are the seals—as there was no official seal for the American commissioners to use, each used whatever was convenient to him. See here for a full discussion of the Boylston family coat of arms, which Adams used as his seal on both the preliminary and definitive treaty and for more on Adams’s thoughts at the conclusion see the newly launched digital edition of Papers of John Adams, volume 15.

 

Image: First and last pages of the Definitive Peace Treaty between the United States and Great Britain (Treaty of Paris), September 3, 1783, Adams Family Papers.

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Wednesday, 3 September, 2014, 1:00 AM

This Week @ MHS

**Please note that the Society is closed on Monday, 1 September, in observance of Labor Day.**

September is upon us and it makes its appearance quietly as we begin the month with a holiday closure. The only main item of note this week on the calendar is a Brown Bag lunch talk on Wednesday, 3 September. Come by the MHS at noon for "Unspeakable Loss: North America's Invisible Throat Distemper Epidemic of 1735-1765," presented by Nicholad Bonneau, University of Notre Dame. While the New England throat distemper epidemic never achieved the notoriety acquired by other more notorious diseases of the colonial era, no single epidemic of that period proved more deadly to European settlers. This project asks why this epidemic escaped comment by contemporaries and past historians while raising interpretive questions informing our larger views of change, the priority of documentation, and the role of memory. This talk is free and open to the public so pack a lunch and come on by! 

And remember that on most Saturdays, including 6 September, you can visit the Society for a free tour. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour that explores all of the public spaces in the Society's home.. This event is free and open to the public and begins at 10:00AM. And while you are here for the tour you can also view our current exhibition, "Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in World War I," open Monday-Saturday, 10:00AM-4:00PM.

**Library Hours Changing! Effective 1 September, the library is no longer open late on Tuesday evenings. New hours for the library are Mon-Fri, 9:00AM-4:45PM, and Saturday, 9:00AM-4:00PM.**

 

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Sunday, 31 August, 2014, 12:00 PM

Library Hours Changing

I write with sadness that as of 1 September 2014 the MHS library is reducing its hours, eliminating the extended hours on Tuesday evenings.  The new library hours will be:

Monday through Friday – 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM
Saturday – 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Unfortunately the reduction in hours was necessary. Once this became evident, many staff members looked at library use patterns to determine where cuts could best be made.  Over the years, especially since reinstating Saturday hours in the spring of 2008, evening use had steadily declined. That is not to say that we do not appreciate that this change will impact researchers – especially those visiting from great distances and those that enjoyed using the library until minutes before attending a Tuesday evening seminar. But it does mean that based on current use patterns, it is hoped that eliminating the evening hours would have the least impact on our researchers. In other words, the lesser of two evils. 

This morning, as I checked the MHS website, the outgoing phone messages, and library handouts to ensure that our hours had been updated in all the necessary places, I began to think about how an era was ending.  When I first started at the MHS in 2006 evening hours were a well-established part of the library schedule.  I knew we had switched the hours from Thursdays to Tuesdays a few years back (with almost no change in use statistics with that move), but as I began to wax nostalgic, I got to wondering just how long the MHS library had been offering evening hours to researchers. 

I went to the reference shelf and grabbed a box containing back issues of Miscellany, the MHS newsletter, and began browsing for notices of library hours. The first issue in the box I selected was dated 1990. I discovered that at that time the MHS was open Monday through Friday 9:00 AM to 4:45 PM.  Those hours did not change until June 1997 when Saturday hours (9:00 AM to 1:00 PM) were added.  I was surprised to learn that it was not until September 2001 that the Thursday evening hours (through 8:00 PM) were added.  And they were added as the Saturday hours were eliminated, hoping that the evenings would see greater readership. 

So as we say adieu to our evening hours, and offer researchers three less hours per week to explore our collections, I am happy to say that we are still offering Saturday hours, which on its second go-round was amazingly successful,** and that the MHS library continues to offer more operating hours than it did throughout most of the 20th century. 

 

 

**Perhaps being open until 4:00 PM allows weekend researchers to sleep in a bit on their Saturday morning and still feel they can have a worthwhile research day.

 

comments: 0 | permalink | Published: Friday, 29 August, 2014, 8:00 AM

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