Digging Up James Smithson

Alexander Graham Bell traveled to Italy at the turn of the 20th century on an audacious mission to rescue the remains of the man whose legacy endowed the Smithsonian Institution.

Alexander Graham Bell did not spend the Christmas season of 1903 in the festive tradition. On the contrary, the inventor of the telephone passed the holiday engaged in a ghoulish Italian adventure involving a graveyard, old bones, and the opening of a moldy casket. Accompanied by his wife, Mabel, he had traveled by steamship from America at his own expense and made his way down to the Italian Mediterranean by train.Read more »

High Stakes at Antietam

A largely accidental battle, pitting Robert E. Lee against George B. McClellan, became the single deadliest day in America's history and changed the course of the Civil War.

The day of Antietam—September 17, 1862 — was like no other day of the Civil War. “The roar of the infantry was beyond anything conceivable to the uninitiated,” wrote a Union officer who fought there. Read more »

Osceola Fights to Save the Seminole

In Florida during the 1830s a young Indian warrior led a bold and bloody campaign against the government's plan to relocate his people west of the Mississippi River

The story of Osceola and the Great Seminole War in Florida seems so fantastic at times that it is hard to believe it is all true. One warrior with courage, cunning, and audacity unsurpassed by any Native American leader masterminded battle tactics that frustrated and embarrassed a succession of U.S. Army generals. Read more »

Amelia Found?

Seventy-five years ago the "first lady of the air" vanished over the Pacific Ocean attempting to circumnavigate the globe. Today there may be renewed hope of solving the mystery.

At 9 A.M. on the morning of Tuesday March 20, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stepped to a
 podium in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Dining Room and addressed a roomful of reporters, federal officials, and a sprinkling of female military aviators. Behind her sat the Secretary of Transportation, the foreign minister of the nation of Kiribati, the CEO of Lockheed Martin, underwater explorer Robert Ballard, and Richard Gillespie, executive director of The Investigative Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). Read more »

Growing Up Colored

The noted writer and educator tells of his boyhood in the West Virginia town of Piedmont, where African Americans were second-class citizens but family pride ran deep.

You wouldn’t know Piedmont anymore—my Piedmont, I mean—the town in West Virginia where I learned to be a colored boy. Read more »

Ike's Son Remembers George S. Patton Jr.

The author, who once served under General Patton and whose father, Dwight D. Eisenhower, was Patton's commanding officer, shares his memories of "Ol' Blood and Guts"

On the morning of December 19, 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower strode into the gloomy school building in Verdun that housed the main headquarters of General Omar Bradley’s Twelfth Army Group. He had called a meeting of all the senior commanders under Bradley. More than just the building was gloomy; the weather outside was a dark gray, and the tactical situation facing the American Army in Europe was also dark. Adolf Hitler’s gigantic Ardennes counteroffensive had been launched three days before, and German Gen.Read more »

Treason!

Aaron Burr's 1807 trial challenged the Constitution

In late March 1807 Aaron Burr arrived in Richmond, Virginia, in a vile mood, filthy and stinking. He had just endured a month of hard travel under heavy guard through the dense forests of the Southeast. “It is not easy for one who has been robbed and plundered till he had not a second shirt,” he complained to a friend, “to contend with a Govt having millions at command and active and vindictive agents in every quarter.” Read more »

Bruce Catton

Notes about the famous historian and American Heritage editor

For decades, Yale history professor David Blight, an award-winning author and a preeminent scholar of the Civil War, has studied the legacy of Bruce Catton, the historian/writer who significantly shaped our understanding of the Civil War by bringing it into exhilarating, memorable relief through his books and magazine articles. “Few writers have grasped the transformative effect of the war so well,” says Blight, “along with understanding that it is ultimately a great human story.”  Read more »

The Sage of Black Rock

CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite underwent a dramatic change of heart during the Vietnam War—and in doing so, changed the face of broadcast journalism

On February 6, 1965, Vietcong guerrillas attacked the U.S. base at Pleiku, killing eight American soldiers and wounding 126. The Johnson administration quickly retaliated, commencing another vicious cycle of lightning reprisals and military escalations. Suddenly U.S. “advisers” in Vietnam were recognized as combat troops; 23,000 U.S. personnel grew to 181,000 by the year’s end. On March 8 CBS Reports broadcast an hour-long debate between pro-war Sen. Gale McGee (D-WY) and antiwar Sen. George McGovern (D-SD).Read more »

Proud to be a Mill Girl

New England industrialists hired thousands of young farm girls to work together in early textile mills—and spawned a host of unintended consequences

In June 1833 President Andrew Jackson, visiting the brand-new factory town of Lowell, Massachusetts, watched as 2,500 female mill workers marched past the balcony of his hotel. The “mile of gals,” as one male observer dubbed the spectacle, bore no resemblance to the ragged, sickly paupers crowding English cotton mills of Manchester and Birmingham. These were proud, well-behaved Yankee farmers’ daughters, nearly all of them in their teens or 20s, wearing white dresses and carrying silk parasols in Old Hickory’s honor.Read more »