Profiles in Service, Veterans Day 2018

As we observe Veterans Day today, we honor the military service of our alumni/ae with two profiles of UVA Law veterans: Alice R. Burke, a 1926 law graduate and U.S. Navy veteran who served as counsel in the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, and Farrell Dabney Minor, Jr., a member of the law class of 1911 who died from battle wounds one hundred years ago while serving in the U.S. Army during World War I.

Alice R. Burke

LLB, University of Virginia, 1926
Lieutenant Commander, USNR (W)

Alice Rebecca Burke was born on May 1, 1901, in Charlottesville, Virginia. She was a member of the first class of women at William & Mary and graduated with a BA in 1921. Burke’s senior yearbook noted her strong interest in the law, even as an undergraduate. Burke went on to earn a LLB from the University of Virginia in 1926 as the law school’s second female graduate.

Corks and Curls, 1926

After graduation, Burke served as a civil attorney in San Antonio, Texas before returning to Virginia to earn an MA from William & Mary. In 1936, she took a position as lecturer in Government and English for the Norfolk division of William & Mary (later Old Dominion University).

During World War II, Burke resigned her position at Norfolk and joined the U.S. Navy. She was commissioned Lieutenant Junior Grade in 1942, Lieutenant in 1944, and Lieutenant Commander in 1946—all in the Women’s Reserve of the U.S. Naval Reserve (commonly known as WAVES for Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). During the war, Burke assumed command of the WAVES Barracks in Balboa Park, San Francisco, California.

Lieutenant Alice R. Burke, USNR (W), assumes command of WAVES Barracks, Balboa Park, San Francisco, CA.

After the war, Burke served as defense counsel during the Tokyo War Crimes Trial. (Today, incidentally, the UVA Law Library is home to one of the largest collections of papers from these trial proceedings.) Burke stayed on in Japan as a legal and government officer in civil affairs. She retired from the Navy in 1955 and continued her legal career in New York. Burke died on May 1, 1973 and is buried in Charlottesville’s Riverview Cemetery. Her tombstone reads Alice Rebecca Burke, Lieut. Commander, USNR (W).

Further Reading:
Alice Burke biographical sketch, Old Dominion University,  https://www.lib.odu.edu/exhibits/womenshistorymonth/2000/burke.htm

Farrell Dabney Minor, Jr.

LLB, University of Virginia, 1911
Lieutenant, U.S. Army

Farrell Dabney Minor, Jr. was born in Galveston, Texas on February 10, 1889. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1911, Minor moved back to Beaumont, Texas to practice law with his father.

When the US entered World War I in 1917, Farrell quickly enlisted in the military and obtained a commission as a Second Lieutenant. He was assigned to the 42nd “Rainbow” Division of the Army, under the command of Douglas Macarthur (who was at that time a colonel), as part of the 167th Infantry regiment. He sailed for Europe in November 1917 and shortly thereafter led his platoon in the Croix Rouge Farm fight of the Second Battle of the Marne. Half of Minor’s company was killed in less than forty minutes in this extraordinarily bloody fight. Minor himself was wounded on July 26 while leading his men in a charge across an open wheat field at Croix Rouge Farm.

Farrell succumbed to his wounds on August 29, 1918. He is buried at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. After the end of the war, his name was inscribed on the University of Virginia’s Memorial Tablet Dedicated to Those Who Perished in the World War. In the 1920’s, Minor’s parents honored his service and his law school alma mater with a special endowment to the UVA Law Library in the name of Lieutenant Farrell Dabney Minor, Jr.

Grave of Second Lieutenant Farrell Dabney Minor, Jr. at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in Belleau, France. Photograph by Edwin L. Fountain, American Battle Monuments Commission, UVA Law 1990.

 

Further Reading:
Proceedings of the Thirty-Eighth Annual Session of the Texas Bar Association, Volume 38 (Texas Bar Association, 1919), 92.

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Randi Flaherty

Randi Flaherty is the Special Collections Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library. She is also an early American historian with a focus on foreign maritime commerce in the early American republic.

Tom Butcher

Tom is an Assistant with the Law Library's Special Collections team. He is also a lecturer for the UVa History department, where he earned his PhD in 2018. His research focuses on the history of sex, gender, and sexuality in Europe, as well as questions of political violence and human rights.

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Special Collections Team Wins Cromwell Research Grant

Buried deep in the stacks of Edinburgh libraries lie court records that tell stories about early America. In the Faculty of Advocates Library and The Signet Library, both just a few doors down from Scotland’s Court of Session, and in the Centre for Research Collections at the University of Edinburgh, rests evidence of Glaswegian merchants who traded for Virginia tobacco, families divided by the American Revolution, enslaved men and women who toiled on Caribbean sugar plantations, and much more. These Session Papers, the printed material submitted to Scotland’s supreme civil court as part of the litigation process, contain hidden histories of early America and the British Atlantic world.

Through a generous grant from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation, a team of historians from Special Collections at the University of Virginia School of Law’s Arthur J. Morris Law Library will soon visit Edinburgh to begin identifying court cases involving early American litigants. Drs. Jim Ambuske, Randi Flaherty, and Loren Moulds, the co-directors of the Law Library’s Scottish Court of Session Project, will travel to Scotland’s capital to investigate these court records. While some cases appear in published law reports, most remain hidden in the bound volumes of court documents held by these historic Edinburgh libraries.

The Cromwell Foundation, which supports American legal history scholarship, has commissioned the Law Library team to survey Court of Session cases involving early America. Working closely with Edinburgh librarians, Ambuske, Flaherty, and Moulds will locate such cases and prepare a publicly available report on their findings. The report will enhance the discoverability of these cases for future scholars working on legal or early American history projects. It will also help identify groups of Session Papers for priority digitization as part of a collaboration to make these records more accessible for legal and historical research.

Finding evidence of early America in the Session Papers will illuminate the close ties between Scotland and America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As the historian Timothy J. Shannon has recently shown in his new book, Indian Captive, Indian King: Peter Williamson in America and Britain, Session Papers can recover the lives of individuals like Williamson. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Aberdeen native claimed to have been kidnapped and sold into indentured servitude in the American colonies. While it seems clear that he was in the colonies as a young man, and perhaps later fought in the French and Indian War, his claim to have been held captive by Native Americans at one point is more suspect. Nevertheless, Williamson “played Indian” for Scottish audiences upon his return home and parlayed his alleged experiences into commercial opportunities. We know of his story in part because he sued the Magistrates of Aberdeen in the Court of Session, charging that they had been complicit in an illegal servant trade that had sent him to North America.

While in Scotland, the Law Library team will meet with collaborators at the University of Edinburgh, the Edinburgh Law School, and representatives from the Advocates and Signet libraries to advance a transatlantic partnership that is pursuing the creation of a digital archive to hold nearly 250,000 individual Session Papers. Using a combination of computer technology and human interpretation, the collaborators are exploring ways to more efficiently identify people and places within these printed documents, which will assist in the cataloging process, enable digital humanists to conduct large-scale analyses of the material, and make it easier for scholars and the public to search for historical figures and locations.

The project team is grateful to the Cromwell Foundation for its significant investment in the Scottish Court of Session Project. For more information on the Foundation and its efforts to support legal history scholarship, please visit www.cromwellfoundation.org. To learn more about Special Collections at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library, please visit archives.law.virginia.edu.     

 

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Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections to develop interpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

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Registration Opens for the Second Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit

Registration is now open for the second annual Digital Archives in the Commonwealth Summit, which will take place at George Mason University on November 30, 2018. We’re excited to be co-sponsoring this event along with our colleagues at George Mason University Libraries, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

The Summit is an interdisciplinary conference focused on the creation, management, and use of digital archives. We welcome individuals from various fields to attend and join the conversation—archivists, scholars, librarians, museum specialists, and technologists are all encouraged to participate. Building on the success of the inaugural Summit in 2017, this year’s conference seeks to facilitate information-sharing and reflection on the practical and theoretical considerations that shape digital archives.

Panels this year include:

  • Institutional Opportunities and Challenges in Building or Re-Imaging Digital Archives
  • Finding the Hidden in Plain Sight: The Enslaved Children of George Mason and Mason’s Legacies Projects
  • A lunch workshop on The Library of Virginia Transcription Initiative
  • Revealing Hidden Histories and Rebuilding Lost Spaces with Digital Technology
  • A lightning round with the opportunity for audience members to present

You can register and read more about the Summit here—and if you’re unable to attend in person, follow along on Twitter using #DASummit2018.

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Mindfulness for Law School

Maybe you’ve taken yoga classes or seen mindfulness on the cover of Time magazine—but what does mindfulness have to do with law school? Learn how mindfulness tools like meditation, mindful eating and movement, and mindful communication can help you handle stress, improve focus, retain information, and enjoy the present moment. The Law Library has collaborated with the UVA Mindfulness Center’s Susanna Williams to offer introductions to mindfulness designed for law students since 2013. This Fall we are hosting drop-in sessions where Susanna will teach you how to integrate mindfulness tools into your everyday law school life. You do not need any prior experience with mindfulness, and you are welcome to drop in on one, a few, or all of the sessions. Stop in the Library’s 2nd floor Collaborative Classroom, 3:45-4:45, for snacks and to learn about:

  • Stress Less, Learn More (Tues., Sept. 18)
  • Mindfulness in Everyday Life (Tues., Sept. 25)
  • Mindful Communication (Tues., Dec. 4)

For a preview, check out the UVA Mindfulness Center’s free guided meditations online, and the Law Library’s collection of mindfulness books, CDs, and magazines in the low shelves in the first floor Reserve Room. For information about other mindfulness activities at UVA, like yoga and speakers, visit the UVA Contemplative Sciences Center’s site.

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Kristin Glover

Kristin Glover is a Research Librarian at the Arthur J. Morris Law Library.

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What’s New This Fall

Welcome back, returning students! While you were away, the Law Library added some new resources that we thought you’d like to know about. Here’s the rundown:

Art of Law Exhibition

We’ve installed a new exhibition showcasing printed decorations and illustrations from the pages of UVA’s original collection of law books, as it was cataloged in 1828. The new exhibition illuminates bookwork and printing practices of the early modern era, while also offering an important window into legal education in the early United States.

ProQuest Supreme Court Insight

The Law Library has acquired a great new resource for researching Supreme Court case history. ProQuest’s Supreme Court Insight, 1975-2016, provides curated case pages, along with links to PDFs of briefs, oral arguments, opinions, and hard-to-find docket sheets and joint appendices. It also includes advanced tools to assist with searching. If your research involves a SCOTUS case argued between 1975 and 2016, be sure to check out Supreme Court Insight!

Power Outlets and New Tables in the Reference Area

There’s a special energy in the Law Library this fall, and it’s not just the excitement that comes with a new school year. By popular demand, power outlets are now available at the study desks on the second floor. We’ve also spruced up the reference area with new tables and lamps. We hope these improvements will make your long hours in the library a little bit brighter.

New Faces in the Library

Two librarians stand in front of a card catalog.
Sarah New and Kate Boudouris.

Two new librarians will be available to assist you in the library this year. Kate Boudouris joins us as a Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian. You’re likely to spot her at the reference desk, where she’ll be happy to help with all your thorniest legal research problems. Kate attended Yale Law School and previously practiced law in Washington, D.C., and at the Southern Environmental Law Center in Charlottesville. Sarah New is our new Web Services Librarian and all-around digital resources guru. A UVA alum, she joins us from the University of Maryland Baltimore County Library.

Renew Your Subscriptions!

This is a friendly reminder to renew your online subscriptions. Once each year, you will need to reactivate your NYTimes.com account and get a fresh registration key for the Bluebook Online. (In order to renew your NYTimes.com account, you must be on-grounds or using a VPN.) If you’re having trouble accessing WSJ.com, please visit the registration page (also while on-grounds) and click “Register or Renew.” First-time registrants can sign up for NYTimes.com, WSJ.com, the Bluebook Online, and more by logging into LawWeb and following the links provided on the “Student Services” tab.

As you embark on a new academic year, remember that the library is here to help you! Please don’t hesitate to contact us at refdesk@law.virginia.edu or to stop by and ask us a question.

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Brett Kavanaugh Project Website Launched

Hearings on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court began yesterday, and interest in the nominee’s judicial record is high. To assist researchers, we’re proud to announce the launch of the Brett Kavanaugh Project, a website that assembles all of Kavanaugh’s written opinions, as well as concurrences and dissents he either wrote or joined as a judge for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The site includes both full-text search and delimited search capabilities. For example, researchers can find the number of dissents Kavanaugh authored in “Freedom of Speech” cases and get easy access to those opinions. More about the project can be found on the website.

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Jon Ashley

Jon Ashley has been the Business Research Librarian at the University of Virginia Law Library since 2008. Prior to coming to UVA he was a general reference librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he received his M.L.S..

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Welcome, New Students!

To new students arriving for orientation: Welcome! The Law Library staff looks forward to working with you throughout your law school career. From personalized research consultations to exam-time grilled cheese breaks, the library offers services to make your time at UVA more enriching, efficient, and enjoyable. Here are some key resources that will help you hit the ground running this academic year:

Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law Passwords

Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg Law are core legal research databases, so be sure to sign up for access! On August 22, activation codes will be distributed in the lounge area of Withers-Brown Hall, which is to the right as you exit the Law Library. After August 22, the codes will be available at the Reference Desk on the second floor of the library.

NYT, WSJ, CALI, and More!

As a UVA law student, you’ll receive free access to resources like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and CALI (a provider of interactive legal tutorials). You can sign up for these and other law-school-only resources via LawWeb. From the LawWeb homepage, just click on the “Student Services” tab (shown below), and then select the resource you’d like to access.

LR&W Help

Not sure how to tackle your Legal Research & Writing assignment? The Law Library is here to help! Each section of LR&W has a dedicated librarian—or “Library Liaison”—to help students get comfortable with legal research methods. (Once classes start, LR&W students will receive more details about meeting with a Library Liaison.) For liaison contact info and additional research tips, check out this guide to legal research for law students.

Bluebook Online

Well-formed citations are an important part of legal writing. To help you nail every detail, the Law Library offers online access to the Bluebook Uniform System of Citation. Law students and faculty can request an access code.

Guide to Student Services

As your studies progress, we hope that you’ll find the Law Library to be a valuable partner in your academic efforts. You can learn more about the library’s offerings in our A to Z guide for students. And remember, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact a staff member!

Once again, a warm welcome to all incoming students!

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Kate Boudouris

Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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A Weekend of Reflection

On the anniversary of last year’s neo-Nazi and white supremacist marches, we’re thinking about the ways in which the law school community has acted to promote justice in the past, the ways in which we can do more to promote justice in the present, and the library’s special role in preserving evidence of today’s struggles for future generations. We’ve selected several photographs from our archives that show some of the ways our students have engaged over the years with issues of justice, equity, and ethics. We hope that this weekend will provide an opportunity to reflect on the past year and recommit ourselves to working for a more just society.

1969

Representatives of the Law School’s Legal Assistance Society meet with government officials to oppose legislation giving governors a veto over legal services programs. (L-R): Office of Economic Opportunity Director Donald Rumsfeld, President’s Special Assistant on Urban Affairs Daniel P. Moynihan, Dean Paul E. Miller of Howard University Law School, Legal Assistance Society Projects Director Daniel D. Sullivan, and unidentified persons. See VLW December 11, 1969.

1970

Student protest
Students participate in a demonstration against the American invasion of Cambodia and the tragic slaying of students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in 1970. During the protests, some law students wore armbands identifying themselves as “legal marshals” available to inform other students of their rights.

1985

Student speaks with migrant worker
First-year law student Karl Racine talks to migrant worker Sene Lanoix as part of the Legal Assistance Society Migrant Farm Workers Project, 1985. See VLW, November 1, 1985.
Student protest
Students protest the South African policy of apartheid, 1985.

2017

Candlelight vigil
Community members gather in response to neo-Nazi and white supremacist marches, 2017.

 

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Arthur J. Morris Law Library

The Arthur J. Morris Law Library is the home of research for students and faculty at the University of Virginia School of Law.

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A New Guide for Legal Historians

Shortly before his death in 2010, Morris Cohen told me about a book he was writing with his Yale colleague John Nann on research in American legal history. I wondered at the time if this was mostly a means of keeping Morris engaged in work and might not amount to much. But lo and behold, eight years later The Yale Law School Guide to Research in American Legal History (Yale University Press, 2018) has landed on my desk. And it’s full of great insights for the legal historian.

Instead of divisions by material type or genre, most of the book’s chapters focus on distinct time periods in American history and highlight research approaches and resources most pertinent to each period. After the chronological chapters, the book closes with several more general chapters. Particularly useful here are the discussion in Chapter Eight on doing archival research and the treatment in Chapter Ten of historical legal dictionaries.

A very useful bibliography of additional readings accompanies each chapter, and the book has a thorough and precise index. The authors provide helpful tips throughout on finding material in online catalogs, a nice touch as new catalog interfaces make subject searching less accessible and intuitive.

Chapter 2, English Foundations of American Law, 1500s-1776, does a great job of setting us in the world of an early modern English lawyer, finding case law with abridgments rather than Lexis or Westlaw. Lord Coke’s list of the fifteen sources of the law, printed at pages 50-51, is a wonderful time capsule – I didn’t know that “the Law and priviledge of the Stanneries” was a distinct source of law, let along what a stannary was. And it is interesting to learn that the abridgements of the 17th century (Sheppard, Hughes, and Rolle) were “considered to be of mediocre to poor quality” especially compared to Brooke’s Graunde Abridgement of the late 16th century. Nann and Cohen’s Guide has great explanations of the role of the Privy Council in governing the colonies and of the Calendar of State Papers. The authors point out the dangers of hastily OCR’d digital resources — unless scanned material is proofread carefully, it’s simply not discoverable through keyword searches.

Chapter 5, The Early Republic, 1790s-1870s, warns that researchers “must be careful to understand what the judiciary looked like in the state and time being researched. They must also understand the appellate process of the time.” And the authors provide good insight as to why historians can often be frustrated finding information in court reports: “Historians will find that it was not uncommon for a historically significant lower court case to go unreported. Once judges gained control of reporting, they chose cases that would become the building blocks of the law and ignored cases that merely repeated well-settled law. Historians will often want to read a case to get insight into the people involved, whereas lawyers care only about the law involved.”

Throughout the book I learned of valuable resources in legal history. These include Neil H. Cogan, The Complete Reconstruction Amendments, a forthcoming six-volume set from Oxford University Press not even on the publisher’s website yet, but also resources I never knew about or had long forgotten. I’d better take another look at American Foreign Relations Since 1600: A Guide to the Literature, which “has been described as ‘magisterial’ and is an extremely important resource that should be among the first stops in a research project touching on this topic.” And I never knew about Clarence S. Bingham’s History and Bibliography of American Newspapers, 1690-1820, “a critically important introduction to early American newspapers.”

At page 149, I read about two microfilm resources that were unknown to me until I had to hunt them both down in recent months:  Dockets of the U.S. Supreme Court, 1790-1950, and Appellate Case Files from the Supreme Court of the United States, 1792-1831. It’s true that finding these and borrowing the microfilm (sadly, we have neither in our library) gave me a sense of accomplishment, but how much easier life would have been if I had Nann & Cohen to help me. (It seems odd in 2018 to be relying on microfilm, particularly for information about Supreme Court cases, and LLMC is currently considering digitization of both of these sets.)

One of the valuable things about the work is that it expresses strong and clear opinions. In the very first chapter, it says that William H. Manz’s Gibson’s New York Legal Research Guide is perhaps the best of the many state legal research guides now published, with its in-depth treatment and coverage of current and historical sources. (Who can argue, when guides for nine states in Carolina Academic Press’s Legal Research Series all begin with the exact same sentence, “The fundamentals of legal research are the same in every American jurisdiction, though the details vary,” and nine more offer paraphrased versions of the same idea? How refreshing to open Hollee Schwartz Temple’s West Virginia Legal Research (2013) in the same series and read its first line, “If you want to stand out in a challenging legal marketplace, develop superior research skills.” Here’s to authors with journalism backgrounds!)

Of course, I don’t agree with all of the authors’ opinions. I don’t know why researchers trying to decipher citations are told that Prince’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations “is the first place they should turn to” and then only to check the online Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations if a citation isn’t in Prince’s. Cardiff’s coverage of American sources is broad and thorough, it includes useful information like the period of coverage and preceding and subsequent titles in a series, and its web version is so convenient. Why not reverse the order of checking these two?

As explained in the guide’s Introduction, the chronological chapters “describe the research tools available to an attorney of the past as well as the tools that a researcher of today will use to find the law of the past.” Thus, Chapter Six, Research Gets Organized, 1880s-1930s, explains the laborious procedure required to use Shepard’s Citations in print, something I thought I might never to have to read about again. I had hoped for less focus on obsolete research approaches and more discussion of modern legal history resources. There is only passing reference to one chapter of the three-volume Cambridge History of Law in America, and Lawrence Friedman’s History of American Law is only cited in one chapter’s bibliography. These books are not just “Further Reading” but great places for legal history students to begin their research and place their ideas in historical context.

The chronological structure of the guide begins to falter in Chapter Five, The Early Republic, 1790s-1870s, when the authors devote nearly a page to explaining PACER, the federal courts’ online docket system. Why in this chapter is there a discussion of a resource that begins its coverage in the late 20th century? Similarly, the chapter on the 1880s-1930s includes coverage of modern tools such as the Current Law Index (1980-date), and Chapter Seven, The Administrative State, 1930s-2010s, discusses several valuable 18th- and 19th-century resources such as Public Documents of the First Fourteen Congresses, 1789-1817 and Documentary History of the Constitution of the United States, 1786-1870. The “Administrative State” chapter focuses on administrative law and government documents, but the dates in its title are misleading.

The authors acknowledge that “research guides, including this one, represent a snapshot in time,” but in this instance the snapshot isn’t always that close to the publication date. Parts of the book show the inherent dangers of working on a project for several years. The bibliographies, while valuable, miss several recent publications, including a 2016 edition of Morris Cohen’s own Legal Research in a Nutshell. The print Foreign Law Guide hasn’t been updated since 2007, and the online Guide to Reference closed down in March 2016. In discussing the Congressional Record, the book asserts that “No easy translation tables exist to take researchers from the ‘daily’ page numbers to the ‘final’ page numbers or vice versa” – yet both HeinOnline and ProQuest Congressional offer daily edition to bound edition cross-reference tools. An unrelated quibble (in which I have a vested interest) is that referring to Specialized Legal Research as “by Penny A. Hazelton” and Guide to Reference Books as “by Robert Balay” does a disservice to the numerous contributors to these edited works.

In sum, The Yale Law School Guide to Research in American Legal History is a welcome addition to the literature of legal research and a valuable trove of insights and tips. It goes a long way to bridging the divide between historians and legal scholars.

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Kent Olson

Head of Research Services, Arthur J. Morris Law Library

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Launch of Alabama Claims Transcription Project

The UVA Law Library and the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History are pleased to announce the C.S.S. Alabama Claims Cases Transcription Project. The over 100 documents in this collection center on the life and death of the British-built commerce raider C.S.S. Alabama and her sister ships, the C.S.S. Florida and the C.S.S. Shenandoah. Constructed in Liverpool, England in 1862, the Alabama disrupted Union commerce and supply lines in both Atlantic and Pacific waters during the Civil War. Between 1862 and 1864, Captain Raphael Semmes and the Alabama’s crew conducted seven major raids in waters ranging from the Gulf of Mexico to the Java Sea. They attacked or destroyed nearly seventy Union merchant ships, capturing or burning millions of dollars’ worth of cargo before the U.S.S. Kearsarge sank the Alabama on June 19, 1864 off the coast of France.

The Alabama’s success as a commerce raider made for a point of contention between the United States and Great Britain. After the war the American government held its British counterpart liable for damages. American citizens sought compensation for property lost to these British-built Confederate vessels. In 1871, the two nations signed the Treaty of Washington, which established an international arbitration process for resolving these disputes. The treaty marked a significant development in modern international law. In the end, the British government paid the United States $15.5 million in damages.

William Wallace Crapo
William Crapo, printed in Phineas Camp Headley, Public Men of To-day, 1882.

The C.S.S. Alabama Claims Cases Transcription Project features 108 documents from the law practice of Boston attorney and future U.S. Congressman William W. Crapo. Between 1870 and 1876, Crapo (pronounced “Cray-poe”) corresponded with numerous individuals such as attorneys Henry A. Barling and A. H. Davis as he worked to secure restitution from the British government on behalf of his clients. He also worked with bankers, insurance officials, and individual claimants. The letters and telegrams record how lawyers lobbied Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant’s administration as they pursued claims against the British government. They offer a unique perspective on the Civi War’s legal and diplomatic legacy.

UVA Law librarians completed an initial transcription of the Crapo material in the early 1990s. We now seek eagle-eyed members of the community to help refine that earlier work using Fromthepage.com, a crowdsourcing transcription platform to help enable their discovery and use by researchers. As far as we are aware, historians have never cited this collection in any scholarly research.

Here is but one example:

Henry A. Barling [New York] to William W. Crapo [New Bedford, Massachusetts]
13 December 1870

Confidential

New York Decemr. 13 1870
Dear Sir,

I infer from the tenor of yours of yesterday that the “Sufferers” may fly the track on the proposition of Johnson & Higgins, for two reason’s, the first on account of
the compensation & next because of a hesitancy most people have of giving Powers of Atty. even to their intimates. Johnson & Higgins I know to be honorable people & ones that would not abuse a trust — still, you could get a power where they could not because every claimant in N.B. has confidence in you.

Now what I want to get at is, if we fail with J & H in getting what we aimed at the other day, I think I can suggest to you a plain (sic) that all the parties at interest will jump at, & in which your interests as well as our own can be as well cared for as by the arrangement now pending, but I will not suggest it now as it might be taken as a symptom of bad faith toward J. & H. — by whom I intend to stick until I see they cannot succeed & then if you will join B. & D we can, with proper energy, & I assume we both have enough of it, make a very handsome business of it.

What I have written you will of course consider as strictly
confidential.

I remain
Dr. Sir

Yours truly
Henry A. Barling

W. W. Crapo Esqr
New Bedford

 

The above letter hints at discussions with clients concerning New York Insurance firm Johnson & Higgins. Barling’s plea for secrecy suggests a strategy in flux as the lawyers navigated complex legal and political shoals. The remaining papers in the collection describe in detail how lawyers and their clients negotiated deals and lobbied powerful individuals in defense of their legal interests.

Correcting the transcriptions will provide new insight into the Civil War era and the legal world it created. To start transcribing, visit the project’s webpage and signup for a free account on FromThePage. Participants in this project will find a complete set of instructions on the project website. Once finished, the UVA Law Library will make the completed transcriptions available on its website.

Questions? Please contact archives@law.virginia.edu

Further Reading:

Charles C. Beaman, Jr. The National and Private “Alabama Claims” and Their “Final and Amicable Settlement” (Washington, D.C., 1871).

Charles S.C. Bowen. The “Alabama” Claims and Arbitration Considered from a Legal Point of View (London, 1868).

Adrian Cook. The Alabama Claims: American Politics and Anglo-American Relations, 1865-1872 (Ithaca, NY, 1975).

James McPherson. War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865. (Chapel Hill, 2012).

Frank J. Merli. Great Britain and the Confederate Navy, 1861-1865.
(Bloomington, 1970).

Featured image: Édouard Manet, The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama, 1864 (John G. Johnson Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Public Domain)

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Jim Ambuske

Jim Ambuske is the Horatio and Florence Farmer Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Humanities. He received his Ph.D. from UVA in 2016 and is a historian of the American Revolution and early Republic. At the UVA Law Library, Jim works in Special Collections to develop interpretive content for the library's major initiatives, curricula for future courses in the digital humanities, and research projects rooted in the library's archives and manuscript holdings. His primary responsibilities at the Law Library include oversight of the Scottish Court of Session Papers project and promoting scholarly access to the library's significant holdings in early American, Virginian, and transatlantic legal history.

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