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SC News

South Carolina Revolutionary War Documents Can Now Be Accessed Online

american revolution re-enactors
Sanborn
/
U. S. National Archive
Troops wearing the Revolutionary War uniforms of the 9th Virginia Regiment, Corps of the Continental Line, participate in a drill and firing demonstration during the Cessation of Hostilities Bicentennial Celebration at the Pentagon River Plaza. The flag of the ceremonial 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment, Corps of the Continental Line, is carried in the background.

Records previously only available to researchers at the South Carolina Dept. of Archives and History have now been put online.

More battles were fought in South Carolina during the Revolutionary War than in any other state. As a result, many South Carolinians either fought in the war or aided the new United States with services.

The records of many of those services have long been available for researchers at the South Carolina Dept. of Archives and History, but recently have been put online for more convenient access. According to Archives and History’s Bryan Collars, these records, called accounts audited, aren’t formal records we’d recognize today.

“The accounts audited are essentially scraps of paper really, that were collected to document Rev War debt. They’re papers that were collected by the state as early as 1783 to document service during the war, but also contributions, like supplies and things like that, for either service or contributions during the Revolution. They were issued during the war and accumulated because the state didn’t have the money to pay people for their service during war.”

These services were quite varied, according to professional genealogist Brent Holcomb. “Supplies, or a lot of times they would give beef for the army, or wheat. In fact, one of my Quaker ancestors received money. You know, Quakers didn’t fight in the Revolution, but he received money for 10 and a half gallons of whiskey supplied to the soldiers. Maybe he was trying to keep peace that way.”

The war records were online at Archives and History shortly before the coronavirus hit, but Collars believes COVID has actually helped people learn about and use the service.

“I think the pandemic has certainly allowed - or forced - people that are unable to visit the dept in person, the opportunity to view the document in its original form through the Internet. So I believe that COVID has actually increased the use of the online version, versus our statistics before COVID hit.

Since the Archives re-opened after being closed by COVID for several months, Holcomb still visits in person several times a week to conduct his research. He said that despite the pandemic -induced spike in online use, others also visit the facility, and not just South Carolinians. “People from all over the country come in the Archives. Not so much as they used to, since it’s online, but a lot of them still do,” said the researcher.

“I saw a lady in there from Tennessee just the other day. And a gentleman from Georgia comes in here fairly regularly. North Carolina, different places. So they come in here a lot.”

He added that most people that use the archives, online or in person, are mainly individuals with questions. “Most people are just curious about their own families. They’ve been working on their family history for ages and they find a new clue and go that way. And some people maybe just found out they have South Carolina ancestors and they’re anxious to get in there.”

About 10,000 Revolutionary War records are housed at the archives, and all are online, plus some other records. But Collars said the Department’s online records index has more than 300,000 items, so the ongoing work to make them all available online to the public will keep the Department busy for much longer than the states took to gain their independence.