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South Carolina Archives
Series Description

Robert W. Gibbes Collection of Revolutionary War Manuscripts, 1773-1820  


CALL NUMBER:        S 213089

TITLE: Robert W. Gibbes collection of Revolutionary War manuscripts

DATE: 1773-1820

VOLUME: 4.00 volumes and 2.00 cubic ft.

ARRANGEMENT: Series arranged roughly chronologically with oversize items filed in a separate box.

BIOGRAPHICAL/HISTORICAL NOTE: Robert Wilson Gibbes was born in Charleston on July 8, 1809. The Gibbes family had been in South Carolina since early in the Proprietary Era. His father William Hasell Gibbes was a Charleston lawyer. A graduate of South Carolina College and the Medical College of the State of South Carolina, Robert Wilson Gibbes purchased a medical practice in Columbia in the 1830s. In addition to his medical practice, Gibbes became a Columbia newspaper editor, the owner of a cotton mill, a widely known student of geology and paleontology, and an art collector. His Columbia home and its art, mineral, and fossil collections were burned in 1865. Married to Carolina Elizabeth Guignard of an old Columbia family, Gibbes had twelve children and died in Columbia on October 15, 1866.

SUMMARY SCOPE NOTE: The core of the collection consists of the surviving papers of William Henry Drayton documenting his political career at the beginning of the American Revolution and including those papers of the Council of Safety and other Revolutionary political bodies that had remained in Drayton's possession. The Drayton items include the original correspondence between the committees of correspondence transmitting the news of the battles of Lexington and Concord down the east coast to Charleston; extensive documentation of military affairs at the beginning of the war; and a substantial body of material for the ship Prosper, of which Drayton was commissioned captain.

A second key component of Gibbes's collection is the surviving second volume, July 21-Dec. 31, 1781, of five volumes of transcripts of the incoming correspondence of General Francis Marion. The transcripts were made by Peter Horry between 1804 and 1807 and are among the most important sources for military activities during the American Revolution in South Carolina. The original Francis Marion papers from which these transcripts were made do not survive.

Also present, though perhaps not originally a part of the Gibbes Collection, are seven 1778 and 1779 strength and provision returns for various units and ten January 1780 pay rolls for the First South Carolina Continental Regiment. Among the more significant unpublished items are a small cache of Joseph Kershaw papers documenting Governor John Rutledge's desperate attempt to raise a relieving force before the fall of Charleston in May 1780.  

A large group of 1782 pay rolls and clothing rolls for General Thomas Sumter's brigade of state troops and related papers through 1788 have long been housed with the Gibbes Collection but were actually with the state's archives before the donation of the collection. In March 1781 General Sumter had offered bounties in slaves taken from loyalists, clothing, and horses to encourage enlistment. The pay rolls, showing how many slaves the soldiers had actually received and how many they were still owed, were called for by a 1784 resolution of the General Assembly as part of an attempt to settle what was still owed to Sumter's men and were ordered delivered to the Commissioners of the Treasury in 1785. 

The collection includes a small quantity of Nathanael Greene letters, Andrew Williamson correspondence, and other miscellaneous items. The series also includes copies of Dr. Gibbes's three printed volumes, one of which at one time apparently belonged to Governor and U.S. Senator B. R. Tillman.

FINDING AID: All of the loose manuscripts in this series have been abstracted and indexed to personal names, topics, and geographic locations in the repository's On-line Combined Index to Multiple Record Series, 1675-1929. The surviving volume of transcripts of Francis Marion correspondence has not been included. Except for the unpublished items in the series (which have been more thoroughly indexed), name indexing for some documents has been limited to senders and recipients and the principal figures mentioned. Only the commanding officers have been indexed for the strength returns, pay rolls, and like documents that were published and fully indexed in the volume edited by Alexander Salley.

A description of this series was published in the South Carolina Historical Magazine 84(1983):43-44, but the card file finding aids mentioned there have been superseded. A detailed description and history of the Peter Horry transcripts of Francis Marion correspondence is available in Wylma Anne Wates, "Meanderings of a Manuscript: General Peter Horry's Collection of Francis Marion Letters, South Carolina Historical Magazine 81(1980):352-61.

ADDITIONAL FORM: Except for the surviving volume of Peter Horry transcripts of Francis Marion correspondence, the entire series has been digitized.  The digital images are linked to the index hits from the On-line Records Index on the repository's website.  The majority of the items in the series have been published in R. W. Gibbes, Documentary History of the American Revolution: Consisting of Letters and Papers Relating to the Contest for Liberty, Chiefly in South Carolina..., 3 vols. (1853-1857; Reprinted, Spartanburg, S.C.: The Reprint Company, 1972) or in A. S. Salley, editor, Documents Relating to the History of South Carolina during the Revolutionary War (Columbia: The Historical Commission of South Carolina, 1908). Gibbes sometimes left out names of loyalists or otherwise sanitized his transcriptions. Appropriate items are also published in the modern editions of The Papers of Henry Laurens and the Papers of General Nathanael Greene. The abstracts of the documents in the series in the repository's On-line Index provide specific citations for their publication.

ASSOCIATED MATERIAL: Several William Henry Drayton documents from the Gibbes Collection are now filed elsewhere.  Drayton's copy of the printed 1776 grand jury presentment, which includes his charge to the grand jury as Chief Justice and bears his signature, is filed in Series S145001, Grand Jury Presentments.  Drayton and John Smith were appointed commissioners to treat with the legislature of Georgia to explore a union of the two states.  A January 22, 1777, letter from Noble Wimberly Jones, the Speaker of the Georgia Convention to the commissioners, and a sheet containing drafts by the commissioners, which also must have come from the Drayton Papers in the Gibbes Collection, are filed as Series S131021, Correspondence and Notes Concerning Their Mission to Explore a Union of the Two States Under One Government, 1777.  Two issues of the South Carolina Gazette (Feb. 13, 1775 and Feb. 27, 1775) with texts of protests against Drayton's suspension from Council that are now filed in Series P900050, Miscellaneous Newspapers, were also probably a part of the Gibbes Collection.

The repository also holds microfilm from the Library of Congress of complete copies made for Peter Force of all five volumes of the Peter Horry transcripts of Francis Marion correspondence, 1779-1782.  Additional items from the transmittal down the east coast of the news of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the originals of which were probably once in the Gibbes Collection, are reprinted from Peter Force's American Archives, Vol. 2, in Vol. IX, pp. 1229-1239, of William L. Saunders, editor, The Colonial Records of North Carolina. 

A collection of Robert W. Gibbes papers that includes Dr. Gibbes's autograph collection of Revolutionary War Officers is at the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina.

Many other related items may be found through Sources for the American Revolution at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, a guide compiled by Charles H. Lesser and available on the repository's web site.

PROVENANCE: The nucleus of this series is the surviving portion of the collection of Revolutionary War manuscripts assembled by Dr. Robert Wilson Gibbes. Dr. Gibbes offered to donate his Revolutionary War manuscript collection to the state in exchange for a legislative subsidy for the publication of his Documentary History of the American Revolution ... in South Carolina. By legislative resolution of December 1854, the state agreed to subscribe to purchase 500 copies of each of Gibbes's three volumes at the price of $1.25 a volume. The exact date of the subsequent deposit of the collection is uncertain and no inventory of its contents at that time is known to survive.

It is clear from Gibbes's volumes that some documents were merely lent to him for publication and were never part of the collection. A portion of the collection, including four of the five volumes of Peter Horry's transcripts of Francis Marion correspondence, was lost either in the Civil War or due to the very poor conditions under which records were stored in the State House in subsequent years. Some items which Gibbes never owned have migrated into the collection; some of those items have been removed and filed in their proper record series.

HIERARCHICAL NOTE: Forms part of the records of the Secretary of State.