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South Carolina Archives
Series Description

Confederate Pension Applications, 1919-1938  

CALL NUMBER:        S 126088

CREATOR: Comptroller General. Pension Department.

TITLE: Confederate pension applications

DATE: 1919-1938

VOLUME: 11.88 cubic ft. and 34.00 microfilm reels

ARRANGEMENT: Series arranged alphabetically, first by county,then by last name of applicant with pension lists and miscellaneous correspondence filed at the end of each county. In some counties applications from African Americans are also filed at the end of the county. Index access is by arbitrary sequentially assigned number. A few files are misfiled in the wrong county but have been indexed to the proper county. The Saluda County pension lists and miscellaneous correspondence are misfiled after the Union County documents. There are gaps in the sequentially assigned numbers.

South Carolina began granting pensions to needy Confederate veterans and their widows in 1887, but initially limited the pensions to veterans who were disabled by loss of limb or other injury during the war and widows of soldiers or sailors who had died in service. Both had to meet means tests, which were made even more restrictive in 1900. Responding to a provision of the 1895 state constitution, the General Assembly in 1896 expanded eligibility to poor uninjured veterans over 60 and poor widows over 60 and ushered in a major growth period for both pension funding and the number of applicants. Revisions enacted in 1900 refined the classification and procedures for pensions, defining a system that would remain in force until 1919. Unfortunately, few applications for Confederate pensions under any of the pre-1919 acts survive either at the state or local level.

Act No. 176, 1919 S.C. Acts 275 established a Confederate Pension Department under the direction of a commissioner and a seven-member board and required all existing pensioners to reapply. The state board appointed a three-member board for each county to approve applications from local residents. Eligible pensioners included all veterans and widows over the age of sixty who had married veterans before 1890. The state pension board set the compensation and adjudicated any disputes forwarded from the county boards. The General Assembly provided $500,000 to pay for pensions. Changes the following year (Act No. 609, 1920 S.C. Acts 1099) eliminated the state board, named the comptroller general as pension commissioner, and authorized the local veterans camp to hear appeals of each county board's decision.

Act No. 63, 1923 S.C. Acts 107 allowed African Americans who had served at least six months as cooks, servants, or attendants to apply for a pension. Then in 1924, apparently because there were too many applications, the act was amended to eliminate all laborers, teamsters, and non-South Carolinians by extending eligibility only to South Carolina residents who had served the state for at least six months as "body servants or male camp cooks."

The legislature dropped the age of eligibility for widows to 55 in 1920, to 50 in 1921, and to 45 in 1930. Under the 1920 amendment, widows were eligible if they had been married by 1900, but a 1929 amendment extended eligibility to widows who had been married at least ten years. The state continued to pay Confederate widow pensions until the last widow died in 1990.

This series consists of 9,823 applications  for Confederate pensions or pension transfer documents, as well as about 600 related county pension lists and items of miscellaneous correspondence. The series includes applications from all counties except Williamsburg and York, which are missing. Veterans' applications give the units in which they served, dates of service, place of residence, and, in some cases, other details such as dates of birth and wounds received in service. Widows' applications give husbands' service record, dates of birth and marriage, place of residence, and dates of husbands' death. Some applications include other valuable miscellaneous biographical information or testimony as to character and place in the community.  With the exception of one widow's application from 1956, the latest applications date from 1938.

INDEX/FINDING AID: Names of applicants, witnesses, and commanding officers; places of residence; and selected subjects including military units and the term "Blacks, Confederate Service" are indexed in the repository's On-line Index to Confederate Pension Applications and in a computer output microfilm (COM) index produced by the repository in 1991. The pension lists and miscellaneous correspondence have not been indexed. 158 Horry County applications, #6240 (Adams, Ann) through #6398 (Rabon, Solomon) and more than 50 other scattered applications were inadvertently omitted from the COM index but are included in the on-line records index. Little attempt to standardize the names of military units was made in these indexes.

This series and related records are described in Patrick McCawley, Guide to Civil War Records: A guide to the records in the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, published by the repository in 1994.

ADDITIONAL FORM:  Entire series available in microfilm produced by the repository. The applications and supporting papers, but not the pension lists and miscellaneous correspondence, are also available in digital form on the repository's website.  The images on the website are linked to index hits from the on-line index. Abstracts of applications by African Americans under the act of 1923 are published, along with additional information, in Alexia Jones Helsley, South Carolina's African American Confederate Pensioners, 1923-1925 (Columbia: South Carolina Department of Archives and History, 1998). The applications noted in the Helsley publication as omitted or inadequately indexed in the computer output microfilm index have been subsequently added to the on-line index. The on-line index includes a few more applications by African Americans not included in the Helsley publication

County copies of applications from York County are available in manuscript and on microfilm produced by the repository in the repository. They have also been digitized and linked to index entries in the repository's On-line Records Index. 

Approximately 250 applications under earlier laws are available in Series S 126159, Applications for Confederate Pensions, 1888-1906. Most of these earlier applications date before 1895. 

Lists of those persons receiving pensions were printed as part of the annual reports of the Comptroller General in the series Reports and Resolutions to the General Assembly beginning in 1888. The 1901 list from the 1902 Reports and Resolutions has been reprinted in Brent H. Holcomb, editor, South Carolina's Confederate Pensioners in 1901 (Columbia, S.C.: SCMAR, 2001). Later lists report deaths within the year. 

County copies of pension applications that are in most cases duplicate to this series and county pension lists are also held by the repository. The South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina holds a Lexington County list of pensioners beginning in 1897.

HIERARCHICAL NOTE: Forms part of the records of the Pension Department of the Comptroller General.