A Blog Post by Elaine Rohr, Archivist
Since its establishment by the state legislature in 1905, the South Carolina Department of Archives and History has amassed a stellar collection of American Revolutionary War material unmatched by many other state archives. What could be called the crown jewels of this treasure trove are a series entitled “Accounts Audited of Claims Growing out of the Revolution”—usually termed “audited accounts,” or “AA’s”—which comprises more than 10,000 files; and an accompanying series called “Stub Books for Indented Certificates Issued in Payment of Revolutionary War Claims,” most often termed “stub entries,” or “stubs.”
The origins of the audited accounts and their concomitant stubs lie in the need of the Revolutionary government to maintain an army in the field once the formal machinery of government collapsed upon the British reduction and occupation of Charleston in May 1780. Since the Patriot government had no ready cash to pay for service or supplies, it established a system of credit in which regimental officers issued vouchers—basically I.O.U’s—to pay soldiers, buy provisions, borrow money, and obtain any other necessary services. People who received these vouchers did so on faith that the state would reimburse them at the end of the war.
This system of procurement by voucher lasted until the end of the war in 1783. At that time, the newly re-formed state government found itself facing a crushingly large war debt. One of the first things that the legislature did was to pass an act establishing the office of “Receiver, Auditor and Accountant General,” as well as deputy auditors for each district who were to collect and organize residents’ claims and then forward them to the Auditor’s Office, where they would be examined, or “audited,” for validity.
The General Assembly ordered the approved claims paid by the State Treasurer. However, the state had been devastated by the war, and there were no funds to pay them. As a result, the Treasury Commissioners opted to issue another form of I.O.U.’s to the claimants—interest-bearing promissory certificates called “principal indents,” which carried with them the promise of redemption within two years of the principal sum as well as a 7% annual interest total that would have accrued. The treasurers created the indents on pre-printed forms in large books similar to modern checkbooks, recording the number assigned to the indent; the date of issue; the name of the claimant; the amount, including interest owed; and the type of service rendered on both the certificate and attached stub. To prevent counterfeiting, they cut through the decorative border between the certificate and stub in a wavy, or “indented,” fashion. The claimant received the certificate, or indent, while the treasurers retained the stub. Later, when the holder presented his indent for payment, the Commissioners checked the claim for a match with a similarly numbered stub—like putting together two large pieces of a puzzle.
If an indent holder did not wish to wait for later cash redemption (and, after a time, many didn’t as they had come to feel that these indents were worthless since the state remained insolvent for many years), he or she could use the principal as a medium of exchange per se in order to purchase either public lands or confiscated Loyalist estates. Or course, the holder could also sell the indent, and most did so—often at a loss to speculators. In fact, despite its promise of paying the indents within two years, the state could never on its own afford to redeem the claims. As a result, in 1790, the federal government assumed South Carolina’s war debt, and, at that time, more than 3/4ths of that debt was held by only 77 individuals or firms.
In 1799, the state created the office of the Comptroller General, and by 1801, this office had assumed control from the Treasurer of the audited account files. From that day forward they remained under the control of the Comptroller General until they were transferred to the State Historical Commission; however, they did not stay in one place.
In February 1865, as Union General William T. Sherman approached Columbia, the various heads of state offices became responsible for transferring the records to a safer location. Although some state officers were lax in fulfilling this duty, the Secretary of State, William Richardson Huntt, worked tirelessly to secure the records held by his office as well as some of those that were not. Despite the threat to his own home and family, he paid for a wagon and team to load 90 wooden boxes of precious state records onto a boxcar, and then personally rode with his “charges” to various locations over the next few months, always searching for a safe haven for them. It is to Huntt that we owe the survival of many of the state documents, such as grants and plats—and the records of the Comptroller General, including the Revolutionary War records.
After the end of the war, the records made it back to Columbia, where they had no permanent home until the 1880’s, when they were placed in an empty 3rd floor room of the State House. Over time, this chamber came to be a storage area called the “rubbish room,” where all types of old and mostly forgotten documents were dumped. In 1902, after having learned that Revolutionary War material, including principal indents and stubs, was included amongst the “rubbish” on the third floor—in some places, paper up to ten feet high—the legislature authorized the Secretary of State to locate, arrange, and index these materials. In 1905, they were transferred to what would become the State Archives, the State Historical Commission, where the first Director, Mr. Alexander S. Salley, arranged the claims into packets in alphabetical order, numbered them, and indexed them on cards.
In 1935, Mr. Salley began processing a voluminous collection of state legislative papers that contained many documents dealing with Revolutionary War service. He decided to interfile many of these records, such as petitions for state pensions, with those in the audited accounts. Over time, staff added other documents such as Treasury records dealing with pension payments. The ultimate result was a fairly comprehensive Revolutionary War file for each claimant. To protect the integrity of the series, staff deacidified and laminated the contents of the files and microfilmed them. In 2018, thanks to the Southern Revolutionary War Institute and the late Michael Scoggins, our agency added digitized images of this microfilm to our Online Records index.
Not all indents and stubs created survived, but a large number did and are easily accessible here at the Archives. The best way to determine whether there is an existing audited account for someone you are researching is to check our agency online index from our website, scdah.sc.gov. Once you download our homepage, roll your mouse onto the phrase “Research and Genealogy.” Under the menu under “Online Research,” choose the option “Online Records Index.” A page with the word Explore at the top appears. Click on “Just take me to the search page,” which gives you access to the index template, where you will need to fill out the fields. Remember to enter last name, then a space, and then first name (as you would when performing an author search at a library) in the field “Full Name.” Should you have problems accessing this index, please call our reference room for aid at 803-896-6104 or 803-896-6105. Also, should you not find the name of the person you seek on this index, you might wish to make a trip to our facility, where you can check the index cards to the audited accounts in our old card catalogue, which is located in the reference room. Unlike the online index, the index cards cross-reference many names as well as include the references for the surviving stub entries. If it is not feasible for you to visit us, you may ask that a staff member make a search for you by calling us or by emailing a request. You may do this from our homepage under “Research and Genealogy” by dropping down to “Research Requests,” and then choosing either “Genealogy Research Request Form” or “Historical Research Request Form.”
An option for determining whether your ancestor has an audited account and/or a stub entry for service only is checking Dr. Bobby Moss’ book Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution. We have a copy of this work in our reference room library (E263.S7.M5), and many other libraries have a copy that you can access or even check out. You can also access this book on the subscription website, ancestry.com. Our agency has a subscription to this site as do many libraries. A caveat to bear in mind is that Dr. Moss does not include in his work those audited accounts or stubs created for supplying funds or provisions. So if your ancestor has an extant audited account and/or stub for providing monies, beef, forage, wagons, etc., to the state, you will not find a reference to it in Moss; however, you should find it in our card catalogue.
Those of you who would like to learn more about the creation and conservation of the surviving audited accounts and stubs might wish to consult a pamphlet centering upon them, SCDAH Microcopy No. 8 (located in our reference room), written by Judith M. Brimelow. Anyone seeking a bit more lowdown on William Richardson Huntt’s salvaging of many of the state records should read the article “William R. Huntt and the Rescue of South Carolina’s Records,” by Alexia Jones Helsley, which can be found at pages 259-263 in Vol. 87 of the South Carolina Historical Magazine.
Of course, SCDAH possesses many records pertaining to Revolutionary War service other than the audited accounts and stubs. A good inventory of our holdings, covering both Patriot and Loyalist material, is Dr. Charles Lesser’s Sources for the American Revolution at the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, which you can download from our website. From our homepage, under “Research and Genealogy,” click on “Military Records,” which is found under the heading “Resources.” You will find this work listed under the section pertaining to the American Revolution.
Just a quick exploration of our agency website, including a look at Dr. Lesser’s booklet and our online index, reveals that anyone investigating pretty much any aspect of South Carolina’s role during the American Revolution will find our agency rich in resources, many of these available at researchers’ fingertips! Should you have any questions about our collections or simply wish to come and browse, please call us or visit us at the Archives. Our staff welcome your interest and are happy to aid you in your search.