Beaufort County Black Confederate Pensioners

In 1877 the State of South Carolina began to offer pensions to destitute former Confederate soldiers and their widows. Terms were restrictive and the process was completely revamped in 1919. Unfortunately, few applications for Confederate pensions under any of the pre-1919 acts survive either at the state or local level.

The SC Department of Archives record series titled Confederate Pension Applications, 1919 - 1938 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.

Somewhat surprisingly, over 300 of the Confederate Pension applicants were African-Americans!

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."

Names of Confederate Pension applicants, witnesses, and commanding officers; places of residence; and selected subjects including military units and the term "Blacks, Confederate Service" are indexed in the SC Archives Records On-line Index.

I went to the Archives Records On-line Index, selected "All" in the drop-down box for Record Group; typed in "Blacks, Confederate Service" in the Topic box as instructed to do on the series description page; and got 331 results -- with online images attached!

Narrowing down the location to "Beaufort County," I found 3 former slaves living in Beaufort County in 1923 and 1924 who applied for Confederate Pensions on the basis of their service to their Confederate soldier masters. Read the applications for

Benjamin Singleton, servant of Capt. John H. Thompson
page 1
page 2

Sam Bold, servant of Michael Jenkins
page 1
page 2
page 3
page 4

Ceasar Scott, servant of John Oswald
page 1
page 2
page 3

We included the book South Carolina's African American Confederate Pensioners, 1923 - 1925 by Alexia Jones Helsley in the BDC Research Room display case to whet one's interest to learn more about this little known fact of South Carolina's history. Come visit us to read it.

Another good source for additional information about Confederate Pensions in South Carolina is Patrick McCawley's Guide to Civil War Records: A guide to the records in the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, also available in the BDC Research Room.

PS: Don't forget you can search the Confederate Pension Applications, 1919 - 1938 for white Confederate veterans, too.

About the Author

Grace Cordial has been responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Beaufort District Collection at the Beaufort County Library since 1999.  The Beaufort District Collection exists to acquire, preserve, maintain and make accessible a research collection of permanent value which records the history, culture, and environment of our part of the South Carolina lowcountry.  Besides the research room, Cordial manages the “Virtual BDC:” the BDC web pages, the Online Obituary Index, two digital collections, a new BDC.BCL Facebook page, and the Connections blog.  
 
Among her duties is to coordinate or present programs about local history, Gullah culture, and our coastal environment, including occasional instructional sessions about how to perform historical and/or genealogical research.