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South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872

February 20, 2015 by | 14 Comments

John Gordon Bill of Sale
Part of Fold3’s Black History Collection is the South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872. Like the title suggests, this item contains bills of sale, inventory and appraisement books, and inventories of estates from the Charleston area of South Carolina between 1732 and 1872. It is a joint project with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, Family Search, and the Lowcountry Africana group.

Among other uses, this publication can be invaluable for tracking down African American ancestors in the Charleston area, especially if they were slaves. Because slaves were considered property, when they were sold, a bill of sale was filled out, and when an estate was appraised for tax or probate purposes, slaves were listed and appraised along with the other items belonging to the estate. Such documentation is what makes this collection such a rich resource for finding slave ancestors. However, be aware that since slaves didn’t always have surnames, you’ll most likely need to look for them in this collection through the name of the slave owner.

Some examples of bills of sale and estate inventories include:

  • A bill of sale from 1826 for about 100 slaves, listed by given name
  • A bill of sale from 1804 for 3 slaves that provides both their American and African names
  • A 1757 inventory for the estate of Richard Cochran Ash that lists multiple slaves and their values, including one that was a runaway
  • An 1827 inventory for the estate of Thomas Drayton that lists his 160 slaves by family group

Estate Inventory of Joseph Morton, Free African American, Charleston, SC, 1810
An important thing to remember in African American genealogy is that not all African Americans living in antebellum America were slaves—hundreds of thousands, even in the South, were free. You’ll see this reflected within this collection by the presence of inventories for the estates of free African Americans, which provide interesting insight into the lifestyles and possessions of free blacks.

A few examples are:

  • An 1810 inventory for the estate of Joseph Morton, a “free black man”
  • An 1829 inventory for the estate of John Martin Logan, a “free person”

And even if you don’t have ancestors who appear in this collection—whether slaves, slave owners, or free African Americans—it still provides a fascinating look into America’s slave-owning past. So take some time to search or browse the South Carolina Estate Inventories and Bills of Sale, 1732-1872, on Fold3.

150th Anniversary (1865–2015) This Month in the Civil War: Burning of Columbia, SC

February 10, 2015 by | 54 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

After General Sherman’s destructive march through Georgia at the end of 1864, he turned his army north to the Carolinas. When they reached Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, in mid-February 1865, the Union troops found the Confederates forces already evacuating.

According to Sherman, there was no plan to burn Columbia, aside from destroying strategic locations such as public buildings, railroad depots, and factories. Apparently, when his occupying soldiers entered the city, they found the Confederates had left bales of cotton burning in the city streets, which—when combined with gusting winds—were a disaster waiting to happen. But however the fires began, the fact remains that on the 17th and into the 18th, Columbia burned in a vast conflagration.

Columbia South Carolina destroyed
Although there were attempts to extinguish the fires, the situation was exacerbated by Union soldiers who looted the town and spread the fire, drunk on the widely available liquor and full of animosity toward the state seen as the “cradle of secession.” (For this lawless behavior, 370 soldiers were arrested.) When the fires died down on the 18th, Columbia was a city in ashes: as much as two-thirds of the city had been destroyed.

Sherman’s army pulled out on the 20th to continue north on its campaign. Sherman later remarked on the destruction of Columbia that “Though I never ordered it, and never wished it, I have never shed any tears over it, because I believed that it hastened what we all fought for—the end of the war.”

200 years ago the War of 1812 Ended

February 4, 2015 by | 22 Comments

Treaty of Ghent
This month marks the 200th anniversary of the end of the War of 1812. The hostilities formally ended on February 17, 1815, at 11 p.m., when President Madison exchanged ratification documents for the Treaty of Ghent with a British representative.

Although both countries had been exploring the possibility of peace since almost the beginning of the war, official peace negotiations didn’t begin until August 1814 in Ghent, Belgium. The American delegation was made up of some of the best America had to offer: John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, Jonathan Russell, and James A. Bayard. Britain, on the other hand, sent lesser-known diplomats, reserving its stronger players for the Congress of Vienna, which began around the same time and addressed European issues following Napoleon’s initial defeat.

News of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent arrives in Britain
Although the two delegations came to the table with many issues to negotiate, in the end the treaty avoided virtually all those subjects—as well as the grievances (such as impressment and restriction of neutral trade) that had caused the war in the first place. Leaving to future resolution nearly all issues the two sides disagreed on, the treaty only really ended hostilities and gave each nation back whatever territory it possessed at the beginning of the war. Neither side emerged a clear victor in the negotiations.

The British and American representatives signed the treaty on December 24, 1814, and the British government ratified it a few days later. However, although the Treaty of Ghent was signed in December, news traveled slowly to the Americas, which meant that some battles—most famously the Battle of New Orleans—were fought after the treaty was signed.

Britain receives word of ratification of Treaty of Ghent by US
A month and a half after the British ratification, the treaty finally made it across the ocean to the United States, and on February 16th, the Senate unanimously ratified the treaty. Madison approved it later the same day and then exchanged ratifications with the British on the 17th, ending the war.
Interested in the War of 1812 or have ancestors who served in it? Explore Fold3’s War of 1812 collection, including pension application files and service records.

Access the Black History Records

February 1, 2015 by | 3 Comments

Black History Month

Recontruction and Jim Crow Laws
In recognition of Black History Month, Fold3 wants to remind you to access all publications in its Black History Collection.

In order to make browsing these records easier, Fold3 has divided them into the categories of Slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction & Jim Crow Laws, the World Wars, and the Civil Rights Movement. Just select the era you’re interested in to start looking through the associated photos and documents.

Black History in the Civil War
Some of the records contained in our Black History collection are the Danish West Indies Slave Records, Suppression of Slave Trade and Colonization records, Amistad Federal Court records, Amistad Supreme Court records, American Colonization Society records, Court Slave Records for DC, records of the Emancipation of Slaves in DC, US Colored Troops records, Negro Subversion records of the Military Intelligence Division—and many, many more.

Interesting finds in the Black History records include:

  • A letter from Thomas Jefferson to the governor of Georgia about slaves running away to Florida
  • A Civil War–era photograph of black laborers
  • The service record of Christian A. Fleetwood of the US Colored Infantry, who earned the Medal of Honor during the Civil War
  • A copy of the 13th Amendment
  • A 1914 newspaper article about a black man who disappeared after being taken from his bed by a group of white men
  • A copy of a 1919 newspaper article about a “fiery” anti-lynching address given by a black pastor
  • A photograph of 3 members of the original black fighter squadron in WWII
  • A photograph of President Eisenhower meeting with black leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.
  • A program from the March on Washington

Get started searching Fold3’s Black History records here. Or look for individual collections by name here.

Civil War Horse Soldier Artifacts Collection

January 18, 2015 by | 14 Comments

Three-generation Civil War Photo
One of our newest collections on Fold3 is The Civil War Horse Soldier Artifacts Collection. Like the title suggests, this collection contains images of Civil War artifacts from the Horse Solider antique store in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Many of the artifacts are photographs of soldiers, but there are also some images of weapons—like guns and swords—as well as images of belts, drill and tactics manuals, official documents, letters, medals, uniforms, cartridge boxes, mess kits, and other personal effects. Most artifacts included in the collection are accompanied by a detailed written description and history of the item, and many also include a brief biography of the soldier the item belonged to.

Some interesting finds in the Horse Soldier collection include:

.69 caliber rifled-musket

Although we hope that you find something that belonged to one of your Civil War ancestors in the collection, even if you don’t, the artifacts can help you get an idea of the types of items your relatives may have owned during their time in the military.

Interested in Civil War artifacts? Get started searching or browsing Fold3’s Horse Soldier collection here. Or search all Fold3 collections here.

Creation of the Seabees: January 5, 1942

January 1, 2015 by | 148 Comments

Tarawa, Gilbert - Bombing
January 5 marks the day in 1942 that Rear Admiral Ben Moreell was given authorization to create the Seabees, the naval force that would carry out an astonishingly diverse array of construction tasks at home and abroad for the Navy during World War II.

The creation of the Seabees (short for Construction Battalions) was deemed essential following America’s entrance into the war, when it became clear that, rather than continuing to use civilian contractors who couldn’t defend themselves against enemy attack, the navy needed military men to build bases, landing strips, and so on in current and potential war zones.

Seabee Personnel Matters
In the beginning, Seabees were recruited on a voluntary basis from over 60 construction trades and ranged in age from 18 to 50, with an average age of 37. But after December 1942, they were drafted via the Selective Service System, and the average age dropped. By the war’s end, about 325,000 men had served in the Seabees.

The motto of the Seabees was “We Build, We Fight,” and build they did. Whether serving in the Pacific or the Atlantic, they took on an amazing range of projects, often using ingenuity and a “can do” attitude to accomplish what seemed to be impossible. Some of their most common projects included unloading ships; building, enlarging, and maintaining bases; building pontoon causeways; cutting roads; serving in demolition units; building piers, wharfs, breakwaters, and offshore docks; operating landing craft; repairing damaged buildings; installing plumbing, lighting, communication lines, and power lines; making and repairing airstrips, airfields, and control towers; and building hospitals, warehouses, chapels, and housing—just to name a few.

Seabees building and airstrip
Although the Seabees weren’t generally used in active combat, they frequently landed with the assault forces and thus were trained to be able to defend themselves if necessary. One famous Seabee, Aurelio Tassone, earned a Silver Star when he used his bulldozer to crush an enemy-occupied pillbox in the Solomon Islands. The comparable bravery of many other Seabees was reflected in the 33 Silver Stars and 5 Navy Crosses they earned in the war—and by the fact that almost 300 of them were killed in action.

Do you have any Seabee relatives? If so, try looking for them or their battalions on Fold3. Or if the Seabees in general have caught your interest, try doing a broader search to find thousands of documents about the force.

150th Anniversary (1865–2015) This Month in the Civil War: Fall of Fort Fisher

January 1, 2015 by | 11 Comments

Civil War Collection 150th Anniversary

On January 15, 1865, Fort Fisher, in North Carolina, fell after a three-day combined land-and-sea assault by Union troops.

In December, Union major general Benjamin Butler had tried to bring down the Confederate fort (known as the “Gibraltar of the South” for its defenses) with the assistance of Rear Admiral David D. Porter but had aborted his attack. Butler was replaced with Major General Alfred H. Terry, who, along with Porter, tried again in January to take the fort, which sat on a peninsula guarding the river entrance to Wilmington, North Carolina, the last major Confederate port on the Atlantic and a supply lifeline for the Confederacy and its army.

Fort FisherOn the 13th, Porter and his 60 ships began a grueling bombardment of the fort. This lasted until 3 o’clock on the 15th, when Terry and half of his 8,000 available troops—along with 2,000 marines and sailors—began the land attack. The marines and sailors, who streamed down the peninsula to attack from the seaward side, suffered heavy losses from Confederate fire in their unsuccessful attempt, but they served as a distraction from Terry’s main force, which came at the fort from the river side.

After bloody hand-to-hand fighting, the Union force managed to take the fort. However, although the Union troops were the victors—and outnumbered the Confederates—they suffered more severe losses: 1,300 killed or wounded compared to the Confederates’ 500. Wilmington would fall into Union hands a month later.

For the full official correspondence regarding the second battle for Fort Fisher, see Fold3’s Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, series 1, volume 11, pages 425–596.