Southern Claims Commission
The Southern Claims Commission (SCC) was an organization of the executive branch of the United States government from 1871 to 1873 under President Ulysses S. Grant. Its purpose was to allow Union sympathizers who had lived in the Southern states during the American Civil War, 1861–1865, to apply for reimbursements for property losses due to U.S. Army confiscations during the war.
Southerners from 12 states (West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas) filed claims with the Southern Claims Commission from 1871 to 1873 if they:
- were loyal to the United States during the Civil War
- had supplies officially taken by or furnished to the U.S. Army in the war
Southern Loyalists (those who were Union sympathizers) made 22,298 claims. Only 32 percent of the claims (7,092) were approved for payment. The claimants used the testimony of their neighbors as evidence of their U.S. loyalty and property losses. The applications of claimants (successful or not), testimony, and the SCC papers provide excellent historical background information about Southern life during the Civil War.
Although only a few people per county qualified for a settlement, the application papers of the Southern Claims Commission typically include questions mentioning hundreds of their neighbors. Neighbors of all races, and classes were questioned and discussed in SCC records, potentially including:
- personal descriptions, and accounts of events during the war
- military records of claimants, or their relatives
- letters, diaries, and family Bible records
- wills, property inventories, and probate records
- Gary B. Mills, "U.S. Southern Claims Commission Master Index, 1871–1880" in Ancestry.com [Internet site].
- "Southern Claims Commission" in FamilySearch Research Wiki. Includes an advanced search strategy for genealogists.
- St. Louis County Library, "Researching Southern Claims Commission Records" in St. Louis County Library [Internet site]. Many of the NARA descriptive publications are actually online at this website including the next item.
- St. Louis County Library, "Geographical List of Southern Claims Commission Claimants" in St. Louis County Library [Internet site]. Use this list to find all the applicants in a given county.
- Footnote.com, a subscription site also available at some libraries, is beginning to index SCC records.
- Dick Eastman, "Southern Claims Commission 1871–1880 Online" in Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter explains SCC records.