The mission of the Military Collection of the State Archives of North Carolina is to document and preserve records detailing the State of North Carolina’s rich military history, from the state’s period as a British colony in the seventeenth century to the present day.
The Military Collection collects, arranges, describes, preserves, and makes accessible to the public historical materials that document the history and development of North Carolina’s military history for all military conflicts involving its citizens, residents, and enlisted military personnel (either from or who received training) in North Carolina.
As the largest collection of records detailing North Carolina’s military heritage in the country, the State Archives’ Military Collection works to ensure the state’s citizens a professionally-curated research collection of military history; to support public and educational programming, scholarly and student research, and the public interest in relation to the mission of the State Archives of North Carolina.
Collection Scope and Organization
The Military Collection’s primary focus is collecting original historical materials concerning the military history of the people and events occurring in or involving the state of North Carolina (and, prior to its statehood, the North Carolina colony). Military materials presently maintained within the Military Collection include the following: official and personal correspondence; photographs; military camp publications and unit newsletters; regimental and unit records; troop returns, rosters and descriptive rolls; muster and pay rolls; reminiscences, memoirs, and diaries; select service records; unit records and histories; wartime propaganda and recruitment posters; military maps; official military publications; and materials concerning war-related organizations and home-front activities.
Materials and individual collections in the Military Collection are arranged according to the military conflict and miscellaneous military campaigns, starting with papers related to the coastal incursions of the “Spanish Invasion” (1742—1748). The collection is accessible through traditional finding aids in the Archives Search Room, a few of which are also available online, and some collections have been indexed in the MARS Online Catalog. In addition, many materials related to the Civil War, World War I, and World War II from the Military Collection are available through the North Carolina Digital Collections.
History of the Military Collection
Although the official records of North Carolina’s military role in the U.S. Civil War were removed to Washington, D.C., at the end of the war, the North Carolina Historical Commission, established in 1903, soon began collecting various Confederate military records and papers that had remained in private hands. These materials became the basis of the Military Collection’s Civil War Collection.
When the United States entered World War I in 1917, a special history committee was appointed under the North Carolina Council of Defense, in coordination with the North Carolina Historical Commission’s war records collection project, to collect select war records of the state. Records of special wartime agencies, the North Carolina Council of Defense, the Food and Fuel Administrations, schools and colleges, nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross county chapters, and collections of individual soldiers’ materials were preserved. The Historical Commission gathered these records with the authorization of Sections 3 and 4 of Chapter 144 of the North Carolina Public Laws and Resolutions in 1919. Acting under authority of this law, the Historical Commission chose Robert B. House to be their official Collector of World War Records, and House began his work June 19, 1919. A voluntary county war records collector was selected in each county to gather as many original records that documented the local war effort as possible, and send their records to the Historical Commission. The Historical Commission continued this war records collection effort after the war ended.
During World War II, in February 1942, North Carolina governor J. Melville Broughton stressed the importance of preserving the records of the state’s part in World War II, and requested the Historical Commission to undertake the program. On October 1, 1942, Elmer D. Johnson was given the title of Collector of Records, and assigned to collect the records of the state and its citizens’ role in World War II, similar to the one for World War I.
Between World War II and 1994, the State Archives of North Carolina collected archival materials documenting North Carolinians in all wars up through the Vietnam War. In 1994, the State Archives began the Military Collection Project, to document all living WWI and WWII veterans through oral history interviews and collecting records of individual soldiers. In 1996, the Military Collection’s Veterans Oral History Project began, to capture oral history interviews with North Carolina veterans, specifically WWI and WWII.
From 1996 to 2014, a formal Military Collection was begun within the State Archives for the collecting and preserving of original archival materials, donated from individuals, to document North Carolina and its citizens’ role in all wars in which America was involved. In 2014, a permanent Military Collection Archivist was hired by the State Archives, with the goal of expanding the collection.
Donating Military Records and Materials
If you are a military veteran and would be interested in donating your military service materials, or if you have military materials belonging to a North Carolina veteran and are interested in donating the materials, you can contact the Military Collection Archivist, Matthew Peek, by calling his office at (919) 807-7314, or emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Potential Donation Inquiry.”
You can also contact the Military Collection through the following form, which is emailed directly to the Military Collection Archivist. Please describe the materials you have and are interested in donating, who owns the materials, for what military service individual(s) the materials document, and in what military engagements or wars the individual(s) was involved in the “Comments” section of the form: