History of the Collection
Although the official records of North Carolina's military role in the Civil War had been removed to Washington at the end of the war, the North Carolina Historical Commission, which was established in 1903, soon began collecting various Confederate military records and papers that had remained in private hands. When the United States entered World War I in 1917, a special history committee was appointed under the NC Council of Defense to collect the war records of the state. Records of special war-time agencies and private organizations were preserved, and a historian was appointed in each county to preserve records of the local war effort. The private papers of several former officers and soldiers were also obtained and were added to the World War I Collection. In a similar effort, a Collector of War Records was appointed in 1942 to coordinate efforts to preserve information about the role of North Carolina and her citizens during World War II, and County Collectors of War Records were appointed.
During the time that materials about these three wars were being collected, some records were apparently moved from state agency record groups to the Military Collection in order to show the state's involvement in colonial wars, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War. State agency records were also added to the compiled Civil War material. These added materials were probably from the records of the Adjutant General, who headed the state militia; the State Auditor, who kept records on those eligible for pensions; and the State Treasurer and State Comptroller, who made and checked the payments for military service and supplies. In the 1960s some identifiable records were returned to the records of their creating agency, but it is no longer possible to determine the original source of many items in the Military Collection. Papers from private sources were also added to the collections.
Military Collection Project
The Military Collection Project was initiated on July 1, 1996 for the purpose of enhancing the holdings of the Military Collection in the State Archives. Since that time, there has been an ongoing effort to collect and to preserve evidence of the military service of North Carolinians. The Military Collection is currently seeking:
Photographs: Original or copy print photographs of North Carolinians in their military uniforms (whether individual or group photographs), as well as photographs of related sites and subjects, such as North Carolina military bases and units. Original photographs may be donated or loaned temporarily for copying and then returned at no expense to the owner. Clear copy prints or high quality computer scans of photographs are also acceptable. Copy negatives are filed in the Non-Textual Materials Unit where they are available for research.
Original Personal Papers: Including letters or postcards written to or from a service member, diaries, printed ephemera, reminiscences, memoirs, or anecdotes.
Original and Copied Military Documents: These include items such as original sets of orders, certificates, citations, or discharges. While original documents are sought, the State Archives will accept a clear xerographic copy of a discharge in cases where the original cannot be donated. This exception is made because of the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis that destroyed over 80% of certain military records, primarily those of persons serving in the United States Army from approximately 1917 to 1964.
Oral Histories: As one aspect of the current Military Collection Project, the State Archives is recording audiocassette and video interviews with veterans pertaining to their experiences while in the military. To accomplish this, the Archives relies heavily on statewide volunteer support to conduct interviews. Anyone wishing to conduct interviews for the Military Collection Project may contact the project coordinator and receive a detailed interview guide, with supplements available appropriate to specific military conflicts and the separate branches of service. Those donating an interview are asked to sign a release form, granting the State Archives the right to make the interview available to the public and giving the State Archives any and all copyright interests in the interview, or any work derived from the interview.
All original, donated items are documented, arranged, described, and foldered/boxed in accordance with archival methods and procedures. The benefits of such donations are numerous, including:
- Providing a physically safe and archivally sound permanent repository for military-related materials that relate to the military history of North Carolina and her people
- Making these items available to the researching public
- Inhancing public awareness of the vital role played by North Carolinians in the defense of this country
- Encouraging the collection and preservation of other historically valuable items
Letters of thanks are prepared for all donations or loans received, whether originals or copies. Contracts of gift are prepared only for donated, original items. For more information, see the "Help Preserve N.C. Military History" flyer (PDF).