Revolutionary War Records
- Hello Group......
This came in my mail today and I want to share with all of you:
Captured! Stories in Revolutionary War Records
By George G. Morgan
Every beginning genealogist quickly learns that some informational sources
are better than others. Granny's recollection and oral description of a
family wedding that occurred forty to fifty years ago may be slightly
incorrect because of the passage of time, or even because she only heard
about it from another family member.
Therefore, an exact image of the marriage license, the marriage return
entered in the courthouse, a newspaper wedding announcement, or a
descriptive letter written by a relative who attended the wedding (written
immediately after the event) will all be more reliable resources. That is
the case because they were created at or very near the time of the event.
And even though there may be factual flaws, transcription errors, and other
problems," these sources are essentially more reliable than Granny's
story--even though Granny's account is most certainly a pointer toward the
I recently had one of those revelations with one of my own ancestor's
American Revolutionary War stories. Let me explain.
My fourth great-grandfather was John Swords, born 19 March 1755 in York,
South Carolina, and died 28 September 1834 in Anderson, South Carolina. He
married Eleanor Swancey (Swancy) on 24 April 1782 in York, South Carolina,
and they proceeded to have eleven children whom I have been able to reliably
John was a participant in the American Revolutionary War. According to one
printed source, John Swords enlisted while residing in York District and was
in the Snow Campaign. During the spring of 1777, he served under Captain
George Warley and Colonel Sumter. He was on the Florida Expedition and in
the battles at Beaufort and Stono. He was in the siege of Savannah under
Captain Boyce. After being taken prisoner at the Siege of Savannah, he was
held two weeks before he escaped. Next, he was under Colonel Bratton and was
in the battles at Rocky Mount, Hanging Rock, and Eutaw Springs.
Revolutionary War Pensions
Well, that was all very interesting. However, a number of years ago I had
ordered his Revolutionary War Pension File from NARA (#W8773), which dated
from 1818. The pension file was rich in information. John Swords signed his
'X' on his affidavit sworn before the court. The affidavit attested to his
having been taken prisoner at the Battle of Savannah. It was a fierce battle
that commenced on 9 October 1789. Among the participants were Samuel Davis,
father of future Confederate President Jefferson Davis; Polish Count Casimir
Pulaski; and Major Pierce Charles L'Enfant, future architect of Washington.
By the end of the day, 800 of the initial force of 5,000 American and French
soldiers fighting the English lay dead. And, according to John Swords'
affidavit, he had been taken prisoner.
Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-83
During this Memorial Day weekend, I spent some time exploring the vast
collection of military records databases at Ancestry. One database that
particularly caught my attention was the U.S. Revolutionary War Rolls,
1775-1783 that includes the Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783 (National
Archives Microfilm Publication M246, 138 rolls), and the War Department
Collection of Revolutionary War Records (Record Group 93; National Archives,
You must realize two facts about this database before you begin.
1. The records were indexed by Direct Data Capture, which probably generated
their index by copying the index card file that exists to reference these
files. These card files do contain transcription errors of names, and so you
should try alternative spellings, initials, nicknames, and reversed given
2. A click on the View Record link will present you with the first scanned
image of the roll of microfilm on which your ancestor's record is located.
You'll therefore have to browse through each record until you find your
My ancestor's name is John SWORDS. However, my previous experience working
with the index card file succeeded only when I "learned to misspell my
ancestor's name" as SOARDS. When my first search for the surname "Swords" in
the index failed, I remembered this alternate spelling. Sure enough, when I
entered "Soards" in the surname box, the first entry in the list was John
Soards, a private who served from South Carolina and whose record would be
found in roll box 89. A click on View Record or the View Images icon took me
to a record from which I clicked and went to the digitized image of the
title page of Roll 89.
There were 389 images on the roll, and I settled in with determination that
I would find John Swords' record. These records are essentially muster roll
and payroll records. The first image is the outside of the document,
containing identifying information about the unit and a statement by the
paymaster; the second image is typically an abstract of the payroll--number
of individuals by rank and the amount paid. The third page is a list, in
rank order (and often in alphabetical sequence), of every soldier, including
details about his service and pay rate.
Image 298 (see the blog version of this article to view the image) is the
Pay Roll of Captain George Warleys company in the 6th Regimt of South
Carolina continental Troops commanded by Colo Wm Henderson from the 1st of
August to the 1st December 1779." Near the bottom of the page, I found John
Swords, a private. His pay period commenced on 1 August 1779, with a subsidy
on 13 August, and the pay was until 9 October 1779. His rate of pay and
subsidy are listed, and a total amount of pay and subsidies in dollars is
listed--what appears to be $32 and 30�. Finally, however, is the
corroborating evidence that so excited me. In the column labeled "Casualties
is the notation "Missing 9 Octo Savannah."
This certainly is a lot closer to the actual time of the event of John
Swords' capture than is the affidavit sworn in 1818. I have no doubt that
his being taken prisoner at the Battle of Savannah remained vivid in John's
mind, but the date may not have been exactly recalled. In addition, I
believe that the records maintained by the paymaster were quite meticulous.
While this pay report was prepared almost two months after the Battle of
Savannah, by its very nature I would place substantial weight on its
accuracy. I now have another excellent piece of source evidence about my
fourth great-grandfather. It took some perseverance and patience, but this
is exactly the type of research I enjoy.
Check the massive collection of military database records at Ancestry and
you will not be disappointed. And, by the way, I especially recommend
viewing the WWII newsreels. They are addictive too!
Listen to The Genealogy Guys Podcast each week for fun, entertaining, and
informative genealogy discussions. George's brand new book, The Official
Guide to Ancestry.com, is now available from his company's website, Aha!
Seminars, Inc. at and personally autographed by the author.
Researching: (Main Capitalized)
BAKER, Barrow, BEAMAN, BLOUNT, Bonner, Bours, Braxton, CANNON, Carraway,
COX, Chester, Dail, ELLIS, Faircloth, Gardner, HANCOCK, HARDEE, Hardison,
Harris, Harper, Harrington, Heath, Hollyman (all sp), JACKSON, Johnson,
Jones, Letchworth, Manning, McGLOHON (all sp), McGOWAN, McKeel, Mills,
Mitchell, Mumford, PHILLIPS, Price, Shaw, Smith, Sumrell, Stocks, Stokes,
Tyson, Vandiford, Walls, Walston, Weeks, Wilkerson, WINGATE, Wetherington,
Worthington, plus ++++
GenealogyPITT Co NC Friends In Research
(Serving all Eastern/Coastal NC Counties)
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