The Valley of the Shadow

About the Southern Claims Commission Papers

The United States Congress created the Southern Claims Commission on March 3, 1871 so that pro-Union Southerners who had lost property to invading Union armies could request compensation. Congress most likely took this step to help calm the sectional tensions of the Reconstruction era. There were also some clear political motivations underlying the creation of the Commission--northern Republicans had long hoped that Southern Unionists would join the Republican Party, and they hoped to cement their allegiance as the former Confederate states returned to full representation in Congress.

Congress initially expected the Commission's duties to last for two years, but they extended its life until 1879 due to the overwhelming number of claims they received. During those nine years, Southerners filed 22,298 cases, claiming more than $60 million in damages. Special Commissioners were appointed to take testimony in cities and towns throughout the former Confederate states, so that claimants did not have to travel to Washington, D.C. Each claimant filed a petition and testified before the Special Commissioner, answering a list of fifty-seven to eighty standing questions that the Commission had created. (There were actually three different lists--the Commission created the original list, with 57 questions, in 1871, expanding it in 1872, and again in 1874. The 1874 list is posted on this site.) The claimant then called witnesses, who also testified before the Special Commissioner. Many claimants also sent notarized letters from acquaintances who were not available to testify. The three members of the Claims Commission, Asa Owen Aldis, Orange Ferris, and James B. Howell (all northern Republicans), read each file and made a recommendation to the House of Representatives, who ultimately had the power to grant remuneration.

In order to receive compensation, claimants had to satisfy four general requirements:

  1. Claimant held United States citizenship
  2. Claimant resided in a state that had seceded
  3. Claimant could prove his or her loyalty to the United States throughout the Civil War
  4. United States troops had taken the claimant's goods for official army purposes

The testimony that accompanied each claim addressed both the loyalty of the claimant and the circumstances under which the property had been confiscated. Ultimately, only 7,092 claimants--or about one third--satisfied all four requirements and received compensation for their property. The total cost of satisfying these claims came to $4,636,930. 137 residents of Augusta County filed claims between 1871 and 1879, but the Commission only allowed 36 of these claims.

A few of the disallowed claims received a second consideration in the 1890s. Under the terms of the Bowman Act (March 3, 1883) and the Tucker Act (March 3, 1887), claimants could transfer their cases to the Congressional Court of Claims and ask for an appeal on unfavorable findings. Forty-two residents of Augusta County, most under the guidance of Washington, D.C., lawyer Gilbert Moyers, appealed their cases to the Court of Claims, often taking new testimony before filing a series of legal briefs. These appeals sometimes lasted years; the final judgments for some Augusta County claimants did not come until 1906.

Each case file contains a petition, which included a list of all confiscated property and a summary of the testimony, and testimony from the claimant and at least one witness. Many claimants called several witnesses, and some also appended letters and receipts. A number of the files contain memoranda from the War Department Archives Office, comprising further evidence regarding the claimant's loyalty. Finally, each file contains a summary sheet listing the value of the property claimed, whether the claim was allowed or disallowed, and the Commissioners' comments on the case. Files for cases referred to the Court of Claims usually also contain additional testimony and briefs by lawyers for the claimant and the government.

On the Valley of the Shadow site, researchers can browse Augusta County claims by the name of the claimant or search by date or keyword. Each claim has a short summary, which you can read on the browsing pages. The claims begin with the Commissioners' chart and summary, and then continue with testimony and any additional evidence. In most cases, the claimant's testimony is listed first. When the claimant appealed his case to the Court of Claims, those legal briefs are also included.

Of the 137 claims from Augusta County, 106 are included on the site. According to the National Archives, some two thousand allowed claims were inadvertently destroyed between 1879 and 1950, including twelve from Augusta County. Nineteen additional claims, presumably all disallowed, were also unavailable. The following lists contain the names of all claimants from Augusta County:

Allowed Claims Disallowed Claims Other Claims (Unknown
if allowed or disallowed)
Andrew J. Acord
Robert E. Alexander
Alexander Anderson
Mary Blackburn
John Brown
Thomas Calbreath
Frederick K. Cline [Kline]
Frederick M. Cline
Joseph M. Cline
Rebecca Coffman
Ellen C. Cox
James K. East
Lydia Fishburn
Abraham D. Garber
Elizabeth Garber
Martin Garber
William W. Hailey
G.W. Hess
Jacob Hess
George W. Hollar
Ephraim Hulvey
Samuel D. Humbert
Thomas and Nancy Jefferson
Christian Landes
John Miller
David Myers
Waller Odor
Samuel D. Stover
Philip D. Swisher
Samuel H. Swisher
Hiram Thompson
David Thornton
Matthew Tisdale
David Wampler
George Ware
Richard Anderson
George L. Arehart
Benjamin T. Bagley
Mary Baker
John H. Bates
James W. Beard
David Bowers
Jacob Bowman
David Buchanan
John R. Buchanan
William Bull
John Bumgardner
Jacob B. Carwell
George Craun
Joseph H. Craun
James F. Davis
Lewis Defenbaugh
Henry DeMasters
Harriet Doom
Samuel Driver
Henry K. Eakle
Peter Elinger
John Engleman
William D. Ewing
John B. Fauver
Daniel Fishburn
Adam Fix
John H. Fix
Joseph Flory
David Fultz
George W. Furr
Eli A. Garber
Reuben A. Garber
Samuel Garber
William Gibson
Thomas J. Gilbert
Samuel Glick
David Gutherie
Hannah M. Hanger
Thomas Hayden
William D. Hemp
Jacob L. Humbert
Julia Hurley
John K. Keiser
Elias Kindig
Christian Kline
John W. Landes
William A. Landes
Abraham Lavell
Adams Lushbaugh
John A. Mann
William L. Masincup
Amelia McCray
Daniel Miller
Henry Mish
Hays Moffett
Medley Moore
Franklin H. Myers
Jacob Myers
Andrew J. Palmer
Christian Palmer
John Price
John D. Price
James S. Quick
Kilburn H. Rowsey
John Ruebush
David Sansabaugh
Peter Sheets
Abner Shumake
Simon Stickley
William Stickley
Jacob Stover
Simon P. Stover
William V. Strough
Julius C. Waddle
Benjamin F. Wampler
John Wampler
Jonas Wampler
Isaac Ware
John Wine Jr.
Alexander Andrews
Benjamin J. Craig
Samuel Crickenberger
Jacob Crumbaker
John Dettor
John Glick
William R. Hicks
Samuel Huffman
John M. Humbert
Valentine Hupman
Joseph F. Niswander
George Peters
Peter Ruebush
Albert Sheets
Moses B. Smart
Daniel Stover
Henry Tutwiler
David Wampler
Joseph Williams


  • Susanna Michelle Lee, "Claiming the Union: Stories of Loyalty in the Post-Civil War South." Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Virginia, 2005.
  • Gary B. Mills, Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1994).

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