In October 2006, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum purchased a legal option for $10,000 for the recently discovered papers of General Colin J. McRae, the Confederacy’s chief financial agent in Europe during the first half of the Civil War. This collection had been recently re-discovered in the attic of the historic Shepard House in Mobile, Alabama, now a lovely bed and breakfast owned and operated by Wendy and Bill James.
No one was aware of the collection or its significance until the James's posted several of the documents on the internet, alerting knowledgeable Civil War scholars and collectors that something new had surfaced in the historical community. The approximately 3300 papers had been found in boxes of papers of the old Shepard School, a private and progressive (for its time) school for Mobile children, founded by the granddaughter of Colin McRae’s sister, around 1900. General Colin McRae and his brother, former Governor John McRae of Mississippi had perished in Belize after the War, leaving no surviving children, and McRae’s papers were thought to have perished with them.
The McRae papers are not only very relevant to South Carolina Confederate history, but reveal much about the commercial history of South Carolina, including the major role of South Carolina’s business community in the war effort. Fighting for independence, the Confederate States required arms and equipment for its military and South Carolina played a pivotal roll in the acquisition and importation of war supplies.
Over 800 documents provide new evidence on the major significance of English imports to the Confederate war effort. The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum plans to combine the wealth of information in the McRae Papers with examples of imported Confederate arms, uniforms, and equipment, in a scholarly and engaging exhibition that links Great Britain and Europe to the Southern war effort through South Carolina’s commercial role in banking, purchasing, and supply for the Confederate soldier in the field. This groundbreaking exhibit would open at the museum in 2011 as part of the National Civil War Sesquicentennial.
The collection was appraised at $306,000 and after a successful November fundraising event - thanks to the wonderful support of several South Carolina corporate and individual sponsors - the SC Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum contracted at the beginning of 2007 to purchase the collection for $250,000 payable in installments over the next year and a half. A year and a half later, The South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is only $16,000 from our goal of raising half the purchase price, with our last payment of $50,000 due this coming July.
I urge you to support our museum’s acquisition of this magnificent collection. We very much need your help. Please contact me at (803) 737-8096, if you would like to donate to help us preserve this rare treasure of previously undiscovered documents.