U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Case Involving Civil War Letters

This week the U.S. Supreme Court refused the request of South Carolina to argue ownership of over 400 letters from the Civil War, clearing the way for the surviving heir to send the letters to auction this summer. The letters had been in possession of the family of Thomas Willcox since 1865. At that time, Major General Evander McIver Law, great-great uncle of Mr. Willcox, amassed the letters during burning of Columbia which include correspondences from General Robert E. Lee as well as several Civil War figures of South Carolina.

Three years ago, Mr. Willcox had planned to sell the letters, worth an approximate $2.4 million when Attorney General Henry McMaster sued on behalf of the state to block the sale on the grounds that the letters are the property of the state. The letters were taken from Mr. Willcox and stored in a bank vault pending outcome of the trial. In October of 2006; a panel of judges of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond upheld the ruling of a lower court that stated Willcox owns the letters and could have them back.

Mr. Willcox decided to sell the letters three years ago when faced with foreclosure on his home and another property. Now more than ever the sale is a necessity, “Because the state tried to seize the documents, he had to file bankruptcy,” Willcox’s attorney, Kenneth Krawcheck said. “We’re working under a bankruptcy court approved plan that calls for an auction once these sorts of issues have been resolved. It’s time to go do that..

McMaster has held the belief that the letters are “priceless, historic items that need to be properly preserved and maintained.” The state has never made an offer to purchase the documents. The state has plans to appeal.

For more information on this subject matter, please contact a South Carolina attorney at Louthian Law Firm for a free consultation.