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Robert Benson Tarrant Papers, 1807-1942
Papers of the Tarrant, Reese, and Radcliffe Families [ca. 19uu]

This collection of eighty-one manuscripts and four bound volumes, of Robert Benson Tarrant (1836-1921) augmented by 2.5 linear feet of genealogical files on the Tarrant, Reese, Radcliffe, Howell, Weldon, Efford, and Michau families, consists in large part of personal papers of the Rev. Robert Benson Tarrant (1836-1921), an 1858 graduate of Wofford College, who served as a minister in the Methodist and Lutheran churches.

Robert B. Tarrant entered Wofford College as a student in 1856. His experiences and impressions upon entering college are recorded in a pocket diary which he kept during the year. The collection also contains several compositions by Tarrant. An essay dated 25 February [18]56 is a sketch of Solomon's life; an April 1856 composition is entitled "Spring"; and an undated essay is entitled "The Vanity of Human Wishes." On 30 April 1858 Tarrant delivered a lecture to the senior class entitled "Things I Don't Like to See." Another essay that may have been prepared for delivery to a class is dated July 1858 and entitled "Our Obligations to our Predecessors and Debt to Posterity." An undated statement, ca. 1857, was read by Tarrant upon the occasion of the junior class' presentation to Professor [Warren] DuPre of a "Cane, as a momento of our gratitude to you for the repeated acts of kindness which you have shown towards us, and for the much interest which you manifestly have taken in attempting to make the studdies of the class under your immediate care, as interesting and at the same time, as instructive as possible." Tarrant graduated in 1858 and was commended by President W[illiam] M[ay] Wightman for maintaining "during his connection with...[Wofford College] a deservedly high character for punctuality, steadiness and application to study; for good scholarship; & gentlemanly deportment." The collection contains two broadsides, 15 December 1858 and 13 July 1859, of the "Senior Exhibition of Wofford College" and a commencement program.

Tarrant's brother Sumter was enrolled at Wofford in 1860. In a letter of 16 February he informed his elder brother of social activities, including an event which he did not attend because of the one-dollar charge, commended an excellent temperance sermon by Professor [James H.] Carlisle which apparently inspired him to join the Sons of Temperance, reported [George H.] Cofield's election as tutor, and advised that Cofield and Professor DuPre "are the only ones in the faculty who have shown any justice, at all." Sumter urged his brother to convince Patrick and Edwin to attend Wofford the next year and provided information on the number of students, the cost, and expectations for enrollment.

By the following year, however, Sumter Tarrant was in the army of the Confederate States of America. In July 1861 he was encamped at Camp Walker, Manassas Junction, awaiting his first action. Sumter explained that he had not written home as he expected his brother to be with him in Virginia. Although he missed family and friends, Tarrant wrote on 8 July 1861—"the love of my Country and her rights urges me on still more detirmined than at first, never to return home, (to remain) until the glorious Southern Confederate flag shall wave on every summit, from the Potomoc to the `Riogrand,' and our liberties shall be proclaimed from the rising of the Sun to the setting thereof...." While he did not report any engagements with the enemy, South Carolina troops had killed two Virginians whom they mistook for Yankees.

In a detailed thirteen-sheet letter, 28 July 1861, following the battle of Bull Run, Tarrant reviewed his regiment's participation in the battle which included being fired upon by two Mississippi regiments. But his first experience of being under fire had a profound impact on the young soldier—"Well Bense I have got through that battle safe and without a wound for which I feel very thankful to our maker, for I know that nothing but the hand of God would have kept us from being killed amidst that tremendous shower of bullets & balls. I have often heard & read of the sublimity of a great battle, such as we fought last Sunday, but then I realized all the Sublimity and grandeur, and if that kind of scenery, and feeling is what they call sublimity, why I don't wish to see or feel sublime very often...." Sumter Tarrant died in November 1861 at an army hospital.

The collection does not document R.B. Tarrant's service in the Confederate army. A fellow minister, A.B. Stephens, wrote from James Island on 1 February 1864 informing Tarrant that he was serving as chaplain with the Eleventh Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers, and had withdrawn his application for a regular commission. Stephens noted that the Federals had shelled Ft. Sumter and the city during worship services on a recent Sunday. And he gave an account of "a very gracious revival of religion among the Soldiers."

In the immediate postwar years Robert Benson Tarrant preached and planted. On 10 June 1865 he signed an agreement with laborers for work on his plantation. Three documents, 30 August, 19 September, and 23 September 1872, record sales of his cotton by Charleston factor A.J. Salinas. Tarrant represented Orangeburg County in the South Carolina General Assembly, 1882-1885, and served several terms as postmaster at Springfield. After having preached for many years in the Methodist church, Tarrant was ordained a Lutheran pastor by the South Carolina Synod in 1908.

Other manuscripts in the collection include the covenant and minutes of Beulah Church, 1806-1807; a pocket diary, 1860-1863, containing a record of services conducted at various churches and lists of names; an undated cyphering book of Jacob Stroman; and an 1840 letter of Thomas W. Radcliffe, Charleston, to Mrs. Sarah Howell, Columbia. Radcliffe cites the gloomy economic situation in Charleston which produced widespread unemployment. His salary had been reduced, and his family was having difficulty meeting expenses which caused him to consider seeking a position as teacher.

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