COLUMBIA -- A nationwide search for the rightful heirs of a Civil War soldier's discharge papers led the South Carolina Treasurer's Office to Capt. Ira Cory's great-grandson in Ohio.

Treasurer Curtis Loftis today will return to Robert Cory the documents found in an abandoned safe deposit box.

"I am proud of my team for not giving up on this case," Loftis said in a statement. "These are precious documents and to know they're going back to the family in which they belong is a true testament to the dedication and hard work our staff does each and every day."

The documents were uncovered by the Treasurer's Office as the staff prepared to auction off the contents of some 300 abandoned safe-deposit boxes in December. The papers were deemed too personal to sell. The search for the heirs intensified after the story was featured in an article in The Post and Courier.

Capt. Ira Cory was a Union veteran of the Battle of Gettysburg. His grandson Col. Ira Cory had them stored in a safe deposit box in Charleston, but after he died in 1987 the box was abandoned and turned over to the state. It sat in an unclaimed property vault for years.

The elder Cory served in the 11th Regiment of New Jersey in the 1860s. When he died in 1904, The New York Times ran his obituary, writing that he was "one of the heroes of Gettysburg who, on the second day of the battle, did his part in saving the day for the Union Army."

The documents include an original Civil War discharge paper dated from 1865, a muster roll and a paper outlining various battles, according to the Treasurer's Office.

Unclaimed property is protected by South Carolina law. The Treasurer's Office works to locate the owners of old bank accounts, uncashed checks, forgotten insurance policies and unclaimed shares of stock. More than $12 million was returned to property owners in the last fiscal year.

The state had spent 12 years searching for the owners of the safe deposit boxes before putting them up for auction, although law requires the items only be kept for three years.

Reach Yvonne Wenger at 803-926-7855.