Documenting Death in the Civil War is the title of a one-hour presentation
by National Archives staff genealogist John Deeben.
Available for free at the National Archives’s YouTube channel, this excellent presentation explores in depth records created by the War Department. These resources document the personal circumstances of soldiers’ deaths on the battlefield, in military hospitals, and in prisons.
Over 2.8 million men (and a few hundred women) served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. This page briefly describes resources for researching the military service of individual Civil War soldiers in “Volunteer” Army units.
Regular Army: For information about researching the military service of persons in the Regular Army, see Anne Bruner Eales and Robert M. Kvasnicka, Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives of the United States, 3rd edition (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 2000), Chapter 4, Records of the Regular Army.
Union Navy or Confederate Navy: For information about researching the service of persons in the Union Navy or Confederate Navy, see Lee D. Bacon, “Civil War and Later Navy Personnel Records at the National Archives, 1861-1924,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Summer 1995). An index to service by African-American sailors is available online at the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System website.
For Union army soldiers, there are three major records in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) that provide information on military service: (1) compiled military service record (CMSR); (2) pension application file; and (3) records reproduced in microfilm publication M594, Compiled Records Showing Service of Military Units in Volunteer Union Organizations (225 rolls).
For Confederate army soldiers, there are two major records in NARA that provide information on military service: (1) compiled military service record (CMSR) and (2) records reproduced in microfilm publication M861, Compiled Records Showing Service of Military Units in Confederate Organizations (74 rolls). Records relating to Confederate soldiers are typically less complete than those relating to Union soldiers because many Confederate records did not survive the war.
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