Civil War Resources

by Ruby Coleman

In literature and the media, the Civil War continues to command our interest. Perhaps there is a bit of Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler in all of us. It was a war that divided families and even though we now know the outcome, most of us find it interesting and rewarding to learn more about our Civil War ancestors.

Identify your ancestor as as potential candidate to be a Civil War soldier, then determine which side he may have chosen for his allegiance. There are web pages that assist in looking for information on soldiers. Subscription memberships to, , allow access to the Civil War Research Database and Civil War Pension Index. They are ongoing projects. Another site to check is the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System at . This is also an ongoing project for Union and Confederate soldiers and sailors.

Besides checking military and bounty land records in the National Archives, there are other items to seek in your Civil War research. Confederate pensions were granted through the state in which the pensioner served or was living. These files are normally kept in state archives. A listing of these repositories can be found on Internet at

No bounty land was awarded for service in the Civil War. The Homestead Act of 1862 increased the rights of Union veterans after the Civil War to apply for land under this act. When obtaining a homestead file, there may be information in it regarding your ancestor's military service.

Toward the end of the Civil War the federal government made an effort to identify and/or retrieve the remains of soldiers. The Army Quartermaster's Department began locating graves of Union soldiers, many of which were in the original burial site, such as battlefields. Bodies of soldiers from prisoner camps were sometimes exhumed and reburied in proper places. The identity of 200,000 dead were released between 1865 and 1871. This information was published in a 27 volume series of publications entitled (with variations upon the name) Roll of Honor. This publication was consolidated by the Genealogical Publishing Company in 1994 into 10 books plus an every-name index. It is available in many libraries and is also available on CD-ROM.

Many Union veterans bonded together after the war by joining the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). It was founded in 1866 to lend benefits and support to the veterans and their families. More information on the GAR can be found at Microfilm of some GAR records is available at the Family History Library (LDS). States included are Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and West Virginia.

The Pension Office prepared a list of individuals receiving pensions (Union) for their war service. This was called the "Pensioners on the Roll" and is as of 1 January 1883. These rolls have been published in multi-volumes and are available in large libraries. Some libraries lend them on interlibrary loan. This also contains information on parents and spouses who were pensioned as of that date. A small portion of information can be found on Internet at

To learn more about your Civil War ancestor, you should also learn more about the war and the various regiments. One of the most noted and reliable source for Union regimental histories in Dyer's Compendium. In 1903 Frederick Dyer, who had served in the Civil War, began writing the histories of all the Union regiments. He used information from the Official Records of the War of Rebellion as well as information from veterans. His 1,796 page Compendium of the War of the Rebellion was published in 1909. It can be located in large library collections.

Other multi volumes of information found in libraries are the Official Records, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies. They were compiled and published by the United States government. In these you will find accounts of battles, letters and other interesting information about the Civil War. The information is extensive and takes time to thoroughly research.

These can also be searched through Cornell University's Making of America web pages.

War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

Official Records of the Union & Confederate Navies

Whatever route you take to research your Civil War ancestor, there are many records available, plus information on Internet and in book form. All provide a greater understanding of your ancestor's life.

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