Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 3, Number 10 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 June 22, 2011
In this article we will be discussing the military records. The article belows mainly discusses the American Revolution and the Civil War. Hopefully, the military records will give you more information about those in your research.
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James L. Douthat
Wars have been a part of American life since the first white man stepped onto the shores. Every generation has known of war or rumors of war. No family has been spared the impact of conflict of some kind. For the most part, we mark time periods within the range of some conflict in the country, beginning with King Phillip’s War of 1675 down to the conflict in the Middle East today.
The different conflicts have differing resources for research. The very early wars with the French and Indian conflicts have lots of stories, but few resources. Most of these were fought with militia soldiers and not the “army” of the United States, therefore, there are so few real records. The National Archives does have some listings of the soldiers which are found primarily in Record Group 94 and 407. There are many volumes available that give records in your local area and should be available in a good local genealogical library.
The next big conflict was the American Revolutionary War from 1775-1783 when 13 of the 22 British-American colonies chose to fight against the motherland of England. There are many records available on this conflict and they fall into two different categories - Service Records and Veterans’ benefits. In addition to these records, two sets of resources are among the best, but even they are not complete. These two sets were produced by Virgil D. White and one set gives the Service Records as found on microfilm from the National Archives. The second set is the Pension Records for this war. Both sets are huge, four volumes in size, and are alphabetical by the name of the veteran. In reading these remember that sometimes the veteran gave his first name, sometimes his middle name and many times just an initial. So you will have to spend some time studying the listings. With regard to the pension application you will get a brief condensed story of the service of the veteran. You must get a copy of th original from the National Archives.
The Service Records are found in Record Group 93 of the National Archives which also includes those in the Navy as well as the Army. There is a second set of Records [Group 94] that give the information of those that served between 1784 until 1811. This does not include a huge number of soldiers, but is vital to your research. On the Pension side of the Revolutionary War, you will find that most of the soldiers were not paid since the colonies didn’t have the money to pay them. Most of the Colonies paid their soldiers in land rather than money. Land was much more plentiful than money. Since each colony and sometimes even cities printed their own money at this time, it gave rise to the money being worthless or not worth “a Continental damn”. The Colonies, like Virginia had vast land holdings to the Mississippi River and north as far a Wisconsin so they were land rich and money poor. The vast majority of their debts were settled in Kentucky, which was part of Virginia at this time. North Carolina used Tennessee to settle their debts. In reading the deed records of Kentucky and Tennessee you will find hundreds of grants for military service. This approach was carried on even up to the time of the Mexican War.
The biggest conflict to encompass the United States was the Civil War or as the southerners say - The War of Northern Aggression. There were more soldiers involved in his war and more killed than all other wars combined. Even here the records sometime leave a lot to be desired. Soldiers switched from group to group giving different names, even switching sides was not uncommon. Many southerners joined the Union Army because they paid more and had better food. There were many units found in Georgia and Alabama for the Union. At the same time, many northerners sympathized with the south and did all they could to help the cause. This became clear in stories of escapees from the Union prisons. One soldier wrote after the war that he escaped from Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie. He escaped and traveled to Baltimore, Maryland where business associates gave him money, clothes and put him up in the same hotel as a large group of Union officers. He sat and ate with them, drank with them and gathered all manner of information that he later took to the southern generals.
Many in the Civil War give their details in stories after the war. You just have to be careful about these stories as many a private died as “a captain” at least. Some captains died as “generals” or at least a “major”. You can access the records for these Union soldiers from the National Archives, but you have to use forms available online. Most of the Confederate information has to be obtained from the state from which they served. Most of the southern soldiers never received a pension, and if they did, it was very small as the states did not have the funds to pay them after the war.
From the Civil War on, there are records available from the National Archives up until about the 20th century and then privacy comes into play so the information is harder to obtain. Just one word of caution, do not build your case around one or even two bits of information in a letter, diary or footnote concerning the military records. Not all of the National Archives records nor State Records are complete. They just did not take the time to write down all of history as they were too busy making history.
All Military Books
Revolutionary War Books
Virginia Soldiers in NW Territory - 1777
28 Pages, 5.5x8.5, Full Name Index, Soft cover, VA-0704, $6.00
The Northwest Territory was a part of Virginia in the beginning, therefore, the militia of Virginia had to settle conflicts there. This is a listing of the soldier who went on occasion to protect the territory.
Revolutionary War Invalid Pension Claims
71 Pages, 8.5"x11", Full Name Index, Soft cover, GN-0236, $12.50
Originally printed in 1792 by the United States War Department, this publication contains a wealth of information on soldiers from the Revolutionary War initially denied pensions, re-assessed, and approved.
Revolutionary War Pensions - Bedford County, Virginia
Compiled by Ann Chilton, 59 Pages, 8.5"x11", Index, Soft cover, VA-0230, $12.50
In reading these pension applications, we have to remember that memories have faded somewhat and dates and names may be in error. Usually, the Battles are remembered, but commanders, etc. are frequently in error. In these applications, generally, the place of birth, marriage, names of children, and most of the facts are fairly correct. The discharge papers are frequently lost or 'burned'. It is not unusual for the actual marriage license to be included and sometime even the pages out of the family Bible are sent as proof.
Civil War Books
Rhea and Meigs Counties (Tennessee) in the Confederate War
56 Pages, 8.5"x11", Full Name Index, Soft Cover, TN-0971, $13.50
Rhea and Meigs Counties in lower east Tennessee were at one time all one county, even though the Tennessee River ran between the two halves. The people in both are closely related and families share both sides of the river. This collection of V. C. Allen’s newspaper clippings about various events and persons in the Confederacy were collected first hand by his own experience during the conflict. Included here are the rosters of the various units from these two counties and biographical sketches of many of the leaders of the units.
Civil War Records - Washington County, VA 1861-1865
45 Pages, 8.5"x11", Surname Index, Soft Cover, VA-0034, $15.00
A large number of Regiments and Companies were formed with soldiers during the Civil War from this southwestern Virginia county. The manuscript is composed of a listing of each of the rosters of each of the units from this area. Each entry gives the name of the soldier, rank, company, regiment, infantry or cavalry, brigade, division of the Army of Northern Virginia and finally remarks. This latter is where the good stuff is found.
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