Civil War Service Records Research Guide

How To Find Compiled Military Service Records For Civil War Soldiers

Civil War Service Records

Union Soldiers
Each Union volunteer soldier should have a Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) for each regiment in which he served. Most of these records are held by the National Archives. The CMSR contains basic information about the soldier's military career. The soldier's place of birth may be given -- if foreign born, only the country of birth is given. Information about age, residence, occupation and physical description is sometimes included. Some may also show facts about a soldier's imprisonment.

Confederate Soldiers
The National Archives also has some compiled military service records of Confederate officers, noncommissioned officers, and enlisted men. These are similar to the records of volunteer Union soldiers.

Finding Aids
To find your ancestor's Compiled Military Civil War Service Record you will need this basic information about him:
  • Name
  • Unit (Regiment) & State [Example: 41st Virginia Infantry]
  • Allegiance - whether Union or Confederate
You can usually obtain this information at... Once you have this information then you can order your ancestor's "Compiled Military Service Record" through the mail or try searching for it on microfilm.

Ordering Civil War Service Records Online or by Mail
  • Download from Fold3: Fold3 has digitized Compiled Confederate Volunteer Soldier Service Records for Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia; and Compiled Union Volunteer Soldier Service Records for Alabama, Arkansas, Dakota, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Colored Troops. These can be downloaded online for a fee. (Note: some of these state and territory databases are not yet complete.) Click on the link below and type your ancestor's name (surname only if unusual) in the Civil War records search box there:
Finding Civil War Service Records on Microfilm
Some service records have been microfilmed and they are available from the National Archives or the LDS Family History Library (FHL) in Salt Lake City. Be aware that not all states have been microfilmed yet. You can use this link to see what the National Archives has... The Family History Library has many of the National Archives Civil War service records available on microfilm. These microfilm rolls can be ordered from many local LDS Family History Centers for viewing and photocopying for a fairly reasonable fee.

Here are basic instructions for finding these records. I'm going to use the state of Virginia as an example. The steps are basically the same for any other state. Start by doing a place search in the Family History Library Catalog for the state you are looking for. Then look for and click on the topic called "Virginia - Military records - Civil War, 1861-1865." Then choose and click on the appropriate subtopic like the examples given below (depending on whether you are looking for a Union or Confederate soldier)...
  • Compiled service records of Confederate soldiers who served in organizations from the state of Virginia - United States. War Department. Record and Pension Office
  • Compiled service records of volunteer Union soldiers who served in organizations from the state of Virginia - United States. War Department. Record and Pension Office
Read over the information there, then click on the "view film records" button (upper right hand corner). From there you must search for the unit you need, followed by the soldier's surname by group - surnames are listed in groups by the first 2 letters of the surname. You can order the microfilm roll you need from local Family History Centers using the microfilm number given there.

Civil War Pension Records

Related Resources


The tips given here are merely suggestions to help you research your Civil War ancestors. You may not be able to find the records you are seeking for a variety of reasons. See additional disclaimers at the link below.

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