Civil War Service Records Research Guide

How To Order 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 and Records Administration (NARA). 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) and State [Example: 41st Virginia Infantry]
  • Allegiance - whether Union or Confederate
You can usually obtain this information at... You can use this information to order your ancestor's "Compiled Military Service Record" online or by mail.

Ordering Civil War Service Records from the National Archives
  • Order from NARA: You can order Civil War Service records from the National Archives online or by mail for a fee. Be sure to have the person's name, regiment, state, and allegiance as indicated above before ordering.
    • Order Online or by Mail: Start by downloading the form for "Military Service Records (NATF 86)," or fill out the "Pre-WWI" online form from... Forms for Ordering Copies of Records from the National Archives. Look for the "(Pre-WWI) Military Service Records" section there. If you are ordering by mail, fill out the form and mail it in with your order. You will find instructions on the form. There is a fee.

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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