Civil War Quick Tip: Compiled Military Service Records

Hey Friends! Today’s Civil War Quick Tip was recorded on Periscope and I’ve uploaded it here in case you missed it. The addresses I refer to in the video can be found below.

 

 

Complied Military Service Records – Record Group 94 at the National Archives

Civil War CMSR records for both Union and Confederate veterans
are filed by state, then by regiment, then alphabetically by soldier’s name.

1. Records within jacket – Records in the jacket are abstracts made from the original muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, orders, etc. about that particular soldier.

Complied Military Service Record – (form NATF 86) can be ordered online from NARA for $30 or you can download the form and mail it in. You have the choice of receiving hard copies or a cd/dvd of the file.

http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/pre-ww-1-records.html

**scroll to center of page**

2. Records outside the jacket – There are cards and personal papers that were never filed in a soldiers CMSR jacket.

Confederate cards can be found on microfilm M347 Unfiled Papers and Slips Belonging in Confederate Compiled Service Records at National Archives Building, NARA regional sites, libraries with large genealogy departments, Fold3.

Union unfiled cards are usually found at the end of a regiment’s section or maybe filed after every couple regiments in the CMSR. Submit a request to NARA for copies of these records. Write to the:

Old Military and Civil Records Branch, National Archives and Records Administration

700 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20408

or send an e-mail to:

archives1reference@nara.gov

Provide the soldier’s name, company, and regiment and specify the Civil War and that you’re looking for “unfiled cards and personal papers” that are outside the CMSR jacket.

 

Good Luck! Let me know if this helped you in your research or send me questions at: cindy[at]genealogycircle[dot]com I’d love to hear from you!

 

I asked a question at the end of yesterday’s post . . . .

George & Mary Ellen Williams Marshall Farm

George & Mary Ellen Williams Marshall on their Farm

Did you read my post yesterday, I see the soldiers – do you? If not I’d really appreciate it if you would take a minute to read it. That way today’s post will make more sense. Just scroll down to the previous post or click here.

OK now that you’ve read it and you’re back, let me tell you what I was thinking. After realizing that I do see the Civil War soldiers when I visit different battlefields I realized it’s only a very short step to our own family research.

As genealogists or family historians we see, we feel, we experience our ancestors. That’s why we research them, because we can “see” our ancestors. It’s incredibly similar to seeing the soldiers. Not only do we see our family members with our mind’s eye, we want to know more about them and their lives. They aren’t just names and dates, they were living, loving, imperfect people who passed across the face of this earth. It’s their lives that resulted in our own.

Because we are the ones who see our ancestors we know we are charged with the task of making sure they are not forgotten to history. We’re the ones whose job it is to learn and tell their story, to preserve their memory for future generations.

Because of this insight we’ve been given the responsibility of remembering our ancestors, researching them and writing about their lives and experiences. Actually it’s pretty exciting that we are given that mission.

So to all of us who spend time in city directories, researching obscure occupations, staring endlessly at photos and federal censuses, then writing about those finds – keep on! Persevere! You’re doing a great job researching your family and they are pleased.

I asked a question at the end of yesterday’s post but I know I don’t have to ask today. I already know, “You see your ancestors.”

Sultana: An Unimaginable Tragedy Claimed as many Casualties as any Battle

Photograph shows the overloaded steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River the day before her boilers exploded and she sank on April 27th. No known restrictions on publication. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

Photograph shows the overloaded steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River the day before her boilers exploded and she sank on April 27th. No known restrictions on publication. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

By April 1865 citizens had grown accustomed to big news events but this month was filled with even more outstanding headlines than usual.

On April 9th, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to U.S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, signaling the first step in the end of the Civil War.

Shocking the nation, President Abraham Lincoln was shot April 14th and died April 15th from the assassin’s bullet. His murderer John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed on April 26th.

April 27th saw Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston surrender his army to Gen. William T. Sherman and his Union troops in North Carolina. Yet buried in the backs of most newspapers would be one of the single most tragic events of the Civil War. The explosion of the riverboat Sultana.

For a little background, the Sultana was built in Cincinnati in 1863. She ran in the most southern part of the Mississippi River, used mainly for transporting cotton but she was also known to carry U.S. Army officers and soldiers between ports along the river.

On April 21, 1865 the Sultana was docked in New Orleans. She was being loaded with sugar and livestock. There were a few passengers boarded in the 100 cabins of the steamer. By law the Sultana could carry 376 persons which included the crew. Leaving New Orleans on April 24th the Sultana headed for Vicksburg, Mississippi which was a regular stop on her route. While docked in Vicksburg the ship’s captain discovered the Sultana’s boilers were leaking. The repair normally should have taken three to four days yet was completed in a single day. The rush to finish the repair was easy to figure out. In a single word – money.

Ship lines were paid five dollars a head by the government to transport Union soldiers back north. The men about to aboard the Sultana we’re headed to Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio where they would be mustered out of the army. If the Sultana stayed in dock a couple extra days soldiers anxious to make the trip home would find other ships to make the journey. The repair crew rushed to fix the Sultana’s boilers to get the ship back en route and not lose out on this easy cash.

It’s estimated that 2,300 people were aboard the Sultana when it left Vicksburg. This was six times the number of people it was supposed to carry. In fact crew members had to bolster the second floor deck to keep it from caving in from the weight of so many people.

Recently released Union prisoners of war comprised most of the passengers. Liberated from Cahaba, Alabama and Andersonville, Georgia prisons they were being housed at Union Camp Fisk outside of Vicksburg. From there they would board ships heading north on the Mississippi River. Finally these POWs, recently released from their hellish prison experience would be headed home. After enduring so much in prison camps, being overcrowded on a steamer going home didn’t seem so bad. Many of the men were weakened, ill and in such bad shape their only thought was to get home.

The exact number of soldiers on the Sultana was never known. The ship was so crammed with passengers that it was decided not to make out muster rolls in advance. Roll would be taken once the ship was underway.

Once the Sultana left Vicksburg she made her way north on the Mississippi River, stopping at several smaller ports unloading cargo. The river was high for this time of year with a fast moving current. There had been a lot of rain recently. The steamer, with the extraordinary number of passengers strained to get through the churning waters.

It was late afternoon on April 26th when the Sultana docked at Memphis. Here some of the soldiers, went ashore to get off the overcrowded ship and do some sightseeing. The recently repaired boilers started leaking again and were quickly patched once more so the steamer could get underway. Some of the soldiers who got off the ship did not get back in time and missed boarding the Sultana as it pulled out of Memphis around 7 pm. These men would soon learn that being late probably saved their lives.

It was about 2 am April 27, 1865. The Sultana was just a few miles north of Memphis, straining against the powerful river currents with hastily repaired boilers when the unthinkable happened. The boilers, stretched to their limit, with the extra weight and churning waters, burst. With unbelievable force the explosion, escaping steam and fire tore the mid section out of the ship. The blast was so loud and flames shot so high in the sky it was seen and heard back in Memphis.

 

First appeared in the magazine Harpers Weekly, May 20, 1865.

Sultana in flames – First appeared in the Harpers Weekly magazine, May 20, 1865.

Soldiers, presumably sleeping at that early morning hour, were blasted into the air, then plummeted into the cold April waters of the Mississippi. Some were scalded by the boilers hot steam, others burned by fiery debris. Still others clung to the ship’s remnants or were trapped aboard as the disaster continued to unfold. They too were forced to jump into the river as fire consumed the part of ship they clung to. The Mississippi was littered with the bobbing heads of passengers as they desperately tried to stay afloat. These soldiers were weak from their POW experience. The effort it took to swim, if they knew how or to hang on to whatever they could find floating was too much for most. Battered, burned and scalded they slipped beneath the water’s surface drowning in the Mississippi River. Tragically they were only a few days from reaching home.

By morning, ships of all sizes had arrived at the scene from Memphis, pulling survivors from the river and picking up those who made it to shore. It was estimated that somewhere between 500 and 600 men were taken to Memphis hospitals. About 200 of those survivors died soon afterward either from their injuries, exposure or their weakened condition. It really isn’t known how many people died in the explosion since their wasn’t an accurate list of passengers but it’s generally accepted 1,700 perished although some published accounts put the number at 1,800. To put this horrible incident into perspective 1,754 Union soldiers died at Shiloh.

The Sultana, alarmingly overcrowded with passengers, struggling against unusually high waters, with hastily repaired boilers, exploded and caught fire in the worst maritime tragedy of our country’s history. More passengers died in the Sultana explosion than the sinking of the Titanic. Making it even more heartbreaking is the fact that most of the dead were Union prisoners of war. Men who had survived Andersonville and Cahaba prisons and were finally headed home to their families. May they always be remembered and rest in peace.

Jen Holik and Cindy Freed talk Military Research from Civil War to World War II

Jen Holik

Jen Holik

Jen Holik and I have had the privilege of writing for the In-Depth Genealogist magazine, Going In-Depth, for the last couple years.

Jen’s column specializes in World War II research. In fact Jen has two books coming out soon, Stories from the World War II Battlefield vol.1 & vol. 2 They’ll cover how to research all branches of the military in World War II. They’re a must have for your WWII research.

Jen and I’ve both been interviewed for the Meet the Writers series for the In-Depth Genealogist. It’s a fun way to learn about us and our research. You can find our interviews on YouTube. Jen’s here. Along with mine here.

After you watch both interviews you’ll see a lot of similarities in the records and sources Jen uses for World War II research and the ones I use in Civil War research.

The In-Depth Genealogist

When Jen and I realized we use similar records we decided to write blog posts comparing the records and strategies for research. Please read Jen’s post today describing her research methods for World War II records.

Here are my suggestions when researching your Civil War ancestor.

Where do you start?

Check the 1860 U.S. Federal Census for the location of your ancestor. You’ll need to know where your ancestor was living just prior to the Civil War to have a better idea which state’s militia he joined. The 1860 U.S. Federal Census can be found several places online like Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.

Where do I find my ancestor’s enlistment dates and regiment? With his name and where he lived check the several online sources for enlistment info. These sites also list regimental histories which you’ll find valuable, learning about troop movements and battles fought.

*National Parks Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System

*FamilySearch.org

*Ancestry.com

*Fold3

*Try Individual State rosters too. For example the Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Vols. 1-12 can be found online and in local libraries. Search the state roster from where your ancestor served.

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania, Genealogy, Family History

Pvt George W Lowery Co. A 81st Pennsylvania

How do I find out more about his military service? 

Through Pension Files and CMSR files at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Washington, D.C.

* First check United States Civil War and Later Pension Index 1861 – 1917 to see if your ancestor received a pension or the family applied for one. Index found at FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, Fold3.

* If your ancestor did receive a pension, request a copy from NARA. Using NATF Form 85 it can be ordered online at archives.gov for $ or you can download the form and mail it in. You have the option of receiving hard copies or a cd/dvd for your files.

* Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) also at NARA is a file for each veteran containing muster rolls, pay vouchers, hospital rolls and so on. They can have additional information like  muster in and out dates, some limited biographical information: age, eye and hair color, height, weight. These can be ordered with form NATF 86 like the pension files above.

* Confederate soldiers did not receive a pension from the U.S. government. Confederate pensions were given by the individual southern states where the soldier served. NARA site has a listing for each southern state’s archives to contact for Confederate soldiers pensions. http://www.archives.gov/research/alic/reference/state-archives.html

What can I find in Courthouse Records? 

* Soldier’s Discharge Papers – Union veterans did receive discharge papers and were supposed to file them at their local courthouse once back home.

* Money account – In some counties families sent soldiers money via the local courthouse. Soldiers were able to send money home the same way.

* Graves Registration File – file of veterans buried in that particular county.

* Indigent Union Soldiers, Sailors and Marines Interment – if you’ve hit a brick wall, or not sure you’re ancestor was buried by family.

What are some online sources for Civil War research?

* Civil War Draft Registration Records – Ancestry.com

* Special Enumeration of Union Veterans and Widows aka 1890 Veterans Schedule FamilySearch and Ancestry.

* The Official Pension Roll of 1883 – Ancestry and Archive.org

* U.S. National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers – FamilySearch and Ancestry

* Confederate veterans – a list of state-run home can be found on the National Archives and Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers’ Home Applications for Admission

Where else might I locate information? Your ancestor likely belonged to a veterans group after the war.

* Grand Army of the Republic

Library of Congress – http://www.loc.gov/rr/main/gar/

Grand Army of the Republic Library and Museum –  http://garmuslib.org/

* Sons of Union Veterans – http://www.garrecords.org/

* United Confederate Veterans – Archive.org – http://archive.org/search.php?query=creator%3A %22United+Confederate+Veterans%22

* Sons of Confederate Veterans –          http://sonsofconfederateveterans.blogspot.com/2011/01/records-of-united-confederate- veterans.html

Ancestors In A Nation Divided

There’s also more research help in my book, Ancestors in a Nation Divided. Please check it out.

and

Be sure to check Jen’s post today to learn about researching your WWII veteran!

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