Sources to Research Confederate Soldiers Online
Syllabus and Additional Research Links
Presentation Slides (PDF): Sources to Research Confederate Soldiers Online
It may seem difficult to research Confederate soldiers when compared with the wealth of information available for Union soldiers. You may also be curious about why your relatives decided to fight for the Confederate States of America. There are many sources online that reveal genealogical information and historical perspective about Confederate soldiers.
Between my own and my husband’s family tree, I have researched 24 men who served in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War. First, I’ll share a step-by-step process for discovering if your relative was a Confederate soldier. Then I’ll share how to research about his day-to-day experience during the war using online regimental histories and other sources. Because so many Americans are interested in Civil War history – from the battlefield reenactor to the local historian – many websites exist with information to help us understand what life was like for individuals during this period of history.
To read more of my thoughts about Confederate soldier research, please see:
Should We Honor Confederate Ancestors on Memorial Day?
8 Tips for Researching Your Ancestor’s Confederate Civil War Service
Steps to Identify a Soldier’s Service and Regiment
The following clues, when followed in this order, will help you determine if your relative was a Confederate soldier and determine his regiment or other battle unit.
1. Birth year range: Most soldiers in the Civil War were ages 18-45, so look at ancestors born between about 1820-1848.
2. Family memories: stories, photos, etc. – often families pass down stories about their service in the military. These hints can provide a good starting point, and can be found in family memorabilia, compiled family histories, and online trees. i.e. “Great-grandfather served the CSA with the Texas Sharpshooters.”
3. Headstone inscriptions, obituaries, FindaGrave.com memorials: often a man’s regiment will be listed on his headstone, or the biographical information given in the memorial might identify him as a Civil War veteran. i.e. “He served the Confederate States of America during the Civil War, working as a courier, stationed at Galveston Island, Texas, serving Sul Ross.”
4. 1910 and 1930 Censuses: if he lived long enough to be enumerated on these censuses, check to see if he is identified as a veteran of the Civil War:
-1910: column 30 asks “whether a survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy.” UA = Union Army, UN = Union Navy, CA = Confederate Army, CN = Confederate Navy. In this census, census bureau tabulators often wrote over columns 30-32 with numbers like 2-1-0-0 to summarize the data and are not the answers for columns 30-32.
-1930: column 31 indicates military service in Major Wars, with abbreviations including CW = Civil War, SP = Spanish-American War, WW = WWI, etc.
 “Clues in Census Records, 1850-1930,” National Archives, (https://www.archives.gov/research/census/1850-1930.html, accessed 14 October 2017)
5. State Confederate Pension Records: The following southern states passed laws to give pensions to indigent or disabled Confederate veterans and their widows.
Where to find pension records online:
See list of pension collections (and other records) by state at the bottom of this page.
Confederate pension collections listed by state at the National Archives website
FamilySearch Wiki list of collections to search for Confederate Pensions – some of these can be viewed online at Family History Centers
Ancestry.com’s collection of Confederate Pensions
6. Search Google
Search with their Name and Regiment, including aliases and abbreviated first names. You may find their headstone, a roster, photo, letter, diary, regimental history, or some other source about them. Civil War History is of interest to many people – thousands of websites have been created containing different information – education, primary source, genealogical, local history, cemetery, archival, National Park registries, etc. You never know where you will find your ancestor’s name and additional information about him.
How to Locate the Compiled Military Service Record
Once you have a clue or some other evidence that your relative served in the Confederate States Army or Navy, you can begin to look for service records. Check the 1860 Federal Census – Knowing their place of residence will help you know which state to look in for service records.
Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR)
These files were created by the War Department beginning in 1903 and contain cards with data abstracted from original muster rolls, hospital records, prison records, and sometimes contain original records.
FamilySearch Index: United States Civil War Soldiers Index, 1861-1865 – free index created from the 6.3 million soldier records in the General Index Cards to the Compiled MIlitary Service Records in the National Archives. These records were compiled by FGS, NPS and UGA. The National Park Service (NPS) is the host of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database, but I haven’t found it to be reliable lately.
Ancestry.com Index: U.S. Civil War Soldiers 1861-1865, and index, allows you to search for the exact company and regiment and then to see a list of soldiers within it. The data comes from the National Park Service database.
Fold3 Digitized CMSR Files: Civil War – Confederate Service Records. View with a subscription or view for free at a family history center. This collection allows you to view images of the full CMSR.
Click Browse – Civil War – Civil War Service Records – Confederate – Then type the name of your relative in the search box. This will help you narrow the search results.
You can also browse to the unit and first letter of the surname and look at a list of all the people with the same surname. This may help you identify your soldier if he was in the same unit as his relatives, brothers, uncles, etc.
Original Records and Muster Rolls
After finding the CMSR for your relative you can more easily locate the original documents that the data in the CMSR is abstracted from. Ancestry.com has a wonderful Civil War Records collection including prison rolls, muster lists, and more.
Civil War Prisoner of War Records, 1861-1865 at Ancestry.com
Georgia, Civil War Muster Rolls, 1860-1864 at Ancestry.com
Alabama Civil War Muster Rolls, 1861-1865 at Ancestry.com
Confederate Army Casualty Lists and Reports, 1861-1865 at Ancestry.com
Research the Regiment
1. Find Regiment Histories and Timelines
American Civil War Regiments, 1861-1866, Ancestry.com Collection created from Historical Data Systems, comp. U.S., American Civil War Regiments, 1861-1866 [database on-line]. Includes organization date and muster date, battles, and sometimes a regiment history
Search Google for the name of the regiment – both ways. For example: 47th Georgia Infantry vs Forty-seventh Georgia Infantry
National Park Service – Search for Battle Units contains brief regimental histories
Civil War in the East Website – timelines for regiments, major battles, locations
Stone Sentinels Website – monuments associated with certain regiments
Free online books – if a unit history published a long time ago, the full text may be available online: Google Books, Internet Archive
WorldCat Catalog – Search for regimental histories with the name of the regiment. i.e. 11th Arkansas Infantry. Request the book from your library system using inter-library loan. Search for online collections of the letters, diaries, and other sources referenced in the books.
2. Learn from Local Historians
Civil War Talk Forum: Find local historians researching the battle unit and particular soldiers. You might find photos of the unit on muster day, transcriptions of diaries, letters, etc. Start a new thread – ask a question.
Contact local historical societies.
3. Consult State Archives Digital Collections
Check the National Archives list of each state’s archives websites for collections in your state. It’s possible to find newspapers, diaries, letters, etc. that give context to your relative’s service.
4. Search Newspaper Collections
Check Chronicling America’s collection of free digitized newspapers and Ancestor Hunt Newspaper Research Links. Ancestor Hunt is wonderful resource with many newspaper research tutorials and helpful links to digitized collections of newspapers by location.
Search google for the state and “historical newspapers” that you want to search within. Many universities have collections that they have digitized.
5. Browse the Confederate Veteran Magazine
–Digitized Issues at Internet Archive
–Personal soldier name index of Confederate Veteran Magazine – University of Virginia Library
6. Consult secondary sources for questions like:
Why did Southern soldiers desert? “Desertion (Confederate) during the Civil War.” by A. Sheehan-Dean (accessed 25 October 2015). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
What was the Old Capitol prison like? The Photographic History of the Civil War: Prisons and hospitals, edited by Robert Sampson Lanier, Francis Trevelyan Miller, 1911.
What was the Kalorama General Hospital like? “Kalorama General Hospital (Eruptive Fever General Hospital).” by Civil War Washington Website. (8 December 2011).
7. Search Federal Sources
Library of Congress
Civil War Photo collection – Photos of battles and battlefields, soldiers, places, cemeteries etc.
Civil War Map collection – Maps to help identify field hospitals, locations, etc.
NARA Prologue Magazine articles about the Civil War
8. Read Digitized Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs
Letters from the American Civil War website
Civil-war.net has a page of Diaries and letters
University of Washington Civil War Letters Collection
University of Notre Dame Rare Books and Special Collections
National Archives Docs Teach – Civil War
American Civil War Research Database $25 annually, Free at Family History Centers, Some University libraries have access through their Alexander Street Press subscription
Journal of Meta Morris Grimball, South Carolina, December 1860-February 1866.
“Co. Aytch” by Sam R. Watkins; Classic Memoir of a confederate soldier
Report Your Findings
Write a report. Read my sample report: Isenhour Brothers’ Confederate service
Create an interactive timeline with Twile.com to show the photos and contextual information you found. Start with a simple spreadsheet and as you find data, save the link in your spreadsheet. When you’re ready, add the documents and images you find to your Twile timeline.
Online Confederate Collections by State
- Alabama Department of Archives and History
- Alabama Civil War Service Cards File (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
- Brief Historical Sketches of Military Organizations Raised In Alabama During the Civil War (Alabama Department of Archives and History)
- Alabama Confederate Pension and Service Records, 1862-1947 (at Ancestry.com)
- Alabama, Texas and Virginia, Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958 (at Ancestry.com)
- Alabama, Census of Confederate Soldiers, 1907, 1921 (at Ancestry.com)
- Alabama, Questionnaires of Widows of Confederate Soldiers, 1927 (at Ancestry.com)
- Arkansas History Commission
- Index to Arkansas Confederate Home Records (at FamilySearch.org)
- Arkansas 1911 Census of Confederate Veterans A-D (at usgwarchives.net)
- Arkansas 1911 Census of Confederate Veterans E-Mc (at usgwarchives.net)
- Arkansas 1911 Census of Confederate Veterans M-Z (at usgwarchives.net)
- Arkansas 1911 Confederate Veterans Reunion Registration Forms – this website is not working anymore (as of 14 Feb 2018): http://arkansascivilwar.com/ancestors/1911search.aspx . Here is an internet archive view of the website.
- Arkansas 1911 Confederate Veterans Questionnaires – this website is not working anymore (as of 14 Feb 2018): http://arkansascivilwar.com/ancestors/1911.aspx . Here is an internet archive view of the website.
- Arkansas Confederate Pension Records, 1901-1929, index and images (at FamilySearch.org)
- Arkansas, Confederate Pension Records, 1891-1935 (at Ancestry.com)
- Arkansas, Confederate Pensions, 1901-1929 (at Ancestry.com)
- Arkansas Confederate Pensions (at FamilySearch.org)
- Arkansas Ex-Confederate Pension Records (at FamilySearch.org)
- Florida State Archives
- Florida Confederate Pension Application Files
- Florida Confederate Veterans and Widows Pension Applications, 1885-1955 (at FamilySearch.org)
- Florida, Confederate Veterans and Widows Pension Applications, 1885-1955 (at Ancestry.com)
- Georgia Department of Archives and History
- Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960 (at Ancestry.com)
- Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives
- Kentucky Department of Confederate Pensions (1912-1946)
- Kentucky, Confederate Pension Records, 1912-1930 (at Ancestry.com)
- Kentucky, Confederate Pension Applications, 1912-1950 (at Ancestry.com)
- Louisiana State Archives
- Louisiana Confederate Pension Applications Index Database (version 1)
- Louisiana Confederate Pension Applications Index Database (version 2)
- Louisiana Confederate Pensions (at FamilySearch.org)
- Louisiana, Confederate Pensions, 1898-1950 (at Ancestry.com)
- Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Confederate Pension Applications, 1889-1932
- Mississippi Confederate Veterans and Widows Pension Applications, 1900-1974 (at FamilySearch.org)
- Mississippi, Confederate Veterans and Widows Pension Applications, 1900-1974 (at Ancestry.com)
- Missouri State Archives
- Missouri’s Union Provost Marshal Papers: 1861-1866
- Missouri Confederate Pension Applications and Soldiers Home Applications (at FamilySearch.org)
- Missouri, Confederate Pension Applications and Soldiers Home Applications (at Ancestry.com)
- Missouri Online Civil War Collections (Missouri State Archives)
- North Carolina State Archives
- North Carolina Confederate Soldiers and Widows Applications, 1885-1953 (at FamilySearch.org)
- North Carolina, Confederate Soldiers and Widows Pension Applications, 1885-1953 (at Ancestry.com)
- Oklahoma Department of Libraries
- Oklahoma Archives Division
- Oklahoma Confederate Pension Records digitized images
- Oklahoma Confederate Pension Index Cards
- South Carolina Department of Archives and History
- Records of Confederate Veterans, 1909-1973 includes applications for pensions and for admission to the Confederate Home
- Tennessee State Library and Archives
- Tennessee Confederate Pension Applications: Soldiers and Widows
- Tennessee Confederate Soldiers Home Applications
- Tennessee Civil War Veterans’ Questionnaires (Confederate and Federal)
- Tennessee Confederate Physicians
- Tennessee Colored Confederate Applications
- Tennessee, Civil War Confederate Pension Applications Index (at Ancestry.com)
- Texas State Library and Archives Commission
- Index to Texas Confederate Pension Applications, 1899-1975
- Confederate Indigent Families Lists, 1863-1865
- Alabama, Texas and Virginia, Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958 (at Ancestry.com)
- Texas, Muster Roll Index Cards, 1838-1900 (at Ancestry.com)
- Confederate and Texas State Troops military rolls, 1861-1865, 1871, 1898, bulk 1861-1865, at Texas Digital Archive, Texas State Library and Archives Commission
- Library of Virginia
- About the Confederate Pension Rolls, Veterans and Widows Database
- Virginia Confederate Pension Rolls (Veterans and Widows) Database
- Confederate Disability Applications and Receipts (Artificial Limbs)
- Index to Virginia Confederate Rosters
- Index to Virginians Who Served in the Confederate Navy
- Index to Confederate Veteran Magazine, 1893-1932
- Alabama, Texas and Virginia, Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958 (at Ancestry.com)
Additional Online Collections
Amnesty and Pardons
- Confederate Amnesty Records – several collections listed in this FamilySearch wiki article
- United States Civil War Confederate Applications for Pardons, 1865-1867 – index at FamilySearch
- Confederate Amnesty Papers – database with images at Fold3
Southern Claims Commission – FamilySearch Wiki
U.S. Southern Claims Commission Master Index, 1871-1880 at Ancestry.com
FamilySearch collections of Confederate Compiled Service Records:
- United States Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865
- United States Civil War Records of Confederate Nonregiment Soldiers, 1861-1865 — index
- United States Civil War Unfiled Papers of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865 — index
- United States Confederate Navy and Marine Service Records, 1861-1865 — images
- United States Confederate Officers Card Index, 1861-1865 — images
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