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Civil War Collection

Explore the war years through documents, photos, and soldier records.

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The Civil War lasted four years, yet events leading to it and repercussions afterward affected lives for decades. This collection gives you access to original images of military records, pension files, little-known government documents, and photographs. Included are first-hand accounts of individuals appealing for war reparations, photographs of soldiers and civilians, and the pension file index of Union soldiers who survived the struggle.

As a whole, it is a unique collection of names and events relating the American experience during a nation-defining period. In its individual parts, the details and stories are captivating and unexpected. Read interviews with Southern civilians relating how the Union army confiscated their goods and property to support its troops. Find an ancestor within a regiment, information on his term of service, then learn how to access his complete pension record. View the fire-scarred ruins of Richmond, portraits of the officers who commanded the troops, battle scenes that riveted northern citizenry.

To learn more about federal records covering the Civil War era, read the online edition of "Civil War and Later Navy Personnel Records at the National Archives, 1861-1924," by Lee D. Bacon, an article originally published in NARA's Prologue magazine, Summer 1995 (Vol. 27, No. 2).

Search for specific individuals or browse the collections below. Encounter the people who made history in small and large ways, and enhance your understanding of America's heritage.

Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900

These are indexes to pension applications for soldiers who served in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1900, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served.

The two examples included here highlight the value of this collection. The first is for General Milroy, mentioned above, a man who swept through West Virginia with the Ninth Regiment of the Indiana Infantry. Discover who was fighting under his command and who may have been present to relieve Mr. Waddle (above) of his property by clicking on the image and browsing the cards for the unit.

The second image is for John B. Howard of the Delaware Infantry. Not only can you find the unit in which he served, when he and his widow applied for pensions, but also where and when he died by reading the information at the bottom of this file card.

Learn more about this publication, how you can use it, and view interesting examples on the topic page for the Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. You can browse the collection, by state and regiment, beginning here.

Mathew B. Brady Photos

Mathew B. Brady coordinated a team of photographers to help him document the Civil War, resulting in over 6,500 portraits, landscapes, and battle scenes.

While this collection contains photographic portraits of many prominent people, its value lies in the everyday images of battles and camp scenes. The photo shown here is of soldiers dressed in their very finest and a woman, formally attired, standing next to a man as if they have just said their marriage vows. Although not identified as a wedding photograph, it certainly appears to be one.

Learn more about the full scope of these photographs and the photographers who created them by visiting the descriptive topic page for the Mathew B. Brady Photos, or browse the collection here.

Southern Claims Commission

In the 1870s, southerners claimed compensation from the U.S. government for items used by the Union Army, ranging from corn and horses, to trees and church buildings.

This is an example of one page from a petition filed by Julius C. Waddle who had property in Hampshire County, West Virginia. It describes missing items once owned by him - pillows, furnishings, animals, and fodder - valued at nearly $600. The second image is the first page of his deposition describing how the items were taken, and by whom. One of the Union generals mentioned in Waddle's deposition is General Milroy. You can view the index card for Milroy's pension file below. It provides an intriguing additional perspective to the claim, and represents the valuable relationship between documents within the collections at Fold3.

To learn more, visit the Southern Claims Commission topic page for additional examples and the history of the collection, or jump right into browsing more records here.

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