Civil War Service Records (CMSR) - Confederate - Confederate Government (CSA)
Records: 57,912 · Complete: 100%
by Craig R. Scott, CG
The creation of compiled military service records for Confederate soldiers began in 1903 under the direction of Brig Gen Fred C. Ainsworth, head of the Record and Pension Office in the War Department. They are abstracts of original records found in the War Department Collection of Confederate Records and from documents borrowed by the War Department for the purpose of obtaining as full a service record as possible on these soldiers.
The compiled service records are arranged by unit, usually a regiment, and then alphabetically by soldiers’ surname. Preceding the individual soldiers jacket-envelopes are empty envelopes which list the officers of the unit. Following these are jacket-envelopes that contain caption cards for muster-in and muster-out rolls, and record-of-events cards, indicating the activities of the unit during specific periods.
The jacket envelope contains information about the soldier, including name, rank, unit, and the number of abstract cards, the number of personal papers, and the number of medical records in the jacket envelope.
The image shown here is the jacket envelope of Robert E. Withers, Colonel of the 18th Virginia Infantry Regiment, CSA. His jacket envelope shows that he has 23 abstract cards.
Abstract cards document entries relating to the soldier, as found in muster rolls, returns, rosters, payrolls, appointment books, hospital registers, Union prisoner of war registers and rolls, parole rolls, and inspection reports. Image 2 shows an abstract card with dates of service and other information about the unit at the bottom of the card. This particular card shows that Col Withers was present at Centerville in October 1861.
Images of any papers relating solely to the soldier are sometimes found in compiled service records. Col Withers’ pay vouchers are included in the jacket envelope displayed in image 3.
There are cross reference cards and jacket envelopes for soldiers whose names appear in the records under more than one spelling.
Officer caption cards
These cards provide information about the officers in the unit. Here, along with Colonel Withers, are the other officers in the Field and Staff Company, 18th Virginia Infantry (image 4). The names of other officers in the other companies in the regiment are found on subsequent abstract cards in this section.
Image 5 is a record-of-events card, which shows what Company A, 18th Virginia Infantry, was doing during the month of October 1861.
Using the collection
If the unit of service is known, locate the service record through the alphabetical state hierarchy in browse.
Select the state and then the soldier’s unit. At the front of each unit is an introduction that consists of the target pages of each roll of microfilm that is related to the unit. These can be ignored. Unit information is where the officer lists, caption cards, and records of events will be located. When looking for a specific soldier, select the first letter of the last name, then locate the surname, followed by his given name in the next section of browse titles.
If the unit is not known, type the individual’s name in the search box after selecting the title for the appropriate state’s records.
The images within this series only deal with those Confederate soldiers who were in units from particular states.
Compiled military service records of soldiers from units raised directly by the Confederate Government are found in National Archives Microfilm publication, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations Raised Directly by the Confederate Government, M258. These include organizations of the Confederate Regular army, those raised from the Indian Territory, and a unit made up of foreigners recruited among Union prisoners of war. It also includes units such as Engineer Troops, Sappers, Miners, Signal Corps, and Bands.
Compiled military service records of Confederate General and Staff Officers and Non-Regimental enlisted men are found on National Archives Microfilm publication, Compiled Military Service Records of Confederate General and Staff Officers, and Non-Regimental Enlisted Men, M331. These included officers and enlisted men who did not belong to any particular regiment, company, or special corps; including general officers, officers and men of the staff departments, members of army corps, division and brigade staffs, aides-de-camp, military judges, chaplains, agents, and drillmasters. Staff departments included Adjutant and Inspector General, Quartermaster General, Commissary General, Medical Department, and the Ordnance Department.
Although every effort was made to compile complete military service records, many papers lacked sufficient detail to identify a specific soldier to a specific unit. Unfiled Papers and Slips Belonging to Confederate Compiled Service Records, M347 is an extensive series of papers that the War Department accumulated, but did not file in the service record series.
Explore these titles
The records shown here are scanned from the National Archives microfilm publications relating to the state of service of the individual soldier. Titles available at Fold3, are listed below. The original records are located in Record Group 109, War Department Collection of Confederate Records in the National Archives.
Descriptive pamphlets, published by NARA, may be viewed or downloaded by clicking the publication number.
About the contributor
A professional genealogical and historical researcher for more than twenty years, Craig R Scott is a Certified Genealogist who specializes in the records of the National Archives, especially those that relate to the military. He is a member of the Company of Military Historians, on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and has served in the past on the boards of the Virginia Genealogical Society and the Maryland Genealogical Society. He is the author of The 'Lost Pensions': Settled Accounts of the Act of 6 April 1838 and Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, Inventory 14 (Revised).