cover image

Civil War Pensions Index

  • Conflict:   Civil War
  • Records:   2,987,384
  • Complete:

Civil War Pensions Index

Overview Description

This publication contains index cards for pension applications of veterans who served in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1900, including wars other than the Civil War. Records are sorted by units within regiments from each state in the Union. Find a soldier by searching on his name or browse by regiment. Learn about his term of service, and use the information to request his pension record. Unique to this series of records are death dates and locations for many of the veterans who died after the war.

Search Civil War Pensions Index

Pictures & Records

Wyatt Earp's Older Brother in the Civil War Pension Index President James Garfield's Pension Index Card Sample Sample


Publication Title:
Civil War Pensions Index
Content Source:
The National Archives logo The National Archives
Publication Number:
Record Group:
Published on Fold3:
Last Update:
June 17, 2015
NARA T289. Pension applications for service in the US Army between 1861 and 1900, grouped according to the units in which the veterans served.


This publication group contains over two million index cards for pension applications of veterans who served in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1917. Most records are from the Civil War, but there are also several from four later wars:

  • the Spanish-American War
  • the Philippine Insurrection
  • Indian wars
  • World War I

Search on a name, or browse by state, arm of service (infantry, cavalry, militia, etc.), regiment, and company. Drill down through each sub-category to locate individual records within each unit.

Each card lists the soldier's full name, rank, company and regiment, when he enlisted, and when he was discharged. It will also include a certificate number for each pension requested.

Any record stamped "DEAD" in the upper left-hand corner will include a soldier's death date and where he died at the bottom of the card, but only if he died after the war was over. Those who were killed or died during the war will have an application classified as a widow's file, and sometime as a minor's file.

You can view a list of all abbreviations used in this publication and learn more about this pension file index by reviewing the descriptive pamphlet for publication T289, provided by NARA here.

If you wish to order copies of a serviceman's complete pension file, you will need most of the information displayed on the index card, and most particularly the certificate number. Then visit the National Archives webpage for "Requesting Copies of Older (pre-WWI) Military Service Records" at There you can order the pension file online or request to have NATF Form 85 mailed to you.

Presidential pensions

story image(s) 14 images

As commanders in chief, presidents of the United States were entitled to military pensions, even if they did not serve in the military. In the Civil War Pensions Index at Fold3, you will find index cards for twelve US presidents and a vice president (Thomas R. Marshall, vice president under Woodrow Wilson).

The image of each president's index card is shown here. There are two for William McKinley. Several of the presidents in this index were not alive during the time period covered by this index (1861-1900), nor were their wives. So, the question may be asked - why is there a pension card?

United States Presidents in the Civil War Pensions Index
(with presidential term, followed by life span in italics and parentheses)

  • George Washington, 1789-97 (1732-1799)
  • James Madison, 1809-17 (1751-1836)
  • William Henry Harrison, 1889-93 (1833-1901)
  • John Tyler, 1841-45 (1790-1862)
  • James K. Polk, 1845-49 (1795-1849)
  • Zachary Taylor, 1849-50 (1784-1850)
  • Abraham Lincoln, 1861-65 (1809-1865)
  • Ulysses S. Grant, 1869-77 (1822-1885)
  • James A. Garfield, 1881 (1831-1881)
  • William McKinley, 1897-1901 (1843-1901)
  • Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-09 (1858-1919)
  • Woodrow Wilson, 1913-21 (1856-1924)

Biographies of the presidents can be found on the White House website.

For another example of surprising presidential document discoveries at Fold3, check out LBJ's Texas birth certificate.

Citation and source

story image(s)

Citation example for this image

“Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900,” digital images, ( : accessed 27 October 2011); Charles H. Drew (Co. H, 18th Mass. Inf.) index card; imaged from Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, T289 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives [n.d.]), roll 211.

Citation template for this title

“Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900,” digital images, ( : accessed [date image viewed]); [soldier's name (company, regiment)] index card; imaged from Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, T289 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives [n.d.]), roll [roll number found in Image Information].

Fold3's source

These images are scanned from the microfilm publication of the Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, T289, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC. The original records are located in Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, in the National Archives.

Note: The example and template shown here are based on methods described in Evidence Explained, a definitive guide to the citation and analysis of historical sources, by Elizabeth Shown Mills. For guidance on creating and using citations, including source list entries, subsequent notes, and models for citing other records, we suggest consulting Evidence Explained.

Civil War Collection

Read more about the entire collection of Civil War titles available at Fold3, including records of the Southern Claims Commission, Confederate soldier service records and amnesty papers, letters from the Department of State, Lincoln Assassination Papers, photos, and more.

The list of all Civil War titles at Fold3 can be found here

Explore "Civil War Pensions Index"

Search or browse the Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900 here.

Question...what is the difference between the "complete pension file" that I can get through the Archives link above and of that which I can get here on Thanks! BBB

If you take a look at the Rev War pension files on Footnote, you'll have an idea of the type of information available when you order a full CW pension file. The Civil War Pensions Index is just that - an index. If you locate a name in this index, you'll certainly want to order the pension file. It will have an amazing amount of information in it.

I have gone to archives in person...and one pension file was seriously 300 pages...some were like 50. They may have marriage documents, information on children and much more.

Are the Civil War pensions indexed from Alabama those men who enlisted in the services of the Union or both Union and Confederate?

I went to NARA in DC last week, armed with Footnote printouts of pension index cards, and got some advice from the experts there that I thought I should post here. There apparently can be 3 different versions of each soldier's index card. The version that Footnote microfilmed, the version that Ancestry microfilmed and the official microfilm at NARA. The version that Footnote microfilmed is apparently the least reliable (sorry, Footnote). For about half of my requests, I had to either log on to Ancestry and pull other numbers off of their versions of the cards OR pull NARA's microfilm and find more info there. The primary problems are (1) numbers that are longer than 6 digits and (2) Civil War pensions that have been combined with other wars like the Mexican War or the Indian Wars. If you plan to request a pension and your soldier's app. or cert. number is that long or there are notations in the Other area at the bottom, then you should at least look at Ancestry's version to see if there is other info like an XC or C number at the bottom of the card (the C means Combined). The set of cards that Footnote microfilmed apparently was the least updated with all of the data that helps NARA find the records.

sketchdon ... your comments below are accurate in that researchers should check both pension indexes which are T288 (NARA microfilm that has been digitized on Ancestry) and T289 (NARA microfilm pub that has been digitized on Footnote) before ordering a case file. There is also a numerical index on microfilm available at NARA (pub A1158). The original cards were destroyed after microfilming. The digitized versions on both subscription sites come directly from the NARA publications ... therefore, there is not an "official" version at NARA any different than what you are seeing on your computer screen. Yes, they contain different information since they were used differently by the pension bureau. I would not term one more "reliable" than the other ... they are just different and offer you different advantages when doing research. The numbering system at the Veterans Administration was changed sometime in the late 1920's, so the C and XC numbers from the new system appear on T288 only. However, if you are researching a common name, or a name with many spelling variations, you may have trouble using the digitized version of T288. Having the ability to browse by regiment on Footnote's T289 is sometimes the only way of finding it. Also, the T289 cards many times offer the date of death of the veteran at the bottom, which can offer a researcher new information or confirm that you have the correct "John Smith." Finally, the T289 index is the perfect finding aid to complement the Widow's Certificate Approved Pension Case File collection on Footnote. This large collection is being digitized in its entirety as I write this. So, use all the tools available to you but recognize that these sites are presenting the original indexes directly from NARA. Have fun!

This is a reply to some of the much older questions I see here ... The National Archives (NARA) holds the original Civil War pension files, none of which were ever microfilmed. Since the federal government only gave pensions for Union service, these are Union pension files. If you are looking for Confederate Pensions, you need to check with the state where your ancestor was living (not necessarily where he served). Southern states granted pensions at different times and only to those currently residing in the state, regardless of where their CSA service took place. This means that if your ancestor moved, he (or she) lost the pension and had to reapply in the new state. And if your ancestors moved north, they were inelligible to apply for a pension because northern states did not grant pensions to former Confederates. fold3 is in the process of digitizing both the Union widows pensions and also the Union Navy pensions. This is the only place you can view those files in full without going to DC to visit NARA. If you do order copies of records directly from NARA, these days you can request a CD with scanned images, rather than paper photocopies. Also, you have the choice to order the full pension (always the best approach if it's not too expensive for you, IMHO) or a small subset of those papers. The smaller set of pension papers contains those items someone else (ie, an archivist at NARA) thought had the most pertinent information for genealogical research. The subset will likely include information about service and next-of-kin, but you never know. Looking at the full file, or ordering a copy of it, is really the best way to learn the most about your ancestor. And definitely don't overlook all the names of the people who acted as witnesses for your ancestor in his quest for a pension; some of those names may lead you to other relatives.