The Civil War was one of the most dramatic and devastating periods in American History. In the years following the war, notable figures such as Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jefferson Davis, and Joseph E. Johnson, to name a few, published their memoirs. In addition, many observers of the war, such as Mrs. Sarah Morgan Dawson and Mary Chesnut, published their diaries which depicted civilian life during war times.
Early in the 20th century, recognizing a need to capture the perceptions of the war and the ante-bellum south through the eyes of the common Civil War soldier, Dr. Gustaves Dyer, the Archivist of Tennessee, formulated a set of questions to be sent out to all known veterans living in Tennessee. The first set of questionnaires were sent out during the years 1914 and 1915. In 1920, John Trotwood Moore, Director of the Tennessee Historical Commission, sent out a revised set of these questionnaires. By 1922, over 16,000 forms had been returned to Mr. Moore. Later, these questionnaires became known as the Tennessee Civil War Veterans Questionnaires.
Collectively, these questionnaires provide a unique window into the lives of the men and women of the Old South and into events of the war itself. There is a rich assortment of detail pertaining to the ante-bellum lifestyle, inter-class relations, and veteran's war experiences in battle, camp, prison, and hospitals. Individually, they are a genealogical gold mine of information with such questions about veteran's parents names and origin of birth.
WHAT INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN THE QUESTIONNAIRES?
Transcribed copies of the questions in Form 1 and Form 2 are online. Most veterans hand wrote the answers to the questions. However, some veterans typed their answers. In addition to simply responding to the questions, many veterans sent newspaper clippings of reunions, obituaries, and current events; correspondence from home; bible records; biographies; and even some pictures. For example, Felix Grundy Bilbrey of Overton County sent in a picture of himself taken right before the war started. Edward Bourne of the 3rd Confederate Infantry turned in 22 page manuscript entitled Life of Edward Bourne Brig. Gen'l N. G. S. T. Retired of Memphis, TN and Ramifications Pertaining Thereto. James T. Woverton turned in a newspaper article entitled The Burning of the Steamboat Sultana which appeared in a Tennessee Newspaper in 1912 just after the sinking of the Titanic.
A transcribed version of Lee T. Billingsley application is online with the Bledsoe County TNGenWeb Site.
WHERE CAN I GET A COPY OF A QUESTIONNAIRE FOR MY VETERAN?
Not all veterans who received a copy of the questionnaire returned it to either Dr. Dyer or Mr. Moore. Those questionnaires that were returned have been filmed and placed on microfilm. The Tennessee State Library and Archives has an online index to all of the available questionnaires.
Index to Tennessee Civil War Questionnaires
The questionnaires appear on the following rolls of microfilm (available from the Tennessee State Library and Archives):
- Roll No. #484-1: Federal Soldiers: A - Z
- Roll No. #484-2: Confederate Soldiers: Abotts - Butts
- Roll No. #484-3: Confederate Soldiers: By - Dor
- Roll No. #484-4: Confederate Soldiers: Dos - Go
- Roll No. #484-5: Confederate Soldiers: Gr- Ir
- Roll No. #484-6: Confederate Soldiers: Irw - McElwee
- Roll No. #484-7: Confederate Soldiers: McEwen - Pickard
- Roll No. #484-8: Confederate Soldiers: Pickett - So
- Roll No. #484-9: Confederate Soldiers: Sp - Z
Copies of individual questionnaires may be obtained via mail from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. In addition to the TSLA, three other major libraries in Tennessee have the Civil War Questionnaires on microfilm. However, none these libraries will not answer mail requests. If you would like to visit the library, the staff would be more than willing to help you locate a questionnaire on microfilm:
- Hamilton County Bicentennial Library in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
- McClung Historical Collection in Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Memphis/Shelby County Library & Information Center in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Southern Historical Press Company has transcribed and published all of the answers to the questionnaires in their six volume set entitled Tennessee Civil War Veterans Questionnaires compiled by Gustavus W. Dyer and John Trotwood Moore; editors Colleen Morse Elliot and Louise Armstrong Moxley. These books only contain the answers to the questionnaires. The additional materials submitted by the veterans have been omitted. (These books may be purchased from Byron Sistler & Associates.)
- Volume 1: Federal Soldiers: Acuff - Wood
- Volume 2: Confederate Soldiers: Abbott - Byrne
- Volume 3: Confederate Soldiers: Gailbraith - Kyle
- Volume 4: Confederate Soldiers: Lackey - Quarles
- Volume 5: Confederate Soldiers: Rainey - Young
- Volume 6: Index to Questionnaires of Civil War Soldiers.
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Tennessee and the Civil War Veteran's Questionnaire Project
This page was last updated on Tuesday, October 27, 2009.
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