1. At what age did men serve in the Civil War?
The average age of the Civil War soldier was 22 years old. If you have a male ancestor who was born between the years 1828 and 1847, there is a good chance that he served during the war. While it is less likely that men born outside this range served, it is not entirely impossible. There are instances of men in their 50s and 60s serving in the war, as well as boys in their early teens. For example, in the 25th Tennessee Infantry CSA, William C. Daughtery, age 13, was a drummer in Company D. James R. Copeland, age 54, served in Company H. William Carland, age 62, served in Company A. Many times men above the age of 32 and boys below the age of 17 joined and were discharged not long after. However, paperwork was still generated on them.
2. How do I find out if my ancestor served and in what unit he served?
The National Parks Service's Soldiers and Sailors Website has an online database which lists many of the veterans who fought in the Civil War. Each entry contains the veteran's name, the military unit, and the company he served. This project is an ongoing project, and state records are continuously being added. The list of Tennessee Veterans appears to be complete. The information for the Tennessee Confederate veterans was taken from National Archives Record Group 109 Microfilm Publication M231 and for the Tennessee Union Veterans National Archives Record Group 94 Microfilm Publication M392. Variations on the spelling of names are included in the database, if they were a part of the original roll. If your veteran has a name that can spelled a variety of ways, try the different variations. For example, Shelby Pharris appears in the database as Shelby Phariss, Shelby Faries, and Shelby Farris.
Soldiers and Sailors Database
The Tennessee and the Civil War Project has online a variety of muster rolls for both Union and Confederates. In 1866, the United States Government required that each state submit a report on veterans that served in the Federal Army for that state. The resulting document for Tennessee became known as the "Report of the Adjutant General's Office - Tennessee." It lists the veteran's name, rank, age, enlistment date, muster in date, and special remarks. There is one caveat: not ALL Union veterans are listed in this report. Due to inadequacies in the reports of that era, missing records, etc., many veterans were not listed. A search engine is available to search the records.
Report of the Adjutant General's Office
Many of the Confederate military rosters have been transcribed and placed online with the Tennessee and the Civil War Project, individual TNGenWeb County Projects, and various websites maintained by independent researchers. An attempt has been made to locate and link to these listings. Those rosters maintained at the Tennessee and the Civil War Project may be searched by using the search engine on the main page. Rosters maintained by the individual TNGenWeb Sites may be searched using the TNGenWeb Project Search Engine. There is no mechanism for searching the rosters maintained by independent researchers except by tools located at their websites. A listing of known rosters is given at
Confederate Military Rosters
In 1964 to commemorate the Centennial Anniversary of the Civil War, the Civil War Centennial Commission published a two volume set entitled Tennesseans in the Civil War. Part II provides a listing of all Tennessee Veterans serving on both sides of the war. Both Byron Sistler and Associates and Mountain Press Publishing sell copies of this book.
As part of the 1890 census, a special census was taken to locate and identify those veterans who fought for the Union. In 1921, a fire destroyed most of the 1890 Federal census. Fortunately, the Special Veterans Censuses for states beginning with letters K-W were spared destruction. Tennessee was one of those states. Byron Sistler and Associates have transcribed and published Tennessee's census in "The 1890 Veteran's Census for Tennessee." This census lists the veterans name, rank, military unit and company, enlistment date, discharge date, county of residence, and PO Box. Other sites with this information include:
Ancestry.com has the 1890 census images online, but this site requires a fee to view them.
The Broadfoot Publishing Company has recently published a series of books called The Roster of Union Soldiers 1861-1865. These books are organized by state; and within each book, the list of veterans is organized alphabetically. Each entry contains the veteran's name and unit which he served. Many libraries carry these books in their Civil War section.
The Broadfoot Publishing Company has also published a series of books The Roster of Confederate Soldiers 1861-1865. This series of books is organized alphabetically by veteran's name. A listing contains the veterans name, military unit, and state in which he served. As with the Union Rosters, many libraries carry these books in their Civil War section.
On microfilm, the National Archives has indexes to all the Confederate and Union Service Records available. Information about Union Records may be found here. Information about Confederate records may be found here.
The films may be rented at the Family History Centers. To find a FHC near you, check out their website.
3. I found that he did serve in the Civil War. How do I obtain a copy of his service records?
If you are a resident of the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee State Library and Archives will make copies of service records for veterans who served in a Tennessee military unit, both Union and Confederate, and mail them to you. Please see their website for procedures and fees.
If you are able to visit one of the four major libraries in Tennessee, Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, Calvin McClung Historical Collection in Knoxville, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library in Chattanooga, or the Memphis/Shelby County Public Library in Memphis, you will see the library has the service records for Tennessee military units on microfilm. The personnel at the McClung Library, Hamilton County Bicentinniel Library, and the Memphis/Shelby County Public Library are unable to answer mail requests. However, if you visit the library in person, the librarians there will be more than happy to help you locate records. In addition, some of these libraries also have records of various other states. Contact the library or visit their websites to see what additional records they have.
The National Archives has the service records for ALL states, both Union and Confederate. They will copy the service records and mail you a copy. To order a copy of your veteran's service records, you will need FORM NAFT-86. Or you can use their new online order service.
Many state libraries have copies of Civil War records of other states. Contact your state library or check their website to see if they have Tennessee Service Records.
4. What information is available in Veteran's Service Records?
Beginning in 1894, the War Department undertook the monumental task of collecting and purchasing available war records and abstracting the information contained within. Muster rolls, pay rolls, rank rolls, returns, hospital records, and prison records were among the records examined and abstracted. Once completed, a packet was created for each soldier, and abstracts pertaining to that soldier were inserted into the packet. The resulting records are what is now called Compiled Military Service Records. All of these records were microfilmed and became a part of Record Groups 94 and 109. Tennessee Confederate records are recorded in 359 rolls of microfilm in microfilm publication M268, and Tennesse Union Records are recorded on 209 rolls of microfilm in microfilm publication M395.
A typical Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) consists of cards which list the rank, military unit, date of enlistment, place of enlistment, and status of the veteran, such as present, absent, discharge, dead, deserted, furloughed, transferral to another unit, etc. Some records show age, place of birth or residence, height, complexion, hair color, and eye color. This information is more common in the Union records than it is in the Confederate records.
Some of the available cards have been surveyed and examples with explanations have been put online. This is by no means an exhaustive survey. NOT all veterans have copies of all types of cards. Some veterans will have only one or two cards while others have many, many cards.
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Tennessee and the Civil War Service Records Project
This page was last updated on Tuesday, October 27, 2009.
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