Genealogical Research in South Carolina

Lesson V: Researching Your Confederate Ancestor

In April of 1865, Richmond was evacuated by the Confederate Government and the military personnel records of the Confederate Army were moved south to Charlotte, North Carolina. The records later ended up in Washington, D.C.

During late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the United States War Department organized the records of volunteer soldiers from all wars from the Revolutionary War through the Philippine Insurrection. These records including abstracts about individual soldiers, from a variety of sources, were noted on cards and filed in jacket envelopes according to the soldiers' names and regiments. Occasionally, original documents, when they related to one particular soldier, were included in the jacket envelope. These jacket envelopes were arranged first by war, then by state, then by the regiment or unit, and finally by surname. These records are known as the "Compiled Military Service Records."

From 1878 to 1901 The War Department tried to locate all of the missing Confederate Records. In 1903, the United States Secretary of War asked the governors of the Southern States to lend all of their Confederate Records to the War Department to be copied.

The Confederate States Army had not kept totally accurate records, plus the muster rolls and other military paperwork stayed with the commander of the unit. This means that after the war the records were scattered all over the South. Some records were turned in to the Confederate Military Personnel Office or to the state governments, but many Confederate Military records were kept for years by unit commanders, or upon his death, by his family. There may still be lost Confederate records, residing in someone's attic.

When the Southern states decided to issue pensions to former Confederate soldiers, the need for these records became heightened. Thus, the War Department began to actively seek out the records and compile service records for former soldiers who applied for a pension. The War Department used what original records they were able to obtain, such as Confederate muster rolls and Union prison and parole records. Eventually, the War Department began to compile service records for all Confederate Soldiers, not just those who had applied for the pension. The project was completed in 1927, when all of the records were moved to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. where they became part of the Compiled Military Service Records.

The Confederate records are arranged by state and by two additional series: National Archives Microfilm Publication M331, Compiled Service Records of Confederate General and Staff Officers and Nonregimental Enlisted Men; and M258, Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations Raised Directly by the Confederate Government. The Compiled Service Records (CSRs) for Confederate soldiers have been microfilmed and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History, has microfilm copies of the records of the South Carolina units which were obtained from the National Archives.

Card indexes, also available on microfilm, were created for these Compiled Service Records of Confederate soldiers. The large, overall index is M253, Consolidated Index to Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers. It covers all the compiled records whether service was from a state unit, from a unit raised directly by the Confederate government, or as a staff officer. There are also smaller indexes to the two groups of nonstate records mentioned above and individual indexes of the records of soldiers who served.

Please be aware that not all Confederate soldiers have Compiled Service Records. The absence of such a record for a soldier does not mean he did not serve or that records  do not exist about his service. If he served in a unit raised late in the war, or in a unit that was  organized only for a short time, or in a unit that never officially mustered into formal Confederate service, there may be no federal records about him. For these soldiers, the you might have to research a variety of state and local records.

At National Archives there is a series of miscellaneous Confederate papers that might be helpful in the case of a poorly documented soldier. M346, Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, contains references to soldiers, slaves, government employees, and civilians arranged alphabetically. (National Archives microfilm is  available via the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Family History Centers.)

The Compiled Service Records usually provide much of the following information; age at time of enlistment, place of enlistment, places served, pay records, muster rolls (mentioning whether the soldier was present, on leave, in hospital, absent without leave, etc.), place of discharge or death, and sometimes a physical description. The South Carolina Archives has an alphabetical card file, listing the soldiers’ names and what unit they served with. (The National Archives has an alphabetical list on microfilm.) Keep in mind that some soldiers served in a state militia and were never mustered into the Confederate Army. Sometimes it is possible to find a militia list.

Confederate pension records are only availiable at the state level. In Columbia you will also find rosters of the state’s Confederate War soldiers and Confederate pension applications so be sure to check the Confederate Pension files. In pension records you might find information such as: the military unit in which a soldier served, name of commanding officer, the date and place of enlistment, birth date and place, the date and place of marriage, name of wife, date and place of discharge, the physical disabilities connected with his service-related injuries, and residences since discharge. A South Carolina state law enacted on December 24, 1887, permitted financially needy Confederate veterans and widows to apply for a pension; however, few applications survive from the 1888-1918 era. Veterans who were citizens of the state, had an income of less than $250 a year, and had a disability that left them unable to earn a living were eligible. The law also allowed widows of soldiers or sailors who had died in service and earned less than $250 per year to apply. A state board approved applications by verification via county officials and doctors.

Pensioners received five dollars a month the first year. Beginning in 1889, the South Carolina Comptroller General began publishing lists of veterans receiving pensions in his Annual Report. To obtain a copy of the pension application from the 1888-1918 era, the researcher needs to know the exact year in which the veteran or widow applied for the pension. In 1895, eligibility was expanded to include veterans and widows over 60 who had incomes of less than $100 per year. In 1900, the income requirement was changed to $150 per year for disabled veterans and $100 for veterans over age 60. In 1919, eligibility was changed to include all veterans, and widows over the age of sixty who had married veterans before 1890. In 1923, pensions were approved for African Americans who had served at least six months as cooks, servants, or attendants. In 1924, it appears that because there were too many applications, the act was amended to eliminate laborers, teamsters, and non-South Carolinians.

From 1919 to 1925, South Carolina established pensions for Confederate veterans and widows regardless of financial need. These files are arranged alphabetically. Pension application files are typically one sheet of paper with writing on both sides. Also available are Confederate Home applications and inmate records for veterans (1909-1957) and applications of wives, widows, sisters, and daughters (1925-1955). The legislature dropped the age of eligibility for widows to 55 in 1920, to 50 in 1921, and to 45 in 1930. The state paid Confederate widow pensions until the last widow died in 1990.

The 1910 census (column 30) indicates whether the person was a "survivor of the Union or Confederate Army or Navy." The answers are, "CA" for Confederate Army, and "CN" for Confederate Navy. These clues can lead to military service and pension records

The following Confederate records may also be found at the South Carolina State Department of Archives and History in Columbia, South Carolina:

South Carolina Archives Summary Guide
(RG: 700000)

C 700010 Confederate States of America. Army. Medical furloughs, discharges, and miscellaneous papers 1863-1865 0.33 cubic ft.

C 700003 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Infantry Regiment, 1st (Butler's) Order book (Co. F, 1st (Butler's) S. C. Infantry)  1861-1864 1.00 microfilm reel

C 700008 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Infantry Regiment, 1st.  Muster roll of Co. L, 1st Regiment of S. C. Volunteers, Captain William A. Kelley 1863-1864 0.66 cubic ft.

C 700009 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Infantry Regiment, 2nd.  Order book of the 2nd Regiment, S. C. Volunteers 1861  0.16 cubic ft.

C 700013 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Infantry Regiment, 4th.  Record books of the Palmetto Riflemen (Co. B, 4th S. C. Infantry) 1861 3.00 volumes

C 700007 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Infantry Regiment, 6th. Report book (Co. E, 6th S. C. Infantry) 1861-1862 1.00 volume

C 700005 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Infantry Regiment, 25th. Quartermaster. Quartermaster account book, 25th S. C. Infantry/Hagood's Brigade 1864-1865 1.00 volume

C 700006 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Infantry Regiment, 25th. Quartermaster. Quartermaster records, 25th S. C. Infantry/Hagood's Brigade 1862-1864 2.00 cubic ft.

C 700004 Confederate States of America. Army. South Carolina Cavalry Regiment, 5th. Records of Company D, 5th S. C. Cavalry 1861-1865  7.00 volumes and 1.08 cubic ft.

C 700014 Confederate States of America. Army. Augusta Arsenal. Miscellaneous documents of the Augusta Arsenal 1861 1.00 microfilm reel (Reproduction requires permission of the Reese Library Manuscript Collections, Augusta State University, Augusta, Georgia)

C 700001 Confederate States of America. Army. Enrolling Officer for Williamsburg District. Enrollment books for Confederate military service 1863-1864 1.00 microfilm reel and 0.01 microfilm reel

C 700012 Confederate States of America. Army. 3rd Military District. Orders books 1861-1862 1.00 volume

District Court for South Carolina

C 700002 Confederate States of America. District Court for South Carolina. Deputy Marshal. Civil receipt book 1861-1865 1.00 volume

Admiralty Court

C 700011 Confederate States of America. Admiralty Court. Writ book of the Admiralty Court of the Confederate States of America  1861-1864 1.00 volume

For more information about how to obtain a copy of your ancestor's service record you may wish to visit the website of the South Carolina State Archives. Microfilm of the Complied Service Records for South Carolina Soldiers are also housed in many major public libraries across the United States.

For those wishing for a simple search by name, the Broadfoot Guide to Confederate Soldiers is available in many libraries. The 27 volume set covers all southern service. The two volume set on South Carolina is most helpful for service rosters by soldier's name (Volume One) or unit (Volume Two).

The Confederate Relic Room in Columbia and the South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina in Columbia are two other large collections available for those doing research. The index for the manuscript collection at the South Caroliniana Library is available in most public libraries in South Carolina.

Visit the Index to South Carolina Confederate Soldiers to see if your ancestor's unit is already posted on-line.

South Carolina, Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places.
Ya'll come back home to South Carolina.

© Cynthia Ridgeway Parker, M.Ed.

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