Introduction

The records below are the main series used for documenting military service in the US Army prior to the time period just before World War I. Questions about the records listed in this blog as well as other pre-World War I Army and War Department records may be directed to the National Archives at Washington, DC - Textual Reference (RDT1) via email at Archives1reference@nara.gov or posted on History Hub in the Military Records community.

 

Depending on the time period and individual circumstances, soldiers also may be documented in other types of records such as land grant files, pension files, medical files, casualty records, Military Academy records, prisoner lists, and unit records that are not listed in this blog.

 

For enlisted men of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after October 1912 and for officers of the U.S. Army who were separated from the service after June 1917, there may be an Official Military Personnel File (OMPF). OMPFs are not included in this blog. For more information about these records, see About Military Service Records and Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs, DD Form 214).

 

Any surviving records of pre-Revolutionary War service in colonial militias as well as service in state militias and National Guard units that were not called up for federal service may be in state archives. State archives may have additional records documenting the service of soldiers in state volunteer units that are also documented in records at the National Archives. The nature and availability of state military service records varies greatly from state to state.

 

Compiled Military Service Records

Compiled military service records (CMSRs) did not originate during the wars they document, but were compiled by the War Department beginning in the 1890s to produce a centralized record of enlisted men and officers whose military service was performed during an emergency and whose service was considered to be in the federal interest. CMSRs were created for the Continental Army and many Revolutionary War-era state units, as well as volunteer forces from the post-Revolutionary period through the Philippines Insurrection. CMSRs were not constructed for officers and enlisted personnel of the Regular Army.

 

Compiled service records consist of an envelope containing card abstracts taken from muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, and other records. The exact information included varies from war to war and from individual to individual. They typically provide age at enlistment, rank, unit, date mustered in and mustered out, and basic military information. They may list a person's place of birth, where they enlisted, and a basic physical description. They sometimes note when a person was sick, absent, or deserted. If a person died while in service, that will be noted. The CMSR may contain an internal jacket for so-called “personal papers” of various kinds. These may include a copy of the soldier's enlistment paper, papers relating to his capture and release as a prisoner of war, or a statement that he had no personal property with him when he died.

 

NOTE: The CMSR does not identify parents or next-of-kin, and rarely indicates battles in which a soldier fought. Family information, where it is documented, is more likely to be in pension records.

 

Revolutionary War (1775 - 1784)

See The American Revolution: Research our Records for more information.

 

Service Records: Compiled Service Records of Soldiers Who Served in the American Army During the Revolutionary War in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records (Record Group 93)


Index: Indexes to Revolutionary War Compiled Military Service Records in the War Department Collection of Revolutionary War Records (Record Group 93)


Post-Revolutionary Period (1784-1811)

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Units During the Post-Revolutionary War Period in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Post-Revolutionary War Period in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


War of 1812 (1812-1815)

See War of 1812 Resources in NARA for more information.

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the War of 1812 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the War of 1812 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Indian Wars (ca. 1815 - 1858)

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Indian Wars in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Indian Wars in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Mexican American War (1846 - 1848)See Mexican War: Search Records Online and Other Resources for more information.
Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Mexican War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Mexican War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Civil War (1861 - 1866)

Only Union records are listed in this blog. See Civil War for more information.

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94) [includes Veteran Reserve Corps and U.S. Colored Troops as well as state volunteer units]


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Civil War, 1899 - 1927 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


See Also
Carded Records Relating to Civil War Staff Officers in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: Not all records have been digitized
    • National Archives Catalog - Only a single record has been digitized and is available through the Catalog.


General Orders Announcing Brevet Rank Appointments of Volunteer Officers, 1861 - 1868 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Generals' Reports of Service, 1864 - 1872 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Letters Received, 1863 - 1894 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94): This series contains letters, reports, and related papers concerning the recruiting, organization and service of organizations in the U.S. Colored Troops, their officers, and servicemen. These records are in addition to the USCT records in the Carded Records series listed above.

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: Not all records have been digitized
    • National Archives Catalog - 15 documents have been digitized and are available through the Catalog.


The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a database containing information about the men who served in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Other information on the site includes histories of Union and Confederate regiments, links to descriptions of significant battles, and selected lists of prisoner-of-war records and cemetery records, which will be amended over time. The CWSS is a cooperative effort between the National Park Service and several public and private partners.

 

Spanish American War (1898-1898) and Philippine Insurrection (1899-1903)

See Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection for more information.

 

Spanish American War

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Spanish-American War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Spanish-American War in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection

 

Service Records: Carded Records Relating to Staff Officers of Volunteers in the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection, 1899 - 1927 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Spanish-American War and the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Philippine Insurrection

 

Service Records: Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: Most records have not been digitized. As of August 2020, only a single record has been digitized and made available through the National Archives Catalog. No digitized records are available from digitization partner websites.


Philippine Insurrection Index: Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Philippine Insurrection Service Records (Puerto Rico): Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Served in the Puerto Rican Regiment of U.S. Volunteers During the Philippine Insurrection in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


Regular Army (1798 - ca. 1917)

 

Officers

 

Pre-1863: There are no consolidated service records for Regular Army officers before 1863. One may examine the various correspondence series of the Adjutant General's Office in Record Group 94 and other military records for documentation relating to these officers.

 

1863 - 1917: Letters Received, 1863 - 1917 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94) in additional to recording relating to officers of the Regular Army, these records also includes files for officers of Volunteers in the Staff Corps commissioned by the President, and officers commissioned by brevet appointment in the Regular Army and Volunteer organizations.


See also: Statements of the Foreign Service of U.S. Army Officers, 1914 - 1915

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online: This series has not been digitized.


1789-1969: Regular Army Officers are listed in the Official Army Register which is available through Fold3 as Army Registers, 1798-1969. Some editions are available free on HathiTrust.

 

Enlisted

 

1798 - 1912: Enlistment Papers, 1798 - October 31, 1912 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)

  • Microfilm Publication: This series has not been microfilmed.
  • Digitized Records Available Online:
    • National Archives Catalog - Only 2 records have been digitized.


1798 - 1914: Registers of Enlistments in the United States Army, 1798 - 1914 in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office (Record Group 94)


Accessing Pre-World War I Army Service Records

 

National Archives Catalog
Many of the records listed above may be viewed using the National Archives Catalog. If you require assistance locating a particular file, you may ask about it on History Hub or email RDT1. If the Catalog is not working for you, please email Catalog@nara.gov.

 

In-Person Research
All of the records listed above as well as all the microfilm publications are located at the National Archives in Washington, DC. For some records, researchers may access the original papers. For other records, researchers must use the microfilm or the digital images of the records rather than the originals.

 

Some microfilm publications are available in one or more of our regional facilities in addition to the DC facility. You may use the Microfilm Catalog to look up information about additional microfilm publications, to include a list of locations where they are available.

 

Please be advised that as of August 2020, all NARA locations remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The National Archives will decide when to begin reopening our facilities based on guidance from the Federal Government, including the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). We are working diligently on our plans for the gradual reopening of our facilities across the country.

 

Please check NARA website for the latest information before planning a trip to a NARA facility. We also recommend that you email the staff at the location you are visiting prior to planning your trip.

 

Ordering Copies of Pre-World War I Service Records
To order copies of service records (except for OMPFs) not already available in the National Archives Catalog, please fill out a NATF Form 86 for the service records and mail the completed form to the address listed on the form. For more information see Requesting Copies of Older (pre-WWI) Military Service Records. There is a reproduction fee for this service.

 

Please note that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has suspended reproduction and digitization services until further notice due to COVID-19. Orders will not be serviced until operations can resume safely. NARA has also temporarily suspended the option for placing online orders using eservices.archives.gov. Once operations resume, document reproduction requests will be filled in the order in which they were received. We apologize for any inconvenience.

 

Accessing Records on Digitization Partner Websites
FamilySearch may be accessed with a free account. Ancestry and Fold3 both have options for free accounts, however most data collections on these websites are behind a paywall. The National Archives provides free access to AncestryInstitution and Fold3 at all NARA locations. As mentioned above, all NARA locations remain closed to the public due to COVID-19. Many public and university libraries also provide access to these websites to their patrons.

 

Over time, many of the digitized records currently only available on partner websites will be uploaded into the National Archives Catalog and made available to all for free.

Links for Additional Information about Pre-World War I Service Records