Where can I find military desertion records for my Great, great grandfather during the Civil War?

U.S. Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, 1821-1916 indicate my great, great grandfather deserted from the 1st Infantry, Company 6, at Benton Barracks, MO on 21 Sep., 1861. Where might I search for more detailed information about this. I have received his military records from the NARA but they contain no information about this.

  • If he deserted but was not caught, then there would not be a Courts Martial proceeding.  If he was arrested but not tried, and returned to duty, that would be stated in the Company Muster Rolls in NARA RG94, entry 53 (I think).  Also check RG94, entry 529, Carded Medical Records (regulars), organized by regiment, then surname.  There may also be records in RG391 for the 1st Reg't US Infantry.

    What is his name? When asking a question like this, it i helpful to give as much data as possible; especially a name.  When you stated vaguely that you received his 'records from NARA', what exactly did you receive?  I ask because regular Army soldiers do not have Compiled Military Service Records. Did you just get an enlistment paper, or more?  If he received a pension, then he cleared his desertion charge and data should be in the pension.

    Did you verify that he served only in the 1st Regiment United States Infantry (regulars), and not also from a state (volunteers and militia)?  BTW - companies within regiments were lettered, not numbered, so which company was it besides "Company 6"?

    Hope this gets you to the next step.

  • Very helpful! Thank you.

    I did not provide details as this is my first day with the forum. I wasn't sure how specific to be.

    His name was Charles Conrad Kraft (later Craft), alias Conrad Kraft. He served two enlistment periods with the Regular Army, First Regiment, Infantry. His signed on in 1852 with Company G--which he spent at various Texas forts. He reenlists in 1858, now with Company D. He is once again in Texas, but after the Civil War breaks out his company rapidly retracts northward and is first in Indian Territory (OK) and then Kansas, ending up at Ft. Leavenworth. From here he took part in the Battle of Wilson's Creek, August 10, 1861. A month later he is reported as deserted. He was caught/or returned as he does appear in the muster rolls. And it appears he is confined  for a period while his Company D took part in the next immediate actions., He serves out the remainder of his time, being discharged in 1863 at Vermillion Bayou, LA. Because he was a blacksmith he is actually identified by name in many of the post returns. He enlisted (in NY) not long after his arrival from Europe, and was not in a state militia.

    I have copies of his enlistment records and the pension applications for both himself and later (after his death in 1901) for his wife Maria Gannon Kraft (Craft). She, like many, served as a laundress while associated with him in Company D. There are also medical reports related to his request for pension, and affadavits filed on behalf of both himself and his wife by men who served with him, and her siblings attesting to her marriage to him.

    I have no reason to believe he was court marshaled, but would like to know if he was just disciplined for desertion, and if there was a reason recorded as to why he deserted. I know many did--especially after their first experience in battle.

    I will be in Washington, D.C. in July, so your suggestions to follow up at NARA are very welcome. I'd also like to know if there are any records pertaining to the wives and children of the enlisted men at this time. I know that several children were born to this couple in Texas, Kansas, and Missouri during his time in the service. They do not appear on any of the 1860 census records that I have been able to access thus far. I wondered if the families of Army units were not recorded.

  • Have you contacted the US Army Center for Military History at Carlisle Barracks, Pa.? A large number of regimental histories were written immediately after the Civil War, most by veterans of the units. The folks at Carlisle might be able to point you in the right direction regarding any histories of the 1st U.S. out West. Since the regiment spent the war essentially divided between the Army of the Ohio and the Army of the Potomac, there could well be some scholarship specifically on the battalion of the 1st in the West.

    As for births, etc., search for post returns of various forts/barracks for the antebellum time period. These records would contain (or should) contain family information as dependents were almost always recorded.

  • I have not contacted the Center at Carlisle Barracks (although I was just near there). I have read summaries of the 1st Regiment units out west. The post returns have been quite helpful in tracing the movements of my ancestor's companies. I have yet to find fort post returns with information on dependents at the forts to which he was assigned in Texas, Oklahoma (Indian Territory), and Kansas. I shall dig a bit deeper.

    Thanks much.

    • Another possible place to look is in the Records of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau, Record Group 110.  The National Archives at Kansas City has a number of series that list deserters.  These records generally list the name of the individual that deserted, the unit they deserted from, when and where they deserted, and when arrested if applicable.  Here is one possible series:  "List of Deserters Reported by the Provost Marshal General, 1861-1863" (NAID 2770214).  This is the only series that we have that goes as early as 1861.  It is possible that it could be recorded in a later volume as well.
  • Thanks much--was unaware of these possible sources.

  • I have a similar question, but different time frame -- 1910.

    Hugo Albright aka Hugo Frederick Herman Albrecht or Albricht was a prisoner at McNeil Island and transfered to Leavenworth September 1912. He was received at McNeil on Sept 7, 1911 from the District of Oregon, for Stealing US property - sentenced to serve three years. At the time of his imprisonment he was wated for desertion from the US Army. I believe he enlisted in the Army in December 1910 and deserted in March 1911 while on duty in Presidio in San Francisco. I have a newspaper article (the Oregonian, Sept 1911) which states that when sentenced he pleased for a sentence of five years and one month. "Albright explained that he had deserted the Army and if sentenced to serve only three years, military authorities would arrest him at the expiration of the term and send him to military prison. He said one month beyond a five-year sentence would free him from prosecution under the military law. The court refused to grant the request." It then went on to say "Deputy US District Attorney McGuire received a letter yesterday from Albright, which renewed the plea for two years and one month more at McNeil's Island. If this could not be granted, Albright asked that efforts be made to obtain his discharge from the Army that he may not be re-arrested for desertion."

    He was discharged from Leavenworth (Prisoner #8162) on December 23, 1913, which would make him just 24.

    My question is this. If he was discharged, would the Army have pursued him on charges of desertion? Are there any federal records that I might explore to determine if this occurred?

  • We may have a court-martial record -- https://catalog.archives.gov/id/12459579  -- for him, or his military personnel file -- https://catalog.archives.gov/id/299741 -- at the National Archives at St. Louis. See Military and Veterans Research and Resources at The National Archives | National Archives  for information on how to request a search. Please fill out a separate form for each request.