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Dear Mr. MacMichael,
Thank you for contacting the History Hub about your question. Because you are trying to have a broader understanding of your ancestors time in service, there are a couple different avenues that you could explore.
The first thing we would urge you to do is to search through the National Archives website using the term “Civil War Records”. This will bring up the search guide “Civil War Records: Basic Research Sources”, which is a general finding aid and research guide compiled by the National Archives for the purpose of helping researchers like yourself find the Civil War collections that they are looking for. You can access that here.
One series that is listed on the guide and that may be helpful are the pension records, specifically the microfilm collection T288, General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934. Some of these records are already on Ancestry.com, but there may be a fee. The pension files might have more specific information about your family member’s time in service, especially if they were wounded in combat and required medical attention after the war. These records can be accessed on location at the National Archives, but you also now have the option to order these online.
You also stated that one of your ancestors deserted his unit after enlisting, but was found shortly afterwards. The National Archives maintains the court-martial records of the military, including those from the Civil War. Although it sounds as though your ancestor stayed in the service, it doesn’t hurt to check this series in case there is anything else regarding your great-great-grandfather. The court-martial records are titled Court Martial Case Files, 12/1800-10/1894, and these fall under Record Group 153: Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army), 1792-2010.
To gain a broader view of your ancestors’ services during the war, you should check into the microfilm series M594: Compiled Records Showing Service of Military Units in Volunteer Union Organization. This may not provide you with the specific information that you are looking for, but Pennsylvania’s 2nd Reserve Infantry is listed within the collection.
We hope you find what you’re looking for, and thank you for reaching out to us here at the History Hub!
Trevor K. Plante, “The Shady Side of the Family Tree: Civil War Union Court-Martial Case Files.” Prologue, Vol. 30., No. 4, Winter 1998. Accessed September 25, 2017. https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1998/winter/union-court-martials.html
Response compiled by Marie Taylor
Dear Mr. MacMichael,
In addition to the Civil War Pension Files in Washington, DC, the National Archives at St. Louis has Deceased Veterans Claim Files, the successors to the pension files. Many of them are claims filed by Civil War veterans and their families.
If you search using this collection on Ancestry http://search.ancestryinstitution.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=4654 and find an XC number at the bottom of the card, we may have the record.
See NAID 26466267, 28894631, 12280123.
For more information, contact the St. Louis Archival Programs Division:
National Archives at St. Louis (RL-SL)
1 Archives Drive, Room 340
St. Louis, MO 63138
Thank you all so much for the pointers! You've given me a good place to continue my search.
You're welcome Mr. MacMichael and thank you again for using the History Hub!