Military Records
Research Service


Basic Information

Order Records!
-  Pension
-  Combo

-  Pension

-  Combo

Contact Us
+Special Projects



Union and Confederate Records

Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR)

Each volunteer soldier has one Compiled Military Service Record (CMSR) for each unit (normally regiment) in which he served. The CMSR contains basic information about the soldier's military career, and it is the first source the researcher should consult. The CMSR is an envelope (referred to as a "jacket") containing one or more cards. These cards typically indicate that the soldier was present or absent during a certain period of time. Other cards may indicate the date of enlistment and discharge, amount of bounty paid to him, and other information such as wounds received during battle or hospitalization for injury or illness. The soldier's place of birth may be indicated; if foreign born, only the country of birth is stated. 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, however, that the CMSR rarely indicates battles in which a soldier fought; that information must be derived from other sources.

A CMSR is as complete as the surviving records of an individual soldier or his unit. The War Department compiled the CMSRs from the original muster rolls and other records some years after the war to permit more rapid and efficient checking of military and medical records in connection with claims for pensions and other veterans' benefits. The abstracts were so carefully prepared that it is rarely necessary to consult the original muster rolls and other records from which they were made. When the War Department created CMSRs at the turn of the century, information from company muster rolls, regimental returns, descriptive books, hospital rolls, and other records was copied verbatim onto cards. A separate card was prepared each time an individual name appeared on a document. These cards were all numbered on the back, and these numbers were entered onto the outside jacket containing the cards. The numbers on the jacket correspond with the numbers on the cards within the jacket. These numbers were used by the War Department only for control purposes while the CMSRs were being created; the numbers do not refer to other records regarding a veteran nor are they useful for reference purposes today.

Generally, Union CMSR’s contain more "cards" and provide more information than Confederate CMSR’s due to the loss and destruction of Confederate records and the institutions which stored them. In addition, many Confederate CMSR’s are incomplete beyond 1863 and in some cases would lead the researcher to believe that the soldier went "AWOL" (absent without leave) or deserted, when in fact, their absence was temporary and the later documents showing additional "distinguished" service do not exist. Our researchers will take this into account when providing your records and attempt to find war ending records of their continued service, such as, "Surrender Rolls" for Appomattox, VA, Greensboro, NC, Gainesville, AL, Shreveport, LA and other lesser-known locations where Confederate veterans were surrendered and paroled at war’s end.


Pension Records

Most Union army soldiers or their widows or minor children later applied for a pension. On a percentage basis, fewer Confederate Soldiers and their widows received pensions, as Confederate pensions were generally made available at a much later date than the Union pensions, therefore, many of the Confederate Veterans and their spouses had passed away by the time the pensions made available to them. In some cases, a dependent father or mother applied for a pension. If you are fortunate enough to have a Confederate Ancestor with a pension, you may find a wealth of information in them similar to the Union pensions.

Pensions were granted to Confederate veterans and their widows and minor children by the States of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

The pension file will most often contain more information about what the soldier did during the war than the CMSR, and it may contain considerable medical information if he lived for a number of years afterwards. For example, in his pension file, Seth Combs of Company C, 2d Ohio Cavalry, reported: " left eye was injured while tearing down a building...and in pulling off a board a splinter or piece struck my eye and injured it was hurt while in the Shenandoah Valley near Winchester, Va. about Christmas 1864--a comrade who stood by me name Jim Beach is dead." In another affidavit, Seth said he "also got the Rheumatism while on duty as a dispatch bearer on detached duty."

To obtain a widow's pension, the widow had to provide proof of marriage, such as a copy of the record kept by county officials, or by affidavit from the minister or some other person. Applications on behalf of the soldier's minor children had to supply both proof of the soldier's marriage and proof of the children's birth.

Pension Application Files

Pension application files are a very rich source for family history and biographical research. There are three basic reasons why the Federal Government or the former Confederate States paid pension payments for military service:

1. The former soldier became disabled and was unable to support himself, or he became an invalid because of wounds or illness which occurred while he was in the Service.

2. The soldier was a volunteer whose State unit saw Military Service.

3. A widow’s pension was awarded to a woman or children whose husband or father served in the war.


Pension File Contents

A typical file consists of the application of the claimant, supporting documents of identity and military service, evidence of the action taken by the Federal Government or State, and the widow’s application (found under the name of the veteran). If two or more claims relate to the service of the same veteran in the same war, the claims are filed together.

The supporting documentation that is used to support a claim may include, but not be limited to:

Discharge papers

Affidavits and depositions of witnesses
Narratives of events during service
Marriage certificates
Pages from family Bibles
Adjutant General’s Office statement of service (Union only)
Other papers
Types of Pension Applications

There are three types of pension applications: veteran’s, widow’s, or minor child’s.

1.  A veteran’s application typically contains the veteran’s name, rank, military unit, period of service, residence at time of application, place and date of birth (or age), and property.

2.  A widow’s application typically contains more detail, including all of the veteran’s information plus her name, age (or date of birth), residence at time of application, maiden name, date of marriage, and veteran’s date and place of death.

3. A minor child’s application may contain all of the veteran’s and widow’s information as well as the heirs’ names, dates and places of their births, residence(s) at time of application, and date of their mother’s death.

Confederate Pension Records by State:


In 1867 Alabama began granting pensions to Confederate veterans who had lost arms or legs. In 1886 the State began granting pensions to veterans' widows. In 1891 the law was amended to grant pensions to indigent veterans or their widows.


In 1891 Arkansas began granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans. In 1915 the State began granting pensions to their widows and mothers.


In 1885 Florida began granting pensions to Confederate veterans. In 1889 the State began granting pensions to their widows.


In 1870 Georgia began granting pensions to soldiers with artificial limbs. In 1879 the State began granting pensions to other disabled Confederate veterans or their widows who then resided in Georgia. By 1894 eligible disabilities had been expanded to include old age and poverty.


In 1912, Kentucky began granting pensions to Confederate veterans or their widows.


In 1898 Louisiana began granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans or their widows.


In 1888 Mississippi began granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans or their widows.


In 1911 Missouri began granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans only; none were granted to widows. Missouri also had a home for disabled Confederate veterans. The pension and veterans' home applications are interfiled and arranged alphabetically. Typically, the pension file is small, perhaps four to eight pages, containing a standard application form and may include letters of recommendation from family members or others.

North Carolina

In 1867 North Carolina began granting pensions to Confederate veterans who were blinded or lost an arm or leg during their service. In 1885 the State began granting pensions to all other disabled indigent Confederate veterans or widows.


In 1915 Oklahoma began granting pensions to Confederate veterans or their widows.

South Carolina

A state law enacted December 24, 1887, permitted financially needy Confederate veterans and widows to apply for a pension; however, few applications survive from the 1888-1918 era. Beginning in 1889, the SC Comptroller began publishing lists of such veterans receiving pensions in his Annual Report. From 1919 to 1925, South Carolina granted pensions to 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).


In 1891 Tennessee began granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans. In 1905 the State began granting pensions to their widows.


In 1881 Texas set aside 1,280 acres for disabled Confederate veterans. In 1889 the State began granting pensions to indigent Confederate veterans and their widows.


In 1888 Virginia began granting pensions to Confederate veterans or their widows.


Your purchase of records through this service helps to support the growth and improvement of our "free access" message boards at History-Sites.Com.

Civil War
 Message Board
 Quick Links
Indian Terr.
S. Carolina
CW Flags
Arms & Equip
News & Views