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Regular Army

Military Service Records

Enlisted Men
Officers
Post and Unit Returns
Published Sources

ENLISTED MEN

The War Department did not compile military service records for those who served in the Regular Army.  They began maintaining personnel files for Regular Army officers in 1863 and for enlisted men in 1912.  Records relating to service before those dates are scattered among many different series of War Department records and, unfortunately, very difficult to locate. Along with pension records, enlistment papers and registers of enlistments may be the only source of information on enlisted personnel serving in the Regular Army in the 19th century.

Enlistment Papers

The place to start researching enlisted men is the Regular Army Enlistment Papers, 1798 - 1894 (Record Group 94, entry 91).  These records are not microfilmed and must be ordered in the consultant’s office at the National Archives in DC.  This series is arranged alphabetically by name of soldier and generally shows the soldier's name, place of enlistment, date, by whom enlisted, age, place of birth, occupation, personal description, regimental assignment, and certifications of the examining surgeon and recruiting officer. Soldiers usually have multiple enlistment papers if they served two or more enlistments.

Registers of Enlistments

Researchers should also consult the Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798 - 1914, National Archives Microfilm Publication M233. The register of enlistments is arranged chronologically by enlistment date and thereunder alphabetically by first letter of surname.  Registers of enlistments generally contain information relating to the enlistment and termination of service of enlisted personnel. Register entries may contain valuable information including the individual’s name, military organization, physical description, date and place of birth, enlistment information, and remarks. Complete service information may not be given for every individual. The information in the registers was compiled from enlistment papers, muster rolls of the Regular Army, and other records.

Muster Rolls

For more detailed information concerning service, consult the unit muster rolls, which are arranged by arm of service; thereunder by regiment number; then alphabetically by company, troop, or battery; and thereunder chronologically. The muster rolls are found in RG 94, entry 53, Muster Rolls of Regular Army Organizations, 1784 - October 31, 1912.  Again these records are not on microfilm and must be ordered in the consultant’s office.

OFFICERS

When researching army officers, researchers should first consult Francis B. Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, From Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903.  The first volume is a register of army officers and provides a brief history of each man's service. Volume two contains a chronological list of battles and actions in which troops of the Regular Army have participated.

The War Department did not maintain or compile personnel files for Regular Army officers until 1863. For service prior to that date, records are in several different series in Record Group 94.

Correspondence Files of the Commission Branch

These records relate to appointments, transfers, assignments, duties, examinations, promotions, discharges, court-martials, resignation, pay and other miscellaneous information. Start by consulting the alphabetical card index by name to the CB files in the consultant’s office.

M1064 – Letters Received by the Commission Branch of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1863-1870
This series is arranged chronologically by year, thereunder alphabetically by the initial first letter of surname, and thereunder by the assigned number.

Correspondence files of the Adjutant General’s Office

Registers and Indexes
M711 – Register of Letters Received, Office of the Adjutant General, 1812-1889. 
This register provides information such as the name or office of the correspondent; the date of the letter; the abstract of its contents. 
M725 – Indexes to Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1846, 1861-1889. 
Beginning with roll 2, the index is arranged by year 1861 to 1889 and thereunder by last name.

Correspondence
M619 - Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1861 – 1870.

Letters are arranged by year and thereunder by file number.

Records of the U.S. Military Academy, 1805-1867

If the officer attended West Point, there are two NARA microfilm publications that may be of interest.

M688 - US Military Academy Cadet Application Papers, 1805-1866
Roll 1 is a name index arranged alphabetically by the initial letter of the surname, thereunder by the initial vowel sound of the surname and then chronological by date of application.  The index includes the file number of the application papers.  The applications are arranged by year and thereunder numerically by file number.  This series includes letters relating to appointments, recommendations, and acceptance. 
M91 - Records Relating to the US Military Academy, 1812-1867
Letters are arranged chronologically.  There is a name and subject index in each volume.  These records include nominations, appointments, resignations, and dismissal of cadets; appointment and discharge of instructors; course of study, etc.

POST AND UNIT RETURNS, 1800-1916

Additional information about Regular Army enlisted men and officers may be found in post and unit returns. National Archives Microfilm Publication M617, Returns from U.S. Military Posts, 1800 - 1916, contains returns for many military posts, camps, and stations. Returns generally show units stationed at the post and their strength, the names and duties of officers, the number of officers present and absent, and a record of events.

Returns for Regular Army units are reproduced on M665, Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, June 1821 - December 1916; M744, Returns from Regular Army Cavalry Regiments, 1833 - 1916; and M727, Returns from Regular Army Artillery Regiments, June 1821 - January 1901.  These monthly returns of military organizations report stations of companies; names of company commanders; unit strength, including men present, absent, sick, on extra duty or daily duty, and in arrest or confinement; and significant remarks.

PUBLISHED SOURCES

Cullum, George W.  Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy, 9 vols.  New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868
This publication is organized by year of graduation, then by class rank.  It includes a brief military history that may include the person’s rank, a list of units in which he served, battles in which he fought, information on his resignation or retirement; a summary of his life outside of the army, his place of birth and the date and of place of his death.

Dyer, Frederick H.  Compendium of the War of the Rebellion.  New York: T. Yoseloff, 1959
This volume provides brief Union Civil War regimental histories that include where the regiment was organized where they served, and the number of casualties.

Hamersley, T.H.S. Army Register of the United States for One Hundred Years, 1779-1879. Washington D.C., 1880.
Part one is organized chronologically by unit and then by rank.  Part two contains an alphabetical list of cadets at West Point.  Part three contains an alphabetical register of officers that lists dates of service, appointments, resignations, and retirements, state where born, and sometimes date of death.

Heitman, Francis B.  Historical Register and Dictionary for the United States Army, 1789-1903, 2 vols.  Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903
Volume one contains a register of army officers and gives a brief history of each man’s service.  Volume two contains a chronological list of battles in which troops of the Regular Army were involved.

United States. Department of the Army.  U.S. Army Register Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office 
This publication lists the officer’s name, rank, military specialty, date of commission, staff appointments and brevets, and regiment and military district.  It is organized by year and then by regiment and then by rank.

These publications can be found at the National Archives and most reference and university libraries. 

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