Please read the following information about the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database. After educating yourself on understanding the system feel free to click on the following link to access
CWSS System Overview
I SUMMARY OF THE CWSS
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a computerized database containing very basic facts about servicemen who served on both sides during the Civil War. The initial focus of the CWSS is the Names
Index Project, a project to enter names and other basic information from 6.3 million soldier records in the National Archives. The facts about the soldiers were entered from records that are indexed to many millions
of other documents about Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration.
Other information includes: histories of regiments in both the Union and
Confederate Armies, links to descriptions of 384 significant battles of the war, and other historical information. Additional information about soldiers, sailors, regiments, and battles, as well as prisoner-of-war
records and cemetery records, will be added over time.
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a cooperative effort by the National Park Service (NPS) and several other public and private
partners, to computerize information about the Civil War. The goal of the CWSS is to increase the American people's understanding of this decisive era in American history by making information about it widely
accessible. The CWSS will enable the public to make a personal link between themselves and history.
II. CURRENT STATUS OF THE CWSS
The data entry phase of the 6.3 million soldier records was completed
by volunteers across the country. The records have gone through the enormous and tedious task of being edited for accuracy, consistency, etc. by two of our main partners, the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) and
the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). After editing was complete, NPS staff converted the final edited version into an Oracle database for access by the CWSS on the Internet. Recently, the final one
million soldier names from Virginia (Confederate) and Pennsylvania (Union) were made available on the Internet. This completes the soldier names phase of the CWSS. A special ceremony was held on September 27, 2004
at Ford's Theatre, Washington, DC to commemerate this significant milestone.
The CWSS database currently contains over 6 million soldier names from 44 states and territories.
See their website for totals of Soldier Records by State.
III. CURRENT FEATURES OF THE CWSS
Soldiers The CWSS includes 6.3 million soldier names from the National Archives, which were compiled by NPS'
partners in the CWSS project. As of February, 2000, volunteers in over 36 states had completed the data entry of all the 6.3 million soldier names. The two final editing processes for the records have recently been
The source of the data entered is the General Index Cards in the Compiled Military Service Records at the National Archives. In September of 1996, the CWSS completed the first phase of the Names
Index and placed 235,000 names of African American Union soldiers on the Internet. These were completed first in order to provide the names to the African American Civil War Memorial that was dedicated in
More soldier names were added to the CWSS as the final editing was completed in Salt Lake City by the Genealogical Society of Utah (GSU) and the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS).
NPS computer systems analyst, Wayne McLaughlin, converted the edited data from GSU and FGS into an Oracle database for use on the CWSS website. In May of 2000, a new version of the website was launched and we have
been adding soldier records ever since. The final one million names were added in September 2004.
As of September 2004, the CWSS database contains over 6 million soldier names. These include records from all
Union and Confederate states/territories.
Sailors The NPS and its' CWSS partners are committed to eventually include the names of all Union and Confederate Naval personnel. Given that the records sources for
the Navy are not as well organized as the Army records, nor are they micro-filmed, the target date for this is still to be determined.
In the meantime, with funding from the Defense Department, NPS has
partnered with Howard University to identify African American sailors who served in the Union Navy during the Civil War. The research has resulted in a database of approximately 18,000 African American sailors from
various historical Navy documents. These were made available on the Internet in November, 2000. The incorporation into the CWSS was formally announced at a special program held at the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.
C., on November 17, 2000. This project has received grants from the Department of the Defense Legacy Resources Management Program.
Regiments The CWSS will include histories of over 4,000 Union and Confederate
units (regiments), which will be linked to soldiers' names and battle histories. These will be completed this year as part of the CWSS site. The site currently includes regimental histories of units from 44 states
Timothy Good, an NPS historian, formerly at Fords Theater and now at Dayton Aviation Heritage NHP, and Eric Sheetz, NPS interpreter, are researching and assembling information for the CWSS
about regiments and battles. They have completed assembling Union regimental histories from Dyer's Compendium and comparable histories from Joseph Crute's Units of the Confederate Army.
Battles In the CWSS
The unit histories are linked to histories of the 364 most significant Civil War battles already on the Internet from the NPS' American Battlefield Protection Program. These battle histories were compiled as part of
a report to Congress by the Civil War Sites Advisory Committee.
Monuments - Coming in the future As resources permit, the CWSS may in the future, include information on the thousands of Civil War monuments
and markers at NPS sites.
Cemeteries The National Park Service manages 14 National Cemeteries, all but one of which is related to a Civil War battlefield park. The NPS is planning on listing all names of
burials in these cemeteries on the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System. The first phase involves data taken from written records of Poplar Grove National Cemetery at Petersburg National Battlefield, and also
includes images of the headstones.
Medal of Honor This feature of the CWSS includes information on over 1,200 Civil War soldiers and sailors who received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
current version of the CWSS includes prisoner records of Union prisoners at Andersonville and Confederate prisoners at Fort McHenry.
National Parks This feature links to the web pages of all National Park
Service Civil War sites.
IV. WHERE DID THE CWSS INFORMATION COME FROM
Throughout all periods of development of the system, great care has been taken by NPS and its' Partners to use data from
original historical documents as the source of the data where possible.
During the American Civil War, every two weeks on
average, usually at the company level, soldiers' names were recorded on muster rolls. Beginning in the 1880s General Ainsworth's staff in the Department of the Army indexed these records originally to determine who
was eligible for a pension. His staff wrote a card for every time a soldier's name appeared on a muster roll. When Ainsworth's staff finished the Compiled Military Service records, each soldier's file usually had
many cards representing each time the soldier's name appeared on a muster roll.
One type of card, the General Index Card listed the soldier's name, the soldier's rank at the
time of enlistment from the first card and the date the soldier left the service with the soldier's final rank from the last card. These General Index cards form the basis for the Civil War Soldiers System. When
Ainsworth's staff completed the project, there were 6.3 million General Index Cards for the soldiers - both Union and Confederate - who had served during the American Civil War. Historians have determined that
approximately 3.5 million soldiers actually fought in the War. A soldier serving in more than one regiment, serving under two names, or spelling variations resulted in the fact that there are 6.3 million General
Index Cards for 3.5 million soldiers.
In one Connecticut regiment during the American Civil War a young drummer boy
witnessed first hand the intensity of war. Several decades later in 1903, this drummer boy now a grown man, devoted himself to writing the histories of all the Union regiments. This man was Frederick Dyer. After the
war, the Department of the Army assembled some of its vast information on the War and published the multi-volume work entitled the "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion." However, the Official
Records were not fully indexed and were therefore not easily usable. Dyer used information from this source and from Union veterans to complete his work. After five years of almost solitary confinement, Dyer
completed his task which was published under the name of the "Compendium of the War of the Rebellion."
Over seventy years later, the Civil War Soldiers System'
Historian's Steering Committee, which consisted of National Park Rangers and Historians, recommended Dyer's Compendium as the most complete and reliable source for Union regimental histories. Dyer's Compendium had
withstood the test of time and became the CWSS source for Union regimental histories.
The unit histories are linked to
histories of the 364 most significant Civil War battles already on the Internet from the NPS' American Battlefield Protection Program. These battle histories were compiled as part of a report to Congress by the
Civil War Sites Advisory Committee.
FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
Civil War Soldiers
The original service
records of Union and Confederate Civil War Soldiers and the pension records of Union veterans are maintained at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, where they are available for research to anyone at
least age 16.
The records exist in their originally created form or on microfilm. You can request searches of those records by using the NATF forms 85 and 86 (see right).The
military service records and pension files are separate series of records and must be requested on separate forms (Form 86 for military service records and Form 85 for pension files). For example, if you need both
the service record and the pension file for one particular veteran who fought for the Union, you need to complete two NATF Forms, 86 and 85.
The National Archives and Records
Administration (NARA), www.nara.gov, does not have custody of Confederate soldier pension files. For additional information regarding Confederate pension files, please contact the State Archives for the state from
which the veteran served. For a successful search of the records, certain specific information is required, including: Full name, state in which he served, and branch of military. You must also indicate the side on
which he fought, Union or Confederate. If a file is found for the veteran in question, NARA will supply copies of documents that provide pertinent information about the veteran and his family. Instructions on the
NATF Forms 85 and 86 explain the payment procedure for copies.
Also, Bertram Hawthorne Groene's "Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor" (Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair,
1973) is an easy-to-read guide to sources of information on Civil War soldiers.
Civil War Regiments
There are four publications which offer
more information on Civil War regiments. Bertram Groene's "Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor" discusses several different sources on Civil War regiments. Charles E. Dornbusch's four volumes "Military
Bibliography of the Civil War" contains information on thousands of Civil War publications. To discover more information on Union regimental histories one should first look at Frederick Dyer's "A
Compendium of the War of the Rebellion" which is published by Morningside Press. For Confederate regimental histories, Joseph H. Crute, Jr. and Stewart Sifakis separately compiled Confederate unit histories:
Crute's "Units of the Confederate Army" which is published by Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 18779 B North Frederick Rd., Gaithersburg, Maryland, 20879; and Sifakis'"A Compendium of the Confederate
Armies" (11 vol.) which is published by Facts on File, 460 Park Avenue South, New York, New York, 10016.
As for archives, the National Archives in Washington, D.C. has a
wealth of information on Civil War regiments in the Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s-1917, Record Group 94. This record groups consists of 82 linear feet of bound records and 56 linear feet of unbound
records. The Army's Military History Institute in Carlisle, Pennsylvania also contains several thousand reference bibliographies on regiments.
And finally, one may uncover
information by visiting or writing to any one of the National Park Service's battlefield sites. The rangers offer information through talks, walks, films, dioramas, maps, and in many cases they have access to
extensive research libraries at the parks.