Researching Military Records at the National Archives


If you are interested in researching your Civil War ancestor's military service records there are 
two avenues of approach. The first you can do at home, the second, by visiting Washington, D.C.
You can obtain your ancestor's Military Pension records by requesting the Archives to send you 
the form: National Archives Order for Copies of Veteran's Records. Call 202-501-5170 or write 
them at:

National Archives and Records Administration
Textual Reference Branch (NWDT1)
7th and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20408


When you send them the filled-out form, write "Send Entire File" at the top so they will retrieve 
any existing military and pension records. The more information you can list on the form, such as full 
name, unit, service dates, residence, etc., the more likely they will find the correct records. When they find the records, they will notify you through the mail with the charges for sending them. I was able to get the Pension Records for my great-great grandfather but not his service records and they cost $10. They basically consisted of letters he sent to the pension board over the years when he applied for a pension at age 60, and the various government forms that went with the pension. The most useful information to be gleaned from these forms were addresses, occupations, names of family members and dates of birth, as well as reasons mentioned in his letters for his disability pension.

By visiting Washington, D.C., you can visit the fourth floor National Archives and find the records of any Federal Civil War Regiment. They are on microfilm in a separate section of room 400, the research library. They have machines that can make copies of the microfilm files at 30 cents a copy. 
The original documents appear to be about 8 inches by 3.5 inches so you can usually get 2 or 3 
documents on each page. I was able to get all the documents for a 3-year period of the 138th PA Vol. Infantry onto 50 pages. The documents include Company Muster-in and Muster-out Rolls, Company and Field and Staff Muster Rolls, and the Regimental Returns. The only useful information on the Muster Rolls is the unit location from month to month. Each month the Regimental Adjutant was required to submit his "Regimental Return" to headquarters to record his unit's field history, so this is where you will find your best information. The following is an example:

138 Reg't Pa. Inf. Regimental Return for the month of November 1863, shows Field and Staff 
and companies stationed at 'Camp near Brandy Station, Va'. Except as flows: ( )

Record of Events: Field history of the Reg't. From Nov. 1st, 1863 to Nov. 30th, 1863 (inclusive). The Reg't lay in camp near Bealton Sta., Va. Supporting Buford's Div. Of Cav. Until the morning of Nov. 7/ 63, at which time took up the line of march for Kelly's Ford and often halting on the north side of the Rappahannock a few hours until a crossing was effected by the 1st Div. Of the Corps, the 3d and 
the pontoons were laid, moved forward, crossing the Pontoon Bridge & bivouacked at dusk on the south side of the river. By daylight on the morning of the 8th the Reg't. was again on the march. The 2nd Brig. To which the Reg't is attached having the advance both of the Div., the Third, and the Corps, and continued until nearly noon when the enemy was discovered in considerable force about two miles east of Brandy Sta. The troops were with drawn to the neighboring woods for a short time and about twelve o'clock Co. A of this Reg't. & a Co. of the 100 Ohio Vol. Inf. Together with Berdan Sharpshooters  having been previous thrown out as skirmishers the Reg't. was ordered to advance. Followed within easy supporting distance as by the balance of the Brig., Div., and Corps emerging from the woods the Reg't advanced over an open plain, constantly exposed to a heavy fire from a Rebel battery which was posted on an eminence beyond from which they were driven & retiring took up another position on an eminence beyond the first and again opened upon the Reg't. which advancing rapidly drove them from their position. The enemy took up a third position from which he briskly shelled the Reg't. which at this time was supporting one of the batteries. He was soon compelled by the fire of our Arty. to beat a hasty retreat to the Rapidan. The advance having continued one mile beyond Brandy Station, Va. This action Capt. Lazarus C. Andress, Co. "H" was mortally wounded by a shell and died a few days afterwards and Orderly Sergt. A.G. Kapp, Co. "H" had his left arm shattered whilst several others were slightly wounded. Broke camp on the morning of Nov 26th and took up the line of march, crossing the Rapidan River at Jacob's Ford and bivouacked at dark on the south side, moved forward slowly on the morning of Nov 27th through the Wilderness, the 2nd Div. Being in the advance. Continued skirmishing with the enemy as we slowly advanced until about 3 o'clock in the afternoon when the different Divisions were deployed in line of battle under a heavy fire, and a general engagement of a fiercely contested character took place of about 3 hours duration. In this engagement the Reg't. was under a constant & heavy fire of musketry from the commencement of the battle to the close & with the Brig. repulsed three charges of the " Stonewall Brigade" of the enemy. On being relieved at dark the Reg't. in retiring through the woods was shelled by a Rebel Battery with the loss of a few wounded. The Reg't. bivouacked on the battlefield near Locust Grove, Va. until about 3 o'clock on the morning of the 28th of Nov. when it took up the line of march and halted at dark and bivouacked on the east side of Mine Run. Remained there in position all day on the 29th of Nov. In the afternoon were drawn up in line to storm the enemy's works and remained until dark when the Reg't. bivouacked on the field until about 2 o'clock on the morning of the 30th of Nov. at which time the Reg't. with the Div. & also the 3d Div. Of the Corps marched to reinforce the 2d Corps on the left. Remained there in line of battle to storm the enemy's works until in the afternoon when two Divisions of the Corps returned to the same position occupied in the morning and still lay here to the close of Nov 30th, 1863.

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