Trevor Plante is a military archivist at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, and specializes in 19th and early 20th century military records.
Armed with names and a few dates, I met up with Trevor
at the National Archives
, where he
gave me some tips for navigating through the volumes of records housed there.
Decades after the conflict, the War Department had compiled service records for Civil War volunteers on both sides.
Enlistment records, muster rolls, even clothing
requisitions were included, and the National Archives
had them all.
Or at least all that survived the war.
Any time a soldier showed up in a record, Trevor
said, War Department clerks had filled out a card with that information and put it in his
compiled service record folder.
Through partnerships between the National Archives
and organizations like Ancestry.com and Footnote.com, many of these records have been digitized, and they're searchable on computers in the archives' research rooms.
You can also see the original file.
Simply fill out a short form and submit it to the archives staff, who will pull the file for you during the next scheduled "pull time.
pointed me to a computer and turned me loose.
I soon discovered that despite what other researchers had claimed, my George H. Baker was apparently not a member of the 9th West Virginia Infantry; the one in the records was about 18 when he
enlisted, and my relative would have been considerably older.
The soldier Baker was also from a different region, although he
enlisted in Cabell County.
cautioned me, however, that being absent without leave didn't carry quite the stigma for most Civil War soldiers as it does today.
Most of them were volunteers, he
noted, and when their time was up-or in winter, when there was little activity-they assumed they were free to go.