Completion of a database called the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System was announced last week at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., by the National Park Service. Genealogists, historians, and Civil War buffs can now go to a single source to find 6.3 million service records of Union and Confederate soldiers.
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System is a computerized database containing very basic facts about servicemen who served on either side 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 millions of other documents about Union and Confederate Civil War soldiers that are 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.
Searching the free database for soldiers is simple: go to the Web site, and click on SOLDIERS. A new screen appears with blanks for Last Name, First Name, Union or Confederate, State of Origin, Unit, and Function. You fill in as many blanks as possible and click SUBMIT. Within seconds, a new list appears showing all the entries in the database that match the criteria that you specified.
The data for each soldier usually is very brief, primarily giving a reference where information may be found on microfilm. For instance, here is one typical entry:
Hazen B. Eastman
Regiment Name 1 Maine Heavy Art'y.
Soldier's Rank_In Pvt.
Soldier's Rank_Out Pvt.
Film Number M543 roll 6
With the above information, I know that I can view the original record on the National Archives and Records Administration's microfilm number M543, roll 6.
In addition to searching for soldiers as described above, you can search for Civil War regiments, battles, prisons, and more.
An attempt to search for sailors resulted in the appearance of a screen that says, "Future Sailors' Indices - The NPS and its CWSS partners are committed to eventually including the names of all Union and Confederate Naval personnel. Since 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." Graduate students at Howard University in the nation's capital are pulling this information together now.
The new Web site also has special sections for Black soldiers and sailors in the Civil War, as well as lengthy descriptions of the social, economic, political, and military aspects of the war as it impacted all Americans.
Historians generally accept 3.5 million as the number who served in the War Between the States. So, why does the database contain 6.3 million soldiers? "There are duplicates, mostly because of men who served in more than one unit and name-spelling variations," explained John Peterson of the National Park Service. The service manages 13 national cemeteries related to Civil War battlegrounds.
This is a great database! The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) is a cooperative effort by the National Park Service (NPS), volunteers from the Mormon Church, Federation of Genealogical Societies, and United Daughters of the Confederacy.
You can access the free Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System at: http://www.civilwar.nps.gov