This article has tips for obtaining service and pension records for your Civil War ancestor, beginning with some online indexes. Copies of these records can usually be ordered by mail. Some service records and most Confederate pension files are also available on microfilm.
Civil War Records Indexes on the Internet
Not all Civil War records are indexed online, but there are many helpful starting points.
For online indexes to some Civil War service records, pension records, veterans census schedules, rosters of soldiers, and prisoners of war see: Online Civil War Indexes, Records & Rosters
To find a Civil War service record you will need to know the soldier's name, allegiance (Union or Confederate), and the regiment and state (example: 10th Missouri Infantry). You can usually find this information in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System Online Database.
Civil War Pension Records - Union
Most (but not all) Union soldiers or their widows (or other dependents) applied for and received a pension. Civil War pension records for Union soldiers are held by the National Archives, and can be ordered online or by mail from them for a fee. For information see...
- Online ordering: Order Civil War Records Online - National Archives
- Ordering by mail: Start by ordering this form: "Military Pension/Bounty Land Warrant Applications (NATF 85)" at: National Archives - Order a Form. After you receive the form in the mail, fill it out and mail it back to them. There will be a fee for ordering copies of the records. Ordering the form is free.
Confederate soldiers or their widows usually were only able to apply for a pension if the soldier was disabled or indigent (poverty-stricken). This varied by state. These records are held by a state archives (where the soldier was living at the time he applied for the pension) or similar repository. You can find a list of links to indexes of Confederate pension records for Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia at this website: Civil War Pension Records
For information on pension records for the other Confederate states not listed above see... Confederate Civil War Pension Records
Also, the LDS Family History Library has Civil War pension files on microfilm for all states that offered Confederate pensions except Louisiana.
Civil War Service Records - Union and Confederate
The National Archives has compiled service records for most volunteer Union soldiers and Confederate officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted men. Some of the records have been microfilmed (these are organized by state). The microfilmed records are available at the National Archives and some of its branches, and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. For a guide to ordering these records or finding them on microfilm see... Civil War Service Records Research Guide
Union and Confederate Service Records Online at Fold3 (formerly Footnote)
Fold3 has Confederate service records for Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia; and Union service records for Alabama, Arkansas, Dakota, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Colored Troops. (Some of these individual state databases are not yet complete.) You can download digitized copies of these records for a fee. See: Civil War Service Records at Fold3 (formerly Footnote)
Note: these suggestions may not work for everyone who fought in the Civil War for a variety of reasons. And be sure to try alternate spellings when using indexes.