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A Primer on Civil War Military for Genealogists

A Primer on Civil War Military for Genealogists

When we begin our Genealogical pursuits we will usually not have much knowledge of the American Civil War beyond what we learned in grade school. When we find that Civil War ancestor and get that first Muster Record there are terms and abbreviations and subjects that can confuse and mislead. This document hopes to enlighten the Genealogist’s Civil War research by offering explanations of the various ranks, the duties they performed both on the battlefield and off, and their role in the military organization.

We draw from sources available during the war years.  The same sources the Volunteers learned from to perform their new avocations.  Over the years a Sergeant’s job has changed so we used the original material he learned from as well as our own research experience to give the Genealogist a better idea of what their ancestors actually did during their Civil War career.  Our sources were:

  • “Gilham’s Manual for Volunteers and Militia” by Major William Gilham. Published in 1861 by Cushings & Bailey in Baltimore Maryland.
  • “Customs of Service for Non‐Commissioned Officers” by Captain August Kautz and published in 1864 by J.B. Lippincott & Company.
  • “Customs of Service for Officers of the Army” by Captain August Kautz and published in 1866 by J.B. Lippincott & Company.
  • “Instruction for Field Artillery” prepared by a Board of Artillery Officers and published in 1860 by J.B. Lippincott & Company of Philadelphia.
  • “Cavalry Tactics” by Colonel Philip St. George Cooke. This was published in two volumes by the Government Printing Office in 1861.