Saturday, October 2, 2021

Tips to Locating Civil War Medical Records

Field Hospital, 2nd Division, 2nd Army Corps
near Brandy Station, VA., March 1864; Library of Congress

Using Medical Records for your Veteran
By now genealogists and family researchers probably already know there were two classifications of Civil War veterans: 1) regular army 2) volunteer. We also know 2 out of 3 deaths were caused by disease vs. war wounds from the battlefield.   These numbers often discourage researchers from seeking their veteran’s medical records. But much can be learned from carded medical files and field records of hospitals.  

What is Available?
Although many of the Civil War records are widely known, here are just a few resources you may wish to add to your “Research Arsenal.” These are textural records (loose paper) archived at the National Archives. Know that the references below are part Record Group (RG) 94: Records of the Adjutant General, 1762-1984.
POW, Civil War

Researchers can expect to find the soldier’s rank, date of admittance and return to duty, information, status and often treatment of complaint. If the soldier (or prisoner of war- POW) died in the field, this was often noted also.

Researchers often aren't sure where to begin. Start with the printed indices.  There are the indexed listings of both hospitals and surgeons.  

Other Resources
  • Carded Medical Records for Volunteer and Regular Army and Navy Personnel. Record Group (RG) 94.12.3. Best source is the NARA website.
Series from Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 – 1984. This RG includes the US Colored Troops (USCT), 1861-1865, register of patients.  This series also contains references to the series "Reports and Correspondence, 1861 - 1888" "Surgeons' Reports on Medical Operations in Various Commands, 1861-1865", "Reports on Surgical and Medical Cases, 1860-1879”
  • Records Relating to Medical Personnel
    Was your ancestor an officer or physician during the Civil War, to include nurses and matrons? Be sure to review the textural records of 94.12.4
A key use of these records is to verify that you have the correct "William Smith!" By referencing an entry exam recently, we were able to follow the correct Smith and verify his service which allowed us to follow the soldier: he had scarlet fever as a child, and rheumatism. 

Preliminary Examination of Recruit, Statement of Applicant

Also, be sure to reference the Veteran and Widow Pension Files. These records - affidavits, doctor notes, and correspondence - often provide details of wounds and hospitalization in the veterans files.  

Provost Marshal General Records may also provide information on your ancestor’s medical and physical condition.  Visit: Forgotten Provost Marshal General’s Records.

For More Information

Kathleen Brandt
Accurate Accessible Answers