Civil War Soldier Search

By Emily Anne Croom Premium

Q. I am trying to find information about the death of a Civil War soldier. I have his military records, and they say only that he died at Fort Pickering, Tenn. on Aug. 17, 1862. He was in the Battle of Shiloh, Siege of Corinth. I am interested in finding out if he died of disease or wounds. How do I go about this?

A: First, you need to know whether the soldier was in the Union or Confederate army, because available records differ somewhat. Since Fort Pickering (in Memphis) was in Union hands after June 1862, the ancestor may well have been a Union soldier. If his compiled service records do not give a cause of death, you could consult the following sources:

  • published company or regimental history, which might suggest a timeline of events, including engagements and disease outbreaks within the unit
  • widow’s pension file
  • the National Archives records of Civil War hospitals and registers of deceased volunteer Civil War soldiers
Also consult U.S. Military Records: A Guide to Federal & State Sources, Colonial America to the Present by James C. Neagles (Ancestry), The Union: A Guide to Federal Archives Relating to the Civil War by Kenneth W. Munden and Henry Putney Beers (National Archives and Records Administration), and The Confederacy: A Guide to the Archives of Government of the Confederate States of America by Henry Beers (NARA), as well as other reference works.
You’ll find a complete Civil War research guide in the July 2007 Family Tree Magazine, available as a digital download from Family Tree Shop. Learn what your Civil War ancestor’s life was like in the service and on the home front in the book Life in Civil War America.