by Norma Zanetti
Compiled Military Service Records are mostly comprised of muster rolls, pay rolls, hospital rolls, regimental returns, etc. The records usually show name, rank, unit,date of entry, discharge or death dates. there are references made to capture, absences from unit, and other events. sometimes a physical description and/or personal papers are included. generally the records for Union soldiers are more complete because many Confederate records were lost or destroyed during the war. the Confederate Records that survived are those records surrendered or captured after the War. since records may be incomplete (for either side) one may be led to believe that a soldier deserted, when in fact his absence was temporary for reasons unknown to the officer making the roll and later records showing additional service do not exist in the Compiled Military Service Records. other sources may provide evidence of a soldier's continued service. anyone interested in the Civil War service of their ancestors and gaining valuable information about those ancestors should search beyond Compiled Military Service Records (e.g. surrender rolls, medical records, various state & federal records, and pension records.)
pension records often contain detailed information, personal & family history, battles fought, wonds, marriage dates, etc. for example, Israel Axsom's Compiled Military Service Records listed him on a Roll of Honor with the notation: "killed in battle at Winchester." when his widow filed an application for a pension in 1901, a detailed &horrid account of his wound and death was given: "was a soldier & wounded in the left knee on or about 25May1862 and his leg had to be cut off twice and from said effects he died in a few days, he was wounded in the Battle at Winchester, VA..." fewer Confederate soldiers and their widows rec'd pensions because Confederate pensions were granted by states & generally were made available at a later date than Union pensions. as a result, many Confederate soldiers and their spouses had died by the time pensions were made available to veterans. some soldiers rec'd pensions although their records listed them as deserters and the requisite for pensions was honorable discharge. it is assumed those soldiers were able to present other evidence to support their claims.
Lest We Forget: This year (2005) marks the 140th Anniversary of General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox on 09April1865 and the virtual end of the bloodiest war in our nations's history.