Category Archives: Civil War Research

Accessing Revolutionary and Civil War Claims Case Records

War claims case records have always interested me, but I have never found any ancestors who filed claims with the government for property lost during the American Revolution or the Civil War.

First of all, I have to admit that this particular kind of research, to me, is almost like finding a needle in a haystack. Not to say that it can’t be done, but it will take some effort.

Why? Well, many of these records are housed at the National Archives and may only be available on microfilm, which requires an on-site visit. Second, a possible ancestor/s need to be identified.

How would I approach this research task?

First, I would begin with a family known to have lived near the site of wartime activity, not just battles, but troop movements or other events that might have caused a family to have a loss of horses, crops, etc.

Next, I’d search out town and county histories, which usually provide lots of information about military actions, to determine the likelihood of claims for losses being generated. I’d also contact local historical and genealogical societies to inquire about such activity and would probably also call the local reference librarian at the public library.

Third, I would look for finding aids, whether at NARA or some other repository, to learn what might be indexed or, even better yet, available online.

Today’s post is only covering the American Revolution and the Civil War, but claims cases were created that cover most wars/conflicts throughout American history.

For Revolutionary War claims cases, there is the Index to the Papers of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789 by John P. Butler. There are five volumes, published in 1978.

This set might be in a library close to you. Genealogy libraries of any size will probably have it, but university libraries might also have it on the shelves. I checked WorldCat and I only have to drive 10 miles down to the University of Arizona Library to access this book.

Remember, this is just the index, but if the name I am searching isn’t in it, I can cross this book off my “to do” list.

There is also the Revolutionary War Prize Cases: Records of the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture, 1774-1787, by J.C. Bancroft Davis, published by NARA i 1949, but only available on microfilm.

In my case, I’d need to head to UCLA to view the film, which doesn’t seem to be in the Family History Library.

Claims cases from that time period are much more limited in scope than cases arising in the 19th century.

Let’s look at Civil War resources.

At the top of my list for a Southern family would be Gary B. Mills’ Southern Loyalists in the Civil War: The Southern Claims Commission: a Composite Directory of Case Files, Genealogical Publishing Company, 1994. This book is searchable on Ancestry.

Also by Mills is: Civil War Claims in the South: An Index of Civil War Damage Claims File​d Before the Southern Claims Commission, 1871–1880, published in 1980.

By J.B. Holloway, there is: Consolidated Index of Claims Reported by the Commissioner of Claims to the House of Representativ​es from 1871 to 1880.,published in 1892.

There is also one article i n the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, volume 75:141-152 from June 1987, written by Donna Rachal Mills, “Civil War Claims Commissions: The Mixed Commission of British and American Claims.”

These are the easiest paths to pursuing damage claims submitted during the Revolution and Civil War.

By the 1860s, there were more people and more claims filed with the government for damages and losses during the Civil War. The two indexes already mentioned are the two most easily accessed.

However, there are also a number of guides and finding aids to microfilmed records held at the National Archives.

Preliminary Inventory of the War Department Collection of Confederate Records: Record Group 109 by Elizabeth Bethel in 1957 and updated by Craig R. Scott in 1994 will help you navigate RG 109.

The Record Group Explorer for NARA shows about half of this collection is viewable online:

Maizie H. Johnson’s guide, Preliminary Inventory of the Textual Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, published in 1967, covers NARA Record Group 92. The Record Group Explorer shows only 6% of this record set has been digitized and placed online.

There are also some guides to Record Groups 56, 76, and 205, but between 0-1% of those records have been digitized.

Remember, too, that Bethel’s and Johnson’s publications are simply GUIDES to each collection, NOT an index.

For those brave hearts who welcome a challenge, there are some microformed record sets at NARA, such as Southern Claims Commission, Approved Claims, 1871-1880 for Alabama and a few other states (remember there is Gary Mill’s index), but microfilm/fiche means onsite research.

I highly recommend the St. Louis County Library excellent two-part online guide: Researching Southern Claims Commission Records: Resources and Step by Step Strategy for Finding a Claim. There is a wealth of information on the two links and well worth the time to check out the online resources.

The second website I can recommend is the FamilySearch wiki page: Southern Claims Commission, which is even more comprehensive that the SLCL website.

Locating claims case records is not a simple action. It takes some digging and might involve access to a local branch of NARA. However, these resources should get you started.

 

 

 

Peace Democrat in the Family & the Civil War

The Peace Democrats, a splinter group of the traditional Democratic Party,  were a Civil War era political party that existed mostly in the northern states.

Although “Peace Democrats” sounds like a positive force and they opposed the Civil War, wanting the South to rejoin the Union, Republicans gave them the name by which they are remembered – Copperheads! Yes, just like the poisonous snake.

Harper’s Weekly, 1863
Source: Library of Congress

Copperheads were mostly found in the area north of the Ohio River and that is exactly where my husband’s 3X great grandfather, Andrew Bandy, lived.

Andrew Bandy was clearly and publicly identified as a Copperhead.

The Ironton Register, on 17 November 1864, published a list of those Symmes Township residents who voted in the presidential election AND noted whether they voted Republican or Copperhead.

Voters supported Abraham Lincoln in a ratio of 2 to 1. Andrew Bandy’s family, both sons and relatives by marriage, were split along the same 2:1 ratio.

The Republican voters were Allen Cauley, A.J. Cauley, William Hobble, Allen Wiseman, John Cauley, George Wiseman and George Bandy – brother of Andrew.

Copperhead voters included Norris Yates, Samuel Littlejohn, Jackson Bandy (Andrew’s son) and Andrew Bandy himself.

Why were the Peace Democrats given the name of Copperheads? Apparently, it was felt that they encouraged young men to either avoid conscription into the army or to desert if already serving. It was also felt that they lowered the morale of the people. Therefore, they deserved to be named after a venomous snake.

Although this political party is described as being made up of a faction of northerners opposed to the Civil War, a closer look at census records seems to paint a different picture.

Andrew Bandy was a Virginian, born and bred. The Bandys had been in Virginia for almost a century by the time Andrew was born c1785. I have no idea about Andrew’s beliefs regarding slavery. He did not own any enslaved people in Virginia, but whether that was due to his beliefs or the economic reality of the dollar cost may not ever be known. It is possible that he joined the Copperheads simply to stand up for a solution to save his ancestral home.

The Peace Democrats, aka Copperheads, ended up being but a blip on the history screen. When the Civil War ended, support for the party dissipated and the Copperheads were no more.

Tips for Identifying a Civil War Ancestor

Do you think you might have a Civil War ancestor? I quickly realized that I had none, as my dad’s family didn’t emigrate from Europe until c1890. My mom’s family line of Loyalists and Patriots were just a bit off in age to enlist or be drafted by the time the Civil War began. Living in Maine, they were far from the front lines and had no experiences with the day-to-day horrors of that war.

However, my husband has more than one ancestor who served in the Union Army, including John Stufflebean who died of dysentery in a Nashville hospital.

Because our surname is rare and John’s wife filed for a widow’s and children’s pension, learning about John’s military service was very easy. It’s not always that way, so here are some tips and resources to help identify your Civil War soldiers:

1. Search the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database. In addition to names, photos are even posted for some Civil War soldiers. There are added search links to cemeteries, battles, regiments, Medal of Honor recipients, prisoners, monuments and, a list of 18,000 (!!) African-American soldiers who served in the war.

2. Did you find more than one possible man/record that might be for your ancestor? Those pension records can be expensive, especially if the complete file is a long one and isn’t yet digitized on a (subscription) website.

Here are two things you can do, for free, before paying for info that might not pertain to your man. First, assuming you know the county of residence for your ancestor, look at a county history. A huge number of them were published in the 1880s when many veterans were still living. AND they often mentioned their service, whether Union or Confederate.  Many county histories have a section on military service/battles in the area which mention local men who served, even if your ancestor didn’t pay for a family entry in the biographical section. Archive.org has a collection of Google-digitized books in the public domain and WorldCat is a second resource for locating both digital and hard copy books. FamilySearch is a third resource, although a (free) account is now required to view items.

If you didn’t find mention of your man in a county history, but found more than one man of the same name with service from the same state who could possibly be your relative, google the name of the regiment, militia, or whatever of each of those men. There are many regimental and battalion histories online, created by military buffs. Most men didn’t travel far from home to enlist or report for the draft. Did one of those potential Civil War ancestors in the database serve from the same county where your ancestor was living? Or was it a bordering county and close enough by for your ancestor to sign up there? If so, you have enough information to check out any potential pension files.

Don’t have a subscription to Fold3? Head over to your local Family History Center to visit the website and bring along a flash drive so you can save the files. Warning – those images have to be saved one at a time, not as one complete record, so if there are a lot of pages, you’ll be at it for a while. Another option is to wait for an offer of free access. Fold3 often has those days around Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day and sometimes around other holidays.

3. Have you located your ancestor’s grave? If not, head to findagrave immediately and look! Some families included military unit information on gravestone transcriptions even if their loved one was not buried in a military cemetery.

4. Check online trees of others who have included your ancestor. Don’t forget wiki trees online and FamilySearch. There might be a mention of military service.

Sometimes, it seems like those ancestors just don’t want to be found. If you are still unsure about possible Civil War service in your family, there are many websites that might have additional clues to be followed. I’ve included some of the major websites, but don’t overlook local and state archives and libraries or local genealogical and historical societies where your ancestor of interest lived/died. The local organization might just be the one with that elusive tidbit of proof!

Library of Congress Digital Collections

NARA – Note that many National Archives files and documents are not digitally available

Grand Army of the Republic Museum and Library – Founded by Union veterans, the G.A.R. is no longer an active society. However, its holdings that survive are housed here.

Library of Virginia – LVA has a Civil War collection representing the Confederate Army. Begin with the Civil War Research Guide.

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies

African-American Civil War Soldiers

American Battlefield Trust – includes Civil War battlefields

FamilySearch Wiki – Civil War records Part 1 and Part 2 – Here you’ll find almost anything and everything you ever wanted to know about the Civil War with hundreds of links included.