Some 20 years ago, while doing research in a large metropolitan library, I came across an 8 page composition written by historian and meticulous researcher, Robert K. Krick. This brief essay entitled “Suggestions on Identifying Confederate Soldiers and Finding Their Traces” appeared as a preface to the 43 volume, bound reprint of the “Confederate Veteran Magazine”, 1893-1932. It was such a gem, that I made photocopies of the piece.
Here is what Mr. Krick has to say about Compiled Service Records:
“The typical compiled service records for a Confederate regiment run to about ten rolls of microfilm, although some large units take up more than twice that space, and a few regiments of small size with poor records fill up only five or six rolls. Each state’s service records are arranged numerically by regiment or alphabetically by company (as with batteries). Cavalry comes first, artillery second, infantry last. The records often include a wealth of information about a soldier, but the format of the records sometimes will be disappointing to a researcher. Muster rolls which were prepared for the purpose of paying the men are the essential component of the records. The men who prepared the muster rolls did so for specific administrative purposes, without any eye at all toward the desires of historians a century and more in the future.”
“The vast majority of the paper included in an average service record is not original material, but rather copies laboriously extracted from the originals by War Department copyists years ago. A company muster roll included as many as one hundred men, each of whom has an individual service record. Each man’s line of information from the original appears in his record, but obviously on a copied sheet.”
“Each man’s service record consists of a jacket or envelope which gives his name, rank at entry into and exit from service, and the unit in which he served. Cross references at the bottom of the jacket sometimes mention other units to which a soldier belonged, but that system is not complete by any means. Within the jacket are such things as card extracts from pay musters, hospital records, prisoner-of-war registers, parole ledgers, general or specific orders from army headquarters, appointment books, and promotion lists. Many service records include no original manuscripts at all—just the card extracts. Some men, though, have original items pertaining only to themselves which turn up in the service record. The most common sorts of the latter are requisitions signed by commissioned officers for forage or other supplies, pay vouchers, and copies of special or general orders.”
“The clerks who compiled the service records (blessings to their memory for a job superbly done) necessarily reached a point at which they declared the job finished. Years later microfilmers went to work and the finished product went into service. The compiled service records did not include everything available, of course; such a thing would have been impossible to do. When the work on the compilation of the service records was terminated because of a lack of funds, the remaining filed papers were arranged alphabetically by name. In due course, this file was microfilmed under the title” Unfiled Papers and Slips Belonging in Confederate Compiled Service Records”. It bears the publication of number M347 and includes 442 rolls.”