As co-ordinator of the Twentyx20 genealogy talks in the NLI this summer, I had the enjoyable task of attending all the lunch-time talks, and meeting each of the speakers. One of the talks that really stood out for me, was by Damian Shiels who spoke on the Irish in the American Civil War.
The Irish that fought in the American Civil War were mainly the Famine Irish that settled in the United States between ca. 1845 and 1861.
IT’s possible to trace these men using online records.
The Compiled Military Service Records (C.M.S.R.) are soldiers’ service records, collated from contemporary documents, more than a generation after the war ended,. These are essentially abstracts of evidence taken from original documents including enlistment, muster and pay-rolls; death notices, hospital and prison registers; descriptive accounts/ service narratives. These records survive for soldiers of the Union and the Confederate Army, for each regiment in which they served.
Records of Union soldiers were compiled from 1886; records of the Confederate soldiers from 1903. There are more than double the number of records, than there were soldiers, so scrutinise all matching records for a typo in a name, or a change of regiment.
An index to the Compiled Military Service Records is available free online. It provides a basic index – name, rank, unit and State – by which you may identify individual service records on microfilm
The [Civil War] Soldiers and Sailors (CWSS) data-base is currently under construction. On completion this will be a portal-site for the history of the American Civil War, and will include records of battles and military units, burial records in the National Cemeteries, Prisoners and Medals of Honour.
I shuddered when I read NARA’s archival description of the Compiled Military Service Records. “The abstracts were so carefully prepared that it is rarely necessary to consult the original muster rolls and other records from which they were made.” One of the few constants in any field of human endeavour, be it stamp-collecting or maths-physics, is the possibility of h human error. Where you can’t find a soldier examine the printed lists of both armies, edited by Janet B. Hewett
The best guide to this fascinating subject is Damian Shiels’ book The Irish in the American Civil War, published in 2013 by History Press.