North Carolina Military Records
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This entry was originally written by Johni Cerny and Gareth L. Mark for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
North Carolina’s war record begins with the Chowanoc Indian War (1675–77) and continues with the Tuscarora Indian War (1711–15), but virtually no records survive to tell of the participants. Then came the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739–44) and King George’s War (1744–48) between England, France, and Spain. Some North Carolinians served in these wars, but only a few muster rolls remain. The French and Indian War began in 1755 and ended in 1763; that North Carolinians served in this war is certain, but little remains to document a soldier’s service. The surviving muster rolls and militia officer lists are available at the North Carolina State Archives and are published in Murtie June Clark, Colonial Soldiers of the South, 1732–1774 (1983; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1999).
Revolutionary War. Some of the original service records for the Revolutionary War were destroyed by fire, but those remaining are on file at the National Archives, compiled primarily from rosters and rolls of soldiers serving in North Carolina’s militia units. See the published list of North Carolina soldiers in Roster of Soldiers from North Carolina in the American Revolution (1932; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977). However, the comprehensive index to Revolutionary War Records on fifty-eight reels of microfilm is available at the National Archives and its branches, the FHL and its branches, and other selected libraries.
The new states were required to raise quotas of soldiers to serve in the Continental Line during the Revolutionary War, and land was offered as an inducement. North Carolinians who volunteered to serve for at least two years were given bounty-land warrants that could be exchanged for land in what was to become Tennessee. The North Carolina State Archives has some fiscal records of soldiers serving in the Continental Line, but does not have service records.
Many North Carolinians remained loyal to the Crown during the Revolutionary War. See Murtie June Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1980).
War of 1812. Information included in service records for the War of 1812 is similar to that in the same records of soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Muster Rolls of the Soldiers of the War of 1812: Detached from the Militia of North Carolina, in 1812 and 1814 (1851; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1976) is the most comprehensive list available of soldiers from North Carolina. Unfortunately, Muster Rolls contains many errors and must be carefully verified in original records. There are War of 1812 pay vouchers for twenty-eight counties arranged alphabetically and an alphabetical list of all vouchers available in the Search Room of the North Carolina State Archives.
Civil War. Many service records are available at the North Carolina State Archives, including enlistment bounty payrolls. The most comprehensive publication on North Carolina’s Confederate soldiers is Louis H. Manarin and Weymouth T. Jordan, comps., North Carolina Troops, 1861–1865, A Roster, 15 vols. (Raleigh, N.C.: State Department of Archives and History, 1981–present). Volume 15 was published in 2003. Others may follow. North Carolina Troops includes both unit histories and some excellent biographies.
North Carolina offered pensions to Confederate veterans and their widows beginning in 1885. The 1885 pension law offered pensions to veterans and widows of veterans disabled by the loss of a limb or an eye; an 1887 amendment provided pensions for widows of veterans who died of disease while serving the Confederacy. A new law was enacted in 1889 and revised in 1901 that required a twelve-month residence in North Carolina and required that widows had married the veteran before April 1865 to qualify for a pension. Original pension records and the accompanying index are available at the North Carolina State Archives; the index is available on microfilm at the FHL.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
- North Carolina, Civil War Service Records of Confederate Soldiers, 1861-1865
- North Carolina, Civil War Service Records of Union Soldiers
Spanish American War. A printed Roster of the North Carolina Volunteers in the Spanish American War is available in the Search Room of the North Carolina State Archives.
For a more in-depth look at how military, veterans’, and pension records apply in North Carolina, see George Stevenson, “Military Records,” and Raymond A. Winslow, Jr., “Military Service and Veterans Records” in Leary, North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History (see Background Sources for North Carolina).