Wisconsin Military Records

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This entry was originally written by Dawn M. Knauft and Carol L. Maki in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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The Wisconsin Historical Society has very few records of Wisconsin residents involved in military action prior to the Civil War. When beginning a search for a Wisconsin Civil War veteran, researchers would do well to consult the following:

  • Wisconsin. Adjutant General’s Office. Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861–1865. Madison, Wis.: Democrat Printing Co., 1914. An alphabetical index (also available on microfiche) to the Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861–1865, 2 vols. (Madison, Wis.: Democrat Printing Co., 1886). This has been digitized and can be browsed and searched at the website of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Other helpful sources include:

  • Barker, Brett. Exploring Civil War Wisconsin: A Survival Guide for Researchers. Madison, Wis.: Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2002.
  • Love, William DeLoss. Wisconsin in the War of Rebellion: A History of all Regiments and Batteries. Chicago: Church and Goodman, 1866.
  • Paul, William G. Wisconsin’s Civil War Archives. Madison, Wis.: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1965.
  • Quiner, E. B. The Military History of Wisconsin: A Record of the Civil and Military Patriotism of the State, in the War for the Union. Chicago: Clarke & Co., 1866.

To re-create the background of a Civil War ancestor in Wisconsin, see Carolyn J. Mattern, Soldiers When They Go: The Story of Camp Randall, 1861–1865 (Madison, Wis.: State Historical Society of Wisconsin for the Department of History, University of Wisconsin, 1981), and Ethel Alice Hurn, Wisconsin Women in the War Between the States (Madison, Wis.: Democrat Printing Co. for the Wisconsin History Commission, 1911).

The Wisconsin Adjutant General’s Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls (known as “Red and Blue Books”), created during and after the Civil War, document the service of Wisconsin soldiers. These records typically show the soldier’s name, regiment, company, rank, and date of mustering into service. Many records also include a birthplace, age, residence, occupation, marital status, physical description, muster-out date, and service notes. Copies can be obtained through the Wisconsin Historical Society. The society’s website also provides detailed information on its military record holdings, some of which are described below.

No pension records, outside of those available through the National Archives (see page 9) exist for Wisconsin. The State Archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society is the repository for other numerous miscellaneous records pertaining to Wisconsin residents and units in the Civil War. These include records of the quartermaster general and various regiments. Of special importance to the genealogist are county draft books, lists of persons eligible for military service, regimental muster rolls, hospital reports, certificates of service, duty rosters, and records of the disposition of personal effects. Not all types of records exist for all regiments. Records are originals, with some indexes, and need to be searched at the archives. Staff assistance is available. The archives has an alphabetical index to soldiers who served in Wisconsin units. A similar index exists for the Spanish American War.

The library of the Wisconsin Historical Society has the World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards (1917–18) and a collection of camp newspapers for both World War I and World War II. The archives has brief service records compiled by the Adjutant General’s office on all Wisconsin World War I military personnel. In addition to the above records, the archives and the library have numerous records, including personal narratives, unit histories, and general histories covering all of the above military conflicts. See Wisconsin Archives, Libraries, and Societies below for contact information. In requests, include full name of veteran, date of birth, approximate date of death, and county or city of residence at time of death, if known.

There are no official records in the archives for veterans of World War II, or the Korean or Vietnam conflicts (except for those serving in the Wisconsin National Guard during the Vietnam conflict).

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum Archives, 30 W. Mifflin St., Madison, WI 53703 has an invaluable collection of diaries and oral histories created by veterans. Other strengths of the collection include the records of various state veterans’ organizations, a file of veteran burials in Wisconsin as well as information on more than 500 veterans’ memorials.

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