The Civil War—a house divided.

The Civil War—a house divided.

The Civil War pitted the Union north against the Confederate south, with slavery at the center of a conflict that threatened to tear the nation in two. Our Civil War collections include more than 18 million names from both Union and Confederate records, so you can find your ancestors no matter which side they fought for.

The Civil War pitted the Union north against the Confederate south, with slavery at the center of a conflict that threatened to tear the nation in two. Our Civil War collections include more than 18 million names from both Union and Confederate records, so you can find your ancestors no matter which side they fought for.

Search Civil War (1861–1865) Military Records

Search Civil War (1861–1865) Military Records

Scroll through our timeline of events to learn more.

  • 6 Nov 1860

    Abraham Lincoln is elected president Illinois Senator Abraham Lincoln is elected president with 180 out of 303 electoral votes and just 40 percent of the popular vote. He becomes the first Republican president.

  • 20 Dec 1860

    South Carolina secedes from the Union South Carolina is the first southern state to secede from the Union, followed within two months by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas.

  • 9 Feb 1861

    Confederate States are established Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. Army officer, is elected president of the newly formed Confederate States of America. By late May, the Confederacy will include 11 states and have a population of 9 million (including 4 million slaves), while the Union will have 21 states and a population of more than 20 million.

  • 12 Apr 1861

    War begins at Fort Sumter Confederate troops under Gen. Pierre Beauregard fire the first shots of the Civil War, bombarding Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina with cannon shells.

  • 21 Jul 1861

    First Battle of Bull Run In the war’s first major battle, Confederate Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson defeats the Union Army at Bull Run, 25 miles southwest of Washington. Union Gen. Irwin McDowell orders his men to retreat to Washington.

  • 8 Mar 1862

    First duel between ironclad ships The U.S.S. Monitor and C.S.S. Merrimac fight a historic Naval battle—the first between two ironclad ships—making wooden ships obsolete. The duel ends in a draw.

  • 24 Apr 1862

    Union ships capture New Orleans Union ships commanded by David Farragut travel up the Mississippi River and capture New Orleans, the South’s greatest seaport. Farragut, who would later utter the famous words “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” during the August 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay, would go on to become the U.S. Navy’s first admiral.

  • 1 Jun 1862

    Lee commands Confederate Army Gen. Robert E. Lee, a graduate of West Point, assumes command of the Confederate Army, which he renames the Army of Northern Virginia. Lincoln had offered him command of the Union Army in April 1861, but Lee declined to take up arms against his native Virginia.

  • 17 Sep 1862

    Battle of Antietam Union Gen. George McClellan stops the northern advance of Lee’s armies at Antietam, Maryland, forcing Lee to retreat to Virginia. An estimated 26,000 men are killed or wounded in the bloodiest single day of the war.

  • 22 Sep 1862

    Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in Confederate territory. He will release the final proclamation on New Year’s Day 1863, calling on black men to enlist in the Union Army and transforming the war into a moral crusade to abolish slavery.

  • 3 Mar 1863

    U.S. Congress enacts a draft The U.S. Congress passes a law requiring all male citizens between the ages of 20 and 45 to join the Union Army, unless they are able to pay $300 or provide a substitute. This loophole evokes protests from poor northerners, who claim that their blood is as precious as a rich man’s.

  • 1 Jul 1863

    Battle of Gettysburg The war’s deadliest battle begins on July 1 at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During three days of intense fighting, Union troops repel Lee’s second advance into northern territory, turning the tide of the war.

  • 4 Jul 1863

    Siege of Vicksburg ends One day after Lee’s defeat at Gettysburg, Confederate troops surrender Vicksburg, Mississippi—their last stronghold on the Mississippi River—to Union Gen. Ulysses Grant after a six-week siege.

  • 19 Nov 1863

    Gettysburg Address In a two-minute speech, President Lincoln dedicates the battlefield at Gettysburg as a National Cemetery. He invites listeners to honor the sacrifice of the Union’s fallen heroes by working to ensure “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

  • 9 Mar 1864

    Grant commands U.S. Army Lincoln appoints Ulysses Grant as general-in-chief of the U.S. Army. During the first three years of the war, Lincoln had fired a string of commanders including Irvin McDowell, George McClellan, Henry Halleck, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker and George Meade. For four months in 1862, an exasperated Lincoln had even served as his own general-in-chief.

  • 2 Sep 1864

    Union troops occupy Atlanta After a four-month campaign, Union Gen. William Sherman captures Atlanta. The victory boosts Union morale and helps Lincoln’s bid for re-election. After burning much of Atlanta, Sherman will march to the sea, arriving in Savannah on December 21.

  • 31 Jan 1865

    Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery The U.S. Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and submits it to the states for ratification. Slavery will be officially abolished when the amendment is ratified on 6 December 1865.

  • 4 Mar 1865

    Lincoln’s second inauguration In his second inaugural speech, Lincoln looks ahead to the healing and reconstruction process. “With malice toward none; with charity for all...let us strive on to finish the work we are do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations,” he says.

  • 9 Apr 1865

    Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox The war effectively ends when Gen. Lee surrenders to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at a court house in Appomattox, Virginia. Six days earlier, Union troops had marched into Richmond, the Confederate Capital, and raised the Stars and Stripes over the Confederate White House.

  • 14 Apr 1865

    Lincoln is assassinated Exactly four years after Confederate troops captured Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Union troops raise the Stars and Stripes over the fort. The same night, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC, John Wilkes Booth shoots Lincoln in the head. Lincoln dies the next morning.

American Civil War

American Civil War

Mounting tensions over slavery came to a head with the election of anti-slavery President Abraham Lincoln in 1860. By February 1861, even before Lincoln had taken office, seven states had seceded from the Union; 6 more would follow by the end of the year. On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces attacked South Carolina’s Fort Sumter igniting war.

In total, more than 3.5 million Americans would fight in the Civil War; more than 2 million for the Union, some 1.5 million for the Confederate States. The Union side suffered more than 350,000 deaths, both battle and non-battle related. The Confederate forces saw some 160,000 battle and non-battle deaths.

The Ancestry American Civil War Collection

The Ancestry American
Civil War Collection

Discover your Civil War ancestors in our online collection of American Civil War military records, spanning 1860–1865. Featuring more than 18 million names, both Union and Confederate, from service records, pension files — some created as late as the 1930s — to photographs and more. Because of the various record types included, some soldiers will have more than one record in the collection.

Let us help you discover your story.

Let us help you discover your story.

Begin your free family tree with a few simple facts. We’ll help you discover a lot more.

Begin your free family tree with a few simple facts. We’ll help you discover a lot more.

Featured Collections

Featured Collections

U.S., Civil War Soldiers, 1861–1865
Collection of military service records, containing more than 6 million names of servicemen — Union and Confederate — who fought in the U.S. Civil War.

U.S., Civil War Soldiers Records and Profiles
A historic effort to compile and interlink all available records of soldiers who participated in the American Civil War.

Civil War Pension Index: General Index to Pension Files
Records of more than 2 million Union Army soldiers who filed for pensions after the Civil War.

U.S., Civil War POW Records
Collection of more than 1.5 million names from the Union and Confederate prisoner of war records.

U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863–1865
Records featuring details about 178,000 African-American troops who served the Union during the Civil War.

U.S., Union Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861–1865
Index of compiled military service records for volunteer Union soldiers who served. This index also includes Confederate soldiers who later served with the Union Army.

U.S., Confederate Soldiers Compiled Service Records, 1861–1865
This database contains an index to compiled service records (CSRs) for soldiers who served with units in the Confederate army.

Confederate Applications for Presidential Pardons, 1865–1867
Collection of 14,000 pardon applications featuring background information and service details for former Confederates soldiers.

U.S., Civil War Photos
Almost 7,000 photographs depicting the Civil War Era.