Civil War Muster Rolls Important Addition to OHS Archives
With the 150th anniversary of the Civil War coming up, curators and archivists around the country are busy preparing related collections for display and for use by researchers. Recently, the Ohio Historical Society acquired 534 pay and muster rolls for Ohio troops during that conflict.
Important Military Documents One hundred fifty of the rolls are for individuals, mostly officers, and the other 384 are company pay and muster rolls for various Ohio artillery, cavalry and infantry regiments. Also included are muster or pay rolls for the regimental bands, regimental field and staff rolls, hospital rolls and recruiting detachment rolls. Because each company or battery usually had about 100 men at full strength, the rolls contain the names of more than 38,550 men. “This is without a doubt a very important acquisition for the people of Ohio and it’s just in time for the Civil War sesquicentennial commemoration,” says archivist John Haas, Ohio Historical Society manuscripts curator and a Civil War historian. “It’s a truly amazing collection of previously unseen Civil War name rolls for Ohio troops, which are now available to the public at the society’s Archives/Library on the third floor of the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus.” The collection consists of a lot of rolls for Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI) regiments, including the 6th, 7th, 19th, 30th, 38th, 41st, 52nd, 68th, 78th, 96th, 113th and 124th. These represent units raised from all over the state of Ohio. It also has an assortment of rolls from the 10th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, the 1st Light Artillery Regiment, Batteries B and C and rolls for the 9th, 17th and 19th Independent Light Artillery Batteries. The rolls cover units raised in April 1861 and go to late 1864.
Where Did They Come From? The Ohio Historical Society acquired the rolls from a private collector. It is believed that they originated in the War Department’s Paymaster’s Department, as almost all of them have a paymaster stamp or written notation on them. “We surmise that when the Office of the Paymaster General moved to a new building in Washington, D.C., many years ago,” Haas explains, “thousands of Civil War pay and muster rolls somehow eventually ended up in private hands.”
What Can Be Learned? According to Haas, the collection is in good condition and contains a wealth of information not previously known. For instance, the rolls provide a history of each company by giving the names of the sick, absent, wounded or killed and sometimes those who deserted. As an example, Company F of the 41st OVI listed more than 30 men as sick in quarters or in hospital, 11 wounded and five dead – two killed at the Battle of Shiloh and three dead from disease. It lists the various promotions or temporary duty detachments out of the total of about 100 officers and men in the unit. The roll was taken April 30, 1862, on the Shiloh battlefield. This is just one of many stories that can be told from these rolls of Ohio Civil War soldiers. “The rolls also tell a story of each soldier’s participation and offer a written snapshot of their life, or death, in the Civil War,” Haas says. “In many cases you can follow a company for several months at a stretch and find out what happened to each individual.” Other interesting tidbits about the collection: pay rolls include soldiers’ signatures because they had to sign the roll in order to get paid; individual officer rolls often contain names of servants, who in most cases were black, listed as “Negro,” with their names and a basic physical description; and paymaster names were listed as most of the rolls originated with the Paymaster Department. This new collection, combined with the muster-in and -out rolls from the Ohio Adjutant General on microfilm in the archives, provides researchers with a rich and robust resource on the state’s military history during the Civil War. Both historians and genealogists can use these rolls to find out information. The Ohio Historical Society Archives/Library on the third floor of the Ohio Historical Center at I-71 and 17th Avenue in Columbus is open Thursdays 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For more information about the muster rolls, contact [email protected].