By William F.B. Vodrey
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2005, 2007, All Rights Reserved
The National Park Service has announced that the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System (CWSS) website is now up and running. It features basic information on the service records of over 6 million Civil War soldiers and sailors, and the database can be found at www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm. Due to the sometimes erratic and duplicative record-keeping of the day, as well as reenlistments, the number of entries is greater than the number of those who actually served. The website also lists Federal and Confederate regiments and their battles.
NPS project manager John Peterson told The Civil War News that the 11-year project would have cost millions more had it not been for the committed volunteer work of the Mormons, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, and amateur genealogists across the country. The NPS soon hopes to work with the National Geographic Society to provide online maps for all major battles, with additional information and even “interpretive sound bites.”
I recently tried out the new website and was impressed. I soon found two lineal ancestors who served in the Civil War, my great-great-grandfather, Col. William H. Vodrey of the 143rd Ohio, and his brother, Pvt. John W. Vodrey of the 46th Pennsylvania, Co. F. The website has citations to the Army’s official microfilmed records, as well as Union or Confederate designations, regiment and company, and often a notation of rank at both enlistment and at discharge. You may search by last name only, by first and last name, by state, or by unit. Alternate names are also provided in some cases, as are Medal of Honor citations.
I ran searches for some familiar names and found no fewer than 12 Abraham Lincolns (11 Union, 1 Confederate) and 55 Jefferson Davises (44 Union, 11 Confederate) who served in the ranks. The 84th Iowa Volunteer Infantry had both an Abraham Lincoln and a William Sherman. In fact, there were 183 William Shermans serving at all ranks during the Civil War, 20 of whom were from Ohio. Thirteen men named Phil Sheridan also served. The sole Ulysses S. Grant is listed not as lieutenant general and general in chief of the armies of the United States, but as colonel of the 21st Illinois (the future president’s first regimental command). There were 58 Confederate Robert Lees, but 84 Union ones. There were 616 George Thomases: 475 Union (only one of whom would win the nickname “The Rock of Chickamauga” and my and a past Charger editor’s enduring admiration) and 141 Confederate. Three men named James Longstreet fought in the Civil War: two Union and one (rather better known) Confederate. There were 309 Thomas Jacksons from the North and 162 from the South, but only one has gone down in history as “Stonewall.”
Just for fun, I also checked on some familar Cleveland Roundtable names. There are records of 257 Maurers (but none named Mel), 551 Crewses (6 of whom were named Richard), 16 Zeisers (but no Dans), but alas, no Carrinos, Fazios, or DeBaltzos. An impressive 886 McClellands served in the war (but none with the first name of Warren), of whom 620 wore blue and 266 wore gray or butternut. There were no Lorittses (Lynn or otherwise), but a whopping 13,792 Thomases, 8,383 U.S. and 5,589 C.S. (none of whom was named Dale). There were 918 Bauers, of whom 863 bore arms for the Union and 55 fought for the Confederacy (none named Maynard, though). There were two Novaks, both of whom fought for the Union, but neither was named David. There was one Kuenzi (a Union soldier, whose first name wasn’t Hans), but no Terry Koozer (nine soldiers, all of whom wore blue, were named Koozer). There were 16 Kellons, but none named Anthony (or Tony). There were 2,559 men with the last name George. Of these, 1,554 fought for the Stars and Stripes and 1,005 fought for the Stars and Bars. Fourteen were named George George – all wore blue, and one is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
As of December 2020, Civil War sailors’ records were still in the process of being added. There are also searchable rosters of those held in the Confederate prison at Andersonville, GA, and the Union prison at Fort McHenry, MD. You can also search the burial records of Poplar Grove National Cemetery at Petersburg, VA. The Park Service hopes to someday expand these features to include all Civil War-era prisons and cemeteries.
The next time you’re exploring the internet, be sure to drop by. It’s well worth a look.
Editor’s note: The database has a webpage that provides an Overview of the website. The Overview can also be accessed by clicking on “Learn more.” on the home page.