During the American Civil War of 1861-1865, the governments issued uniforms both Confederate and Union sides which included socks, undershorts and drawers (underwear). However, those items didn’t get cleaned that often, especially the underclothes, so a major source of germs. Men many times requested additional underclothes be sent by their families since the government issue ones did not come too frequently.
This just one example of interesting aspects about our ancestors who served during the Civil War. It can be difficult to get details on individual soldiers. The pension records can be a good source. Those were usually a questionnaire filled out by the former military serviceman years after their service. Some pension files were completed by a parent or a widow of the soldier. A few did have personal letters written by the soldier detailing their war experience. You might be lucky to even have a copy of an ancestor’s diary or letters they wrote back home that have been saved for generations.
A little known resource is the U. S. federal government’s collection of Civil War medical cards. These medical cards cover only the Union soldiers and are housed at the National Archives in Washington, D. C. and to date are not online yet.
These medical records can detail any sickness, illnesses or injuries suffered while in service. Besides what the person’s illness or condition being listed, also is what type of treatment they received, if they were so bad they had to be discharged, where they were getting treatment, personal items belonging to the soldier (photos, diary, etc) and well as a listing of next to kin.
The best method is to search in the National Archives in Washington, D.C. yourself for the ancestor. If you can’t make a trip there, you can also request a copy of your ancestor’s medical card by writing or emailing the National Archives with his name and regiment number. Keep in mind, if an ancestor was never sick or injured enough for treatment, there would be no government medical card filled out. However, the National Archives will look at your request, and send you a copy if a card is found. Make sure you specifically request a copy of the medical card.
Information to include in your request is the soldier’s full name, what state they served from (a Union state), their birth year along with their regiment number with a company letter would be very important.
Here is a link to the National Parks Service database of soldiers and their regiments. The mailing address for the National Archives is 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001, as well as The National Archives and Records Administration, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park, MD 20740-6001.
Here is the link to make the request online: National Archives
Photos: Soldiers in hospitals, nurses caring for the ill and the lost of limbs.
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