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FAQs About the Civil War Roster and Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls

FAQs About Civil War Roster, Regimental Muster, and Descriptive Rolls | Wisconsin Historical Society

Below are answers to questions frequently asked about the Civil War Roster and Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls.

How and why were the Roster and Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls created?

During the service of an individual in the Civil War, many records were created (muster-in rolls, pay rolls, descriptive lists, etc.). In January 1885, Governor Jeremiah M. Rusk brought to the attention of the legislature the gradual destruction of original war records by overuse resulting from the increased need for verification of military history for the purposes of pensions, assistance, Grand Army of the Republic, etc.

On April 15, 1885 a bill was approved by the governor and published as chapter 244, Laws of 1885, resulting in the creation of these vital resources for historical research.

The Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls, Series 1144 (Blue Books) were compiled in 1885 and the Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865 was published in two volumes in 1886. An index to the roster, Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865, was prepared by the office of the Adjutant General between 1895 and 1899 and published in 1914.

Note: Some of the original records from which these sources are preserved in the Archives Division in Series 1200 (Wisconsin. Adjutant General's Office. Records of Civil War Regiments, 1861-1900).

How was the Roster digitized?

The Roster was scanned by Northern Micrographics, Inc. of La Crosse, Wisconsin (NMI). Full OCR (optical character recognition) was not available for this project, so a database index was created to locate the first page of each Regiment and Company, as well as the first page of each section in the alphabetical index of names. Each page was converted to Adobe Acrobat format and made available for downloading and printing. 

What will I receive if I order copies of Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls ( aka Red & Blue Books or Compiled Service Records)?

Note: The quality (i.e. readability) of a record copy may vary greatly. Our goal is to provide you with the best copy possible.

Red Book

Rolls listing men serving in each Wisconsin military unit during the Civil War, showing name, rank, birthplace, age, occupation, and marital status; date, place, and by whom enlisted; term of service; physical description; date and place of mustering in; name of mustering officer; town or ward and county of residence; town or ward and congressional district to which credited; and "remarks" such as promotions, details, leaves, absences, engagements, and, if soldier died in service, date and place of death and sometimes place of burial. 

EnlargeLeft side of Civil War Roster "Red Book" page image.

Sample "Red Book" page.


These rolls, compiled by the Adjutant General's office during the Civil War, differ from theRegimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls (Series 1142,aka "Blue Books") compiled in 1885 by showing a volunteer's birthplace and name of mustering officer. 

Blue Book

Rolls compiled ca. 1885 listing men serving in each Wisconsin military unit during the Civil War, showing name and rank; when, where, and by whom enlisted or when and by whom commissioned; term of service; physical description, occupation, and residence; town or ward and county to which the enlistment was credited; date and manner of termination of service; and "remarks" listing promotions, special duties, leaves of absence, engagements, and, if the soldier died in service, date and place of death and sometimes place of burial. The abbreviated title of the information source is shown for each fact listed in the "remarks" column.

This series is a revised version of the Regimental Muster and Descriptive Rolls (Series 1144, aka "Red Books") compiled during the Civil War.

How do these 2 series differ?

The "Red Books" may show the volunteer's birthplace and name of mustering officer.  However, date service terminated is not given, and the information shown under "remarks" is less complete than the "Blue Books".  The spelling of names varies in some cases between the two series.  Many miscellaneous units (e.g. Milwaukee Cavalry) were not included in the "Red Books", but do appear in the "Blue Books".

How long will it take?

Your order will usually ship within two weeks of receipt.

What does it cost?

Each Wisconsin Civil War Service Record costs $20. Wisconsin Historical Society Members receive a 10% discount. Learn more about how to become a member. 

What do the abbreviations in the Roster and compiled service records stand for?

See all abbreviations.

Why are there errors in the Roster?

Errors may occur because the Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers on the Society's Web site appear exactly as they were published in 1886 and 1914. Those original volumes were based upon handwritten records created during the Civil War itself. Errors in spellings of names and inconsistencies for dates of service inevitably appear because of clerical errors in the original documents, the difficulty of reading written records that were created in haste, and errors in transcription when the publication was compiled.

Note: If you do not find the person you seek under one spelling of a name, please check alternate spellings or even under names that sound alike but are not spelled similarly. We regret that we do not have the ability to change the documents to correct any errors and inconsistencies that you may spot.


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