I’ve been waiting to get a look at the Alabama Civil War Muster Rolls, 1861–1865. Not because I have family from Alabama—most of my Southern relatives had headed west a generation or two earlier—but because I didn’t have a good handle on what muster rolls contained. I knew they were lists of soldiers and their status, but what did that mean?
If muster rolls are new to you, too, here are a few things I’ve discovered about this collection.
First off, the Ancestry Index pane is your friend. Having the names with the column headings right above them can be a lifesaver. (Turn the pane on by clicking the View All link in the toolbar. It may not be available for every page.)
You can search by name of course, but records are organized by unit, and you can narrow in pretty quickly using the browse function as well. When you are searching a name, don’t stop at the record page that comes up. Many of the rolls are two pages wide (or long), so go to the image and check the next page, where more facts could be waiting.
The formats of the muster rolls vary, and so does what you can find in them. The rolls for 1st Alabama Infantry, Company E, list name, rank, age, state and county of enlistment, and remarks, where the soldier’s status (present, absent, etc.) is explained.
Enlisted: When. Where. Period.
Residence (Nearest P.O.)
Age when enlisted
Married or single
And here is the most intriguing bit to me: Under Engagements and Remarks you’ll find a soldier’s battle history. Each column under Engagements lists the name and dates of battles the unit fought in. Letter codes give a soldier’s status: P (present and unhurt), w (wounded), a (absent without leave), etc. You’ll find a legend to the codes at the top of the roll.
This collection contains payroll and other records as well as muster rolls (some ancillary records are not indexed), and you won’t find every unit or Alabama soldier—many records were lost. But everything you might discover makes these records well worth getting acquainted with.