"To Care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan"




By Barry J. Crompton

Archer Memorial Civil War Library

Melbourne, Australia

February 2011




"To Care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan"

Civil War Veterans in the North

The 1890 Veterans Census; the Soldiers Homes and the Grand Army of the Republic


We are fortunate that so much of the Civil War’s records have survived into this age as we can look back on the men who served and research a great deal of their lives and activities through their diaries and memories, through their paper records of muster rolls and discharge papers as well as government copies of military and medical reports. The mountain of paperwork that has remained makes the Civil War one of the most interesting periods of history. To know that we can count on finding the daily records of their service details means that we can begin to fill in some of the gaps in our education on the war.

One of the large gaps of learning is due to the incomplete records of the 1890 census of Civil War veterans and their widows and this article is an attempt to pierce together several strains of unrelated areas of research and combine them into something that will understand the post war veteran.

The case of Civil War veterans is one of interest to both sociological researchers as well as Civil War historians because the post-war period continued to offer insights into the habits of those who had enlisted for the suppression of the rebellion. If the average age of the Civil War enlistee in the 1860’s was then in his mid-twenties, by 1890 that same veteran would now be around fifty and coming to the end of his working life (if indeed he was able to procure employment as an able-bodied worker). The costs to the government of how many veterans might require to be taken over by the Federal institutions would be one of large financial undertaking.

Immediately after the war had ended and the soldiers discharged Larry Logue in his book "To Appomattox and Beyond" reported in a chapter titled "Union Veterans in Postwar America" that the army had acted as a school of demoralization. Returning soldiers provided some evidence that they looted and brawled in New York, Washington and elsewhere in the summer of 1865. Former soldiers, upset at being denied a promised bonus, went on an arson spree in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1866. Prison officials across the country reported a sharp increase in inmates, asserted that most of them were ex-soldiers, and blamed army life for the crime wave.

A problem that lasted much longer was the ex-soldiers’ addiction to drugs and alcohol. After the war, physicians gave additional morphine to already addicted veterans and introduced others to the drug in order to treat the pain and stress of the soldiers. In 1879 an army surgeon estimated that 45,000 veterans were addicted to morphine.

The United States Government was one of the first institutions to grant a pension to those veterans who had survived the war and who now required additional funds to continue living. At first pensions were only available to those veterans who could demonstrate that they have been affected by the war or widows of Civil War veterans who had died during the war or whose deaths were found to have been caused or linked by the war. One of the first to claim was Sarah Ballou, widow of Sullivan Ballou famous in the Ken Burns’ documentary Civil War series for his letter. She qualified for Certificate # 25 and drew a $25 per month pension from the date of his death, 28 July 1861, until her own death on 19 April 1917. Up until recently there were still widows of Civil War veterans in the South still receiving pensions.

The federal government had started the ball rolling in 1776 by passing legislation in the Continental Congress promising disabled American soldiers and sailors half-pay for life; this led by 1823 to the government having 17,439 veterans of the Revolutionary War on its books by 1823. This cost to the federal government in 1823 was approximately $1,650,000. The government also distributed to veterans an amount of public land, which totaled sixty million acres in the years prior to the Civil War. By 1899 there were 991,519 Civil War pensioners on the rolls drawing 139 million dollars in pensions.

According to an article by Dr. William H. Glasson on the "History of Military Pensions in the United States", the last veteran of the Revolutionary War, John F. Bakeman, died on 5 April 1869, some 94 years after the start of the Revolutionary War; the last veteran of the Civil War, John B. Salling, died in 1956 which was 95 years after the beginning of the Civil War. You could therefore surmise that the last veteran of World War II will be around until 2036 and the Gulf War veterans from the 1990 conflicts will still be around until the 2080’s.

In the 1850’s Congress created the United States Soldiers’ Home, located in Washington, D.C., by this small establishment was reserved for veterans of the Mexican War and the Regular Army.

By the time of the Civil War, the first large scale requirement of volunteers since the War of Independence and the War of 1812, according to Patrick Kelly in his book "Creating a National Home: Building the Veterans’ Welfare State 1860 -1900", nearly 37 per cent of Northern males between the ages of fifteen and forty-four in 180 served in the Union army. More than a quarter of a million Union soldiers received gunshot wounds (as well as 225,000 troops who were discharged by the Union army for a variety of ailments). This would make a serious dent on the economy of any nation seriously intent on securing the rights of the veterans.

In the summer of 1862 (July 14th to be exact) Congress established a pension system for veterans with disabilities under the General Pension Law. It was retroactive to March 1, 1861, and established uniform pension rates for veterans disabled "from causes which can be directly traced to injuries received or disease contracted while in the military service". Officers with the rank of lieutenant colonel and above received a top pension of $30 a month; disabled enlisted soldiers received $8 a month. At this stage there was still no policy to establish a soldier’s home to care for the volunteer veterans and this was filled by the leadership of the United States Sanitary Commission.

Although the Sanitary Commission preferred to support the idea of a pension system where war-disabled veterans could be kept out of institutions and with their families and neighbours, the commission had been developing a system whereby newly-discharged soldiers who arrived in Washington were taken to a veteran’s hospital near the Sanitary Commission’s Soldiers’ Home and in the first year of operations it treated more than nine hundred men. Nevertheless the hospital, and others like it, was not built for the purpose of long-term care but only to assist them on their return home. The average stay was only three days.

Following on from that idea of caring for the returning soldiers, on July Fourth, 1862, a "Discharged Soldiers’ Home" opened in Boston. Again the home was to be only of short-term remedy and almost all left voluntarily after short stays. Other cities in the north soon followed the first example and Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago soon had local homes for the veterans. The Chicago board of directors resolved to establish a separate "Permanent Soldier’s Home" which opened in May 1864 having been financed a fund-raising Sanitary Fair in Chicago in October 1863. These individual efforts soon created the need for the ever-increasing number of veterans being discharged to find a home. In March 1865, after years of inactivity, Congress incorporated an asylum for the care of war-disabled Union veterans.

Consequently there were Soldiers Homes built in seven locations – Central Branch at Dayton, Ohio; Northwestern Branch at Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Eastern branch at Togus, Maine; Southern branch at Hampton, Virginia; Western branch at Leavenworth, Kansas; Pacific branch at Sawtelle (now Santa Monica), California, and Marion branch at Marion, Indiana. When old age was classified as a disability in 1884, yearly admissions to the veterans’ homes nearly doubled.

An entire economy grew around the United States Pension Office, based in Washington, under the command of the Commissioner of Pensions. There were pension agents who were able to lodge claims on behalf of their clients and they advertised their services. The government of course had a large number of clerks who checked each and every claim but the backlog of requests by the late 1880’s had reached a quarter of a million applicants.

In 1883 the government published a roster of Regimental Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons with their current post office addresses. The list ran to 7,000 names and was used by both applicants who needed the surgeons to corroborate their afflictions during the war or by pension office workers to confirm treatment of those soldiers and sailors.

A change in the pension laws in 1879 also had an effect on those veterans who claimed that they were no longer able to earn a living. Until then pension payments began when a claim was approved by the Pension Bureau and were dated from the time of the application (or his death in the case of a widow). However in 1879 when a new bill was read in Congress it was voted almost unanimously. Republican votes on behalf of the powerful ex-soldier lobby group required endorsement, Democrats wanted to also show their patriotism and so the bill was passed to allow lump-sum retroactive payments to current pensioners and those filing new claims before mid-1880. Consequently more than nine thousand claims were filed each month in 1879 and 1880, versus about sixteen hundred a month previously; the proportion of veterans who were on the pension rolls more than doubled during the 1880’s.

The Grand Army of the Republic was formed in 1866 by a group of men in Illinois under ex-Civil War general John A. Logan. As well as maintaining the graves of Civil War soldiers it also gathered the veterans into a format of the popular secret societies of the day with rituals and proceedings. After various attempts to format the Grand Army under these ideals, by the 1890’s it again had progressed into a veterans’ society peaking around 1890 with membership throughout every state of the Union (and overseas) of over 400,000 men.

The Grand Army of the Republic had become a political arm and every president from Ulysses S. Grant onwards owed a debt to the veterans for supporting their claims to office. In return the government was very generous in veterans affairs and that the veterans held the votes of political power with their support of candidates who had war records. The first president not to have served in the war was Theodore Roosevelt who came to the presidency on the death of William McKinley. Roosevelt’s father had been able to organise a substitute to serve in his place; Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft was born in 1857 and again was too young to serve and the era of Civil War related politicians was coming to an end.

Stuart McConnell in his book "Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic, 1865 –1900" mentions in his introduction that the G.A.R. in its heyday was a powerful organisation whose political might originally did include endorsing candidates, participating as posts in marches and other campaign events, denouncing political opponents and waving the bloody shirt for the Republican party. However by the 18990’s it had declined in numbers and political power and after 1900 when McConnell concludes his book, the organisation had served largely for the promotion of patriotism and the commemoration of Memorial Day. The members did lobby for Civil War pensions; veteran preference in hiring, censorship of school textbooks and other non-political actions but it eventually became a fraternal lodge, a charitable society, a special-interest lobby, a patriotic group and a political club.

He further states that by 1900 Union Army pensions were consuming one federal tax dollar for every three and even in 1890 one over every ten eligible voters was a Civil War veteran. Patrick Kelly noted that Federal government allowances to Union soldiers and their widows and children were the single largest expenditure in the budget, excluding service on the debt, every year between 1885 and 1897.

Stuart McConnell reported that only about one-third of the surviving veterans were members of the Grand Army of the Republic – 351,244 according to the membership total in the 1890 Annual Proceedings compared to 1,034,073 veterans according to the 1890 census total.

Similar figures are noted in the annual report of the Board of Managers for the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers for the year ended June 30, 1899. The number of cases cared for rose from 916 in 1867, to 3,135 in 1870; 6,280 in 1875; 8,851 in 1880; 12,130 in 1885, 19,372 in 1890 and 24,603 in 1895. By 1899 that figure had reached 28,242 as the age of the soldiers gradually increased to that of pensionable requirements and the exact number of Union veterans assisted by the National Home through to June 30, 1899 was 97,344. As the veterans got older their reliance on the benefits available from the government also increased. Although Confederate veterans had to rely on the individual states for their subsistence, the federal volunteers were more fortunate. (Soldiers’ homes were instituted in each of the eleven states of the Confederacy as well as in Maryland, Missouri, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and California).

Incidentally the Report of the Board of Managers for the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers for the year ending June 30, 1890, shows that the nationalities for the inmates of the Northwestern home, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, included one Australian. By the time of the 1899 Report of the Board he was no longer listed so I can either assume that he died between those years or else he was discharged from the soldier’s home. The only other plausible explanation might well have been an error in his nativity and changed in one year from Austrian to Australian.

Due to the large amount of difficulties which the pension office was then finding as it delayed finding service information to the applicants, an act of Congress was authorised on 1 March 1889 to gather the data required for a special census of United States veterans and their widows. In the process of taking the 1890 general census (as conducted every ten years), a special question was asked relating to military service. If the answer was positive the special schedule was to be completed. The information of course would be invaluable in applying the research skills for pension applications and would also give an estimate of those Civil War veterans still surviving who could be applying for pensions in the future.

This became more complicated because although it was supposed to be for Civil War service, the answer also came back for Mexican War, as well as service for the Confederate states, particularly those of the Southern states which had large numbers of Confederate names. The special schedule was to list the name, rank, unit, date of entry and release. The second part of the schedule listed the address of the person as well as any other comments of injuries or illnesses from that time of service.

According to this researcher, the best source of information about the 1890 Special Census of Civil War Veterans and Widows is from the National Archives journal "Prologue" for Spring 1996 (Volume 28, Number 1) by Kellee Blake, titled "First in the Path of the Firemen". A great deal of my suppositions has been gleaned from these excellent articles and available on the Internet through the National Archives Records Administration site.

Some of the politicians thought it might scientifically be useful to determine the effect of various types of military service upon veterans’ longevity (which would in time also allow the government to calculate what budget would be required for the years coming when pensions would increase). The various credit and money shortages of the post-Civil War times had created the effect where a Civil War pension could be seen as a major form of income and the wives of Civil War pensioners also increased as they received the benefits of government support. Widows of old veterans may have been many years younger than their former husbands may but the monetary assistance was very useful in time of economic depression.

Interesting to see that it was during this time of the 1880’s onwards that the majority of the states issued their Adjutant General’s Reports of rosters of Civil War soldiers and sailors, they supported the claims of the men applying for pensions as an easier record than the continually write to state governments requesting confirmation of service details.

Therefore the rosters of Ohio (twelve volumes); Iowa (5 volumes); Indiana (8 volumes), Massachusetts (2 volumes), Michigan (40 volumes), Illinois (eight volumes), Pennsylvania (5 volumes) and New York (43 volumes) as well as individual volumes for California, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, West Virginia and Kansas stand testament to the statutory requirements as well as the need to have these details readily on hand.

The Adjutant General’s Reports come in various formats, some are simply a one line listing for each soldier of his muster-in date and muster-out date, others will have supplementary information including where born, what age at enlistment and where the enlistee was residing; nature of discharge and if known how died in service as well as the place of burial for cemetery and grave numbers; post-war careers and other pertinent data.

To assist in the enumeration of the veterans’ census, the Pension Office prepared a list of veterans’ names and addresses, from their files and from available military records held by the War Department. The superintendent of the census planned to print in volumes the veterans information from the 1890 census and place copies with libraries and veterans organisations so that individuals could more easily locate their fellow veterans.

According to the article in "Prologue", enumerators were instructed to list the widow’s name above the name of the deceased veteran and fill out the record of his service during the war but list her present post office. Remarried widows were listed in this manner with their new surname. Dependent mothers are also sometimes listed. Sometimes the enumerator would append to the list a note of the battle or circumstances in which a death or disability had been incurred, additional information on current ailments were listed as well as recordings of the loss of limbs, eyes, ears and appendages.

At the completion of the census, the special schedules were returned with a preliminary count of 1,099,668 Union survivors and 163,176 widows. There were still a large number of veterans not recorded and areas had been overlooked so this figure is not indicative of the number of Civil War veterans still alive (at least on the Union side).

The veterans’ publication did not go ahead – adequate funding was not available and by 1893, three years after the census had been completed, the accuracy of the information would be doubtful. Consequently, Carroll Wright, the man in charge of the census, recommended that the special schedules of veteran’s information be transferred to the Pension Office or the War Department, and in 1894 Congress authorised their transfer to the Commissioner of Pensions for use in the Pension Office. The schedules were arranged and stored in bundles, generally alphabetically by name of state or territory. In 1930 legal custody of the schedules passed from the Pension Office to the newly formed Veterans Administration, where they remained until accessioned by the National Archives in 1943.

The census records for the veterans are only available for the states alphabetically for half of Kentucky through to Wyoming – those for Alabama through to Kentucky have not survived and their whereabouts or why they were destroyed has not been fully documented. The regular census for 1890 was destroyed in a fire in January 1921 so that what is known from the remaining copies of the veterans schedules has been the only way to document that portion of the census.

The normal census reports had been stored in an orderly manner on closely placed pine shelves in an unlocked file room in the basement of the Commerce building. On the afternoon of January 10th, 1921, a fire broke out in the commerce building and local firemen were called. They were able to extinguish the fire and although major structural damage had been adverted, there had been a large amount of water poured into the building as well as intense smoke resulting in the 1890 records, stored outside the file room as "certain to be absolutely ruined".

Thus the original 1890 census records were lost but when the remaining schedules were transferred to the National Archives in 1943 the seventy-thousand special schedules have only been recovered for half of Kentucky onwards. All of Alabama through the Kansas and the missing Kentucky counties have never been located.

Confederate soldiers who are not recorded in this enumeration can still be located via their applications to the states where they had served or were residing at the time of applications. Index information for the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are available, as of this time, I have not been able to establish whether pension application indices are available for Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. Divided states such as Maryland and Missouri are not available as far as I am aware.

Why are the 1890 census records so important to Civil War researchers?

As we try to pierce together what information we can gleam from incomplete records, the census as well as the rosters of veterans organisations and pension applications will fill in the gaps. We know from the Adjutant-Generals’ Records for the states, which have produced them, of the information they have available. We can then cross-check the data from the National Archives Compiled Service Records to confirm that the person of this name did serve and in that particular unit.

The next step is to locate unit histories and if that’s not available try to see whether a name appears in Prisoner of War records or even "Roll of Honor" published by the U.S. Quartermaster General’s Office. This series of books lists those Union men who died during the war and are interred in government cemeteries.

That might provide a name of one of those identified troops and hopefully not one of the many "unknown" who lie buried in an anonymous grave. Others buried in private cemeteries may be listed in city or state cemetery guides.

A sideline of this research could locate a name form the 1860 or 1870 census records – providing you know what state and city the individual resided in prior to the war then the 1860 census is very handy, similarly the 1870 census will be good if the veteran returned to his pre-war location.

If the Grand Army of the Republic was the premier veteran’s organisation between the years 1866 and 1900 with over 400,000 members, it would be very handy to be able to check records of their rosters. The national organisation did not keep a detailed record of who was a member, that was kept by state officials and only a small handful of rosters for members are currently known. Most of the states (or Departments as they were termed) did produce an annual journal of proceedings which included rosters of members who died in the preceding year, that can be valuable if enough recordings are made. I know of several states which did provide a roster of all surviving members but again that is based on only a couple states – Massachusetts did one in 1910 and 1915, Nebraska and Kansas have also been recorded. Rosters of members who died in Michigan, South Dakota and other states are available.

Pension applications to the United States federal government fill a large number of microfilm rolls, and the names have been posted to a genealogical web site in the past year or so, however it requires a payment to search for the information so is not readily available for the average researcher. The only other option is to buy the microfilm rolls themselves and that could be a very expensive proposition.

Rosters of Soldiers’ Homes have been made possible (reports of 1891 and 1899 were published by the U.S. Government as an annual report of inspection by the Board of Managers) though I doubt that the number of admissions is anywhere near the number of veterans still surviving.

This leads me to the conclusion that the 1890 Veterans Census (if indeed over 1 million names were recorded) would be a very handy reference work. Although only half of the states still survive, that by itself will give a very accurate indication of who was still alive at that time.

Bryan Lee Dilts indexed many of the states in the 1960’s and although listed in the Library of Congress registers, they were very difficult to locate through book catalogues. It was only in the past ten years that I have located copies of them in genealogical bookshops and Internet sites. Fortunately those are now available on microfiche and book format; a CD-ROM published by Broderbund / Family Tree Maker in 1996 contains approximately 385,000 names of veterans and widows; it contains those states of Kentucky, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming. States that are not included of merit are Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Fortunately the indices for Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York and Missouri have been published in book format – I have bought the original census schedules on CD-ROM for Ohio and Pennsylvania so that’s going to be one of my short-term goals. Combined with the extracts into one location, I can assume to probably have close to 600,000 names. The major states not included are therefore Illinois, Iowa and Indiana plus California, Connecticut and Kansas plus the half of Kentucky, which has been lost.

There have also been transcriptions of the entire records for the states of Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia and Missouri plus major portion of the Kentucky counties available as well as individual county records available on the Internet through the volunteer labour of genealogists in the United States, a familiar location is the USGenWeb series of archival information.

One of the major problems for the current researcher is to separate whether errors have been made from the original enumerator or whether the transcriber has miss-read some information. A number of factors could well be behind the errors, either the information was given to the enumerator by a family member who did not have concrete facts about the service record of the veteran supposed to be listed, the enumerator might well have made an error or the transcription might be in doubt.


As the above figure from the 1890 Veterans Census Index from Family Archives shows, the first names for Daniel Leeds have been transposed, similar errors exist for Samuel S. Lees and another for Alonzo M. Leedy.

Another point in case is that of a veteran listing for Ladd, Sideny A. of Vermont. He appears in the index as Sideny A. Ladd, of Bennington County, town of Dorset, Enumeration District 27. Sure enough, going back to the original census listing on the schedule it shows Sidney A. Ladd, who had been a Private in Company C, 14th Vermont Infantry Regiment. Her served from 28 August 1862 until 30 July 1863, having served 11 months and 2 days. His address was East Dorset and he stated that he suffered from hemmerhoids (sic) as a result of his service in the army. The Vermont Adjutant General’s Report confirms that his name is Sidney A. Ladd of Dorset.

Finally, an example shows Johanna Krating, widow of Michael Krating, a Private of Company F in the 31st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment. To find his name in the Compiled Service Records you’d need to look for Michael Katon in Company H and D of that unit; however in the Massachusetts Adjutant General’s Report he is listed as Michael Katon in Company F of the regiment, having then been transferred to Company D. The listing in the schedule for the 1890 Census shows the enumerator for the town of Warren in the county of Worcester, as Johanna Keating, widow of Michael Keating, alias Katon so again it pays to be very diligent in variations of names and information. Not only can the letters be transposed but the interpretation can also be difficult to determine.

To confirm whether there is a problem with the enumerator who wrote it wrong, or Bryan Lee Dilts or person who transcribed the information is another set back on the long path of correcting errors which have made the researcher even more wary of trusting what we see and what we should believe. Transformation of letters in a name is difficult enough without having to search areas where the errors have not been picked up. The CD of specified states has many errors, which I am attempting to fix but that will take as long as the next task of transcribing from the original schedules. As the United States naval rosters have never been available to researchers, this may well be another back-up index of the naval personnel.

Another area of problems can be due to the various spellings available to the surnames of veterans. In the New York index alone there are some variations, which the researcher would to be aware of. Rockefeller also shows as Rockafellow, Rockerffeller, Rockeybeller and Rockfellow while Rosecrance and also shows as Rosecrans, Rosecranse, Rosecrants, Rosekrans, Rosencrance, Rosencrans, Rosencranse and Rosencrants. Considering that question of education and literacy there may still be more variations in the spelling of surnames and first names. McManus is also shows as McManas, McManes, McManis, McMannes, McMannis and McMannus, sufficient to say that the diligent researcher must look at alternatives in case of error by any of a number of reasons. Similar problems also exist for the surname McNatt, McNett and McNitt as well as McNeal, McNeill, McNeil and McNiel. No wonder the role of the researcher requires patience and a latitude for problem solving skills.

I notice that many males were named either for biblical or antiquarian characters – Noah, Ezekiah, Ezekial, Elijah, Zachariah, Moses, Hezekiah, David, Solomon, Israel, Isaac and Isaiah, etc., as well as Julius (and / or) Caesar, Alexander, Hannibal, Octavius, Homer and Cicero plus a roll-call of ancient Greek and Roman scholars.

Names were also taken from the classical epic tales such as Achilles, Hector, Hercules, Jason, Paris or Ulysses and even one Aesop. There are even old heroic figures from the pages of history books - William Wallace, Walter Scott, Shakespeare, Byron, Christopher Columbus, Isaac and / or Newton, Arthur, Martin Luther and others of the immediate past. Certainly names of English kings were numerous – Henry, Charles, William, George, Edward, John and Richard abound, which may well signify the Anglo-Saxon ancestry of the founders of America. Other familiar names of Joseph, Robert and Thomas are common, as are Albert, Francis, Lewis or Louis, Phillip, Nathan or Nathaniel and Jacob.

Still more male children were born with the names of heroes of the War of Independence – George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Francis Marion, Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison etc. who had been in the presidential offices when the Civil War age men had been born. A very few are named Zachary or Zachary T. after Zachary Taylor who had been a Mexican War hero and then president in 1849 thus just allowing for a sixteen-year son named after him to have served in the Civil War possibly as a drummer-boy.

If I assume that the average age of the Civil War soldier at enlistment in 1861 was in his mid twenties, this would mean they have been born between 1835 and 1843. This was therefore in the presidencies of Andrew Jackson (president to 1837); Martin Van Buren (1837 to 1841); William Henry Harrison (1841) and John Tyler (1841 to 1845).

International names of the early 19th century were also prominent, the easiest to demonstrate is the amount of soldiers with the given names of Napoleon, or Napoleon B., the occasional Wellington, Horatio, Nelson or even Lafayette can be seen quite regularly amongst a wide range of names.

Finally there were local characters of repute who had their names handed down to future generations, Dewitt Clinton looms around the New York area, Daniel Webster in the north-eastern states and Henry Clay in the southern states. On a more locally level there are Daniel Boone and Cassius Clay in Kentucky, Samuel Houston in Texas and David Crockett in Tennessee. James Knox Polk who was president from 1845 to 1849 had been elected governor of Tennessee in 1839 so that area of the country produced a number of male children named after him.

Some of the more obscure first names are also included – in the case of apparently one group of veterans settled in Tennessee there is Centre Lawson, Chisel Lawson and Beanlen Lawson. A number of family groups do appear which can be isolated in a particular state or even a county and I would assume that further research may even be that members of the family went off to war together and those who returned settled back in their same location. For all that the Civil War had changed their outlook on life from a very limited area around their local towns and villages, a large amount of the veterans did not stray far from their origins. They had companions who received the urge to wander about new territory (including Australia) but habits show they remained in their comfortable habitats.

Other first names that took my attention include Thankful Liston, Lamb Lison, Doran Logan, Flatus V. Logan, Fufus Logan, Silence Loofbourron, Useful Taylor, Reasonable K. McNamarar of Kentucky as well as the occasional Charity, Wealthy. Thankful and Welcome. Please Snell resided in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee and Neppie McGill lived in Jefferson County, Tennessee; there was a Reece McGill and a Reese McGill, both in West Virginia, although in different counties, so again there would need to be research to see whether this is the same person. We have Bowls C. Sprague in West Virginia and Civilian Sprague in Rhode Island; Effe McGinnis of New Jersey; Eglantine J. McGuire of Tennessee, Nafolieri McIntyre of Vermont, Elda H. McKuthan of Tennessee, Doghton McLachlin of South Dakota, Craplin Merrett of South Dakota and Gireget McManaman of Rhode Island.

One of the more unusual as Stonewall Jackson of Texas.

From my observation the most common names appear to be John, James, William, Thomas and Samuel though in the case of surnames, there is an abundance of Browns, Smiths, Jones, Johnsons Thompsons, Williams and such with equally similar first names. Occasionally there will be some indication of native origins such as Greek or Italian parentage, more often it’s German / Austrian or Norwegian / Swedish in the areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin; even Irish and Scots backgrounds and occasionally Spanish or Portuguese. Some Russian, Slavic and eastern European names appear, I apologise to some of my fellow researchers when I say that I don’t see a lot of Asian names though it appears that a lot of those were anglicized on their arrival anyway.

First names that I thought might have been popular but are not very common include Mark and Paul (two Biblical names which I assumed should have been as popular as Matthew, Luke, Peter and John) and what we know today as Gary, Brian, Douglas, Bruce, Gregory and even Barry were not seen as normal names. Female names used today were used for male names at that stage – Beverly, Carroll and Marion to name a couple (Marion after Francis Marion and not Marian as in Maid Marian).

The submission therefore means that first names appear to have come to the fore either from famous names of the past, biblical or political leaders and the occasional family name carried down from father to sons.

By example of the need for extra scrutiny I have chosen one surname – that of "Thayer" in the New York Census index to see whether the transcribing from the schedule to the index had been accurate.

The list is in order of surname, first names, County, city or town, schedule roll number, enumerator district.

Judge Thayer shows as Corporal, no unit or dates of enlistment

George R. Thayer, Private, Company A, 118th New York Infantry Regiment, no George Thayer appears in the index to the New York Compiled Service Records in that unit or anything similar

Philo W. Thayer, Private, Company G, 101st New York Infantry Regiment, no Philo in Compiled Service Records (may not be "Thayer" as the hand-writing is very feint).

Lyman W. Thayer, Private, Company E, 18th (illegible) Infantry Regiment, not New York or Massachusetts

William W. Thayer, Private, Company A, 118th New York Infantry Regiment (agrees with index to Compiled Service Records)

Ansel Thayer, Private, Company D, 152nd New York Infantry


Mary, widow of Albert C. Thayer, Private, Company H, 48th New York Infantry Regiment, index to Compiled Service Records shows Albert Thayer, Private, Company F of the same regiment.

Julia L., widow of Charles Thayer, Private, Company G, 6th New York Volunteers; Index to the Compiled Service Records shows Charles F. or Charles T., Company G, 6th New York Heavy Artillery Regiment

Henry F. Thayer, Sergeant, Company B, 30th New York Infantry, confirms index to Compiled Service Record as third Sergeant of the same unit.

By the time that this exercise has been completed, the post-war backgrounds of the veterans should be much clearer. We have their membership details from veterans organisations; we have the 1890 census, there are massive records in the pension application forms with the National Archives and the United States Genealogy web volunteers are investigating cemetery inscriptions as well other local documentation. Although the definitive compilation will always be a matter of conjecture, the modern ability of computer research gives the current historian a much more powerful tool at close range for better and smarter results. I can on look forward to the future when we can share the fruits of our labours with the world in general.



Glasson, William H. "History of Military Pensions in the United States", article in Columbia University Studies in History, Economics and Public law, Volume 30, 1899-1900.

Blake, Kellee "First in the Path of the Fireman", article in the National Archives journal "Prologue" for Spring 1996 (Volume 28, Number 1).

McConnell, Stuart. "Glorious Contentment: The Grand Army of the Republic, 1865 –1900" (University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, 1992).

"Exempt from the Ordinary Rules of Life: Researching Postwar Adjustment Problems of Union Veterans" by James Martin. Civil War History, Volume Forty Seven, Number One (March 2001), pages 57-70.

Logue, Larry M. "To Appomattox and beyond: the Civil War Soldier in War and Peace" (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 1996)

Rosenburg, R.B. "Living Monuments: Confederate Soldiers’ Homes in the New South (University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1993)

Kelly, Patrick "Creating a National Home: Building the Veterans’ Welfare State, 1860 – 1900 (Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1997).

Report of the Board of Managers of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1891. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1891.

Report of the Board of Managers of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1899. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1900. House of Representatives, 56th Congress, 1st Session, Document No. 106.

Printed guides to the 1890 Census are available as follows:

"1890 Enrollment of Wabash County, Indiana" compiled by Ronald Woodward, Wabash Carnegie Public Library, Wabash, Indiana, 1981.

"1890 Special Veterans Census for Eastern Kentucky" by Charles C. Wells, Gateway Press, Baltimore, Md., 2000.

Massachusetts 1890 Veterans Census Index published by Heritage Quest, Bountiful, Utah, 1999, 2nd edition

Maryland 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or their Widows compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts, Heritage Quest, North Salt Lake, Utah, 2001, 2nd edition

Maine 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or their Widows compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts, Heritage Quest, North Salt Lake, Utah, 2001, 2nd edition

Michigan 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or their Widows compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts, Heritage Quest, North Salt Lake, Utah, 2001, 2nd edition

Minnesota 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or their Widows compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts, Heritage Quest, North Salt Lake, Utah, 2002, 2nd edition

Mississippi 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or their Widows compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts, AGLL Genealogical Services, Bountiful, Utah, 1996, 2nd edition

1890 Special Federal Census of Union Veterans & Widows of Veterans of the Civil War of Missouri, published by Ozarks Genealogical Society, Inc., Springfield, Mo., 1983 & 1987, 3 volumes.

New York 1890 Veteran’s Census Index compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts, Heritage Quest, North Salt Lake, Utah, 1999, 2nd edition

1890 Civil War Veterans Census – Tennessee transcribed and indexed by Byron & Barbara Sistler, Byron Sistler & Associates, Evanston, Illinois, 1978

Yanks and Some Rebs in Texas 1890 – Records from the 1890 Census by Kathryn Hooper Davis, Ericson Books, Nacogdoches, texas, c1997

Virginia 1890 Census Index of Civil War Veterans or their Widows compiled by Bryan Lee Dilts, AGLL Genealogical Services, Bountiful, Utah, 1996, 2nd edition

The above guides cover almost all of the extant microfilm series – the only other states which are required are for Ohio and Pennsylvania which this author intends to extract over the coming years.


I have attempted to index those records that have been kept – most of the states have been indexed in one CD-ROM which includes surname, first names, state, county and enumeration district (occasionally by town or city).

I will manually index the major states of Ohio and Pennsylvania which are not available on index, either microfiche or book format; the other states have been done either by Bryan Lee Dilts or the Genealogical Publishing Company. My index system to save time has been broken down to Surname, Firstnames, State and several fields independent for my system. For example:

The field "No" is used to differentiate when two or more names are located within the one state:

Brown John 1

Brown John 2

The original indexing system will show John Brown 2nd or John Brown Junior as a separate name; there may also be instances where the enumerator has listed the same person twice as that veteran had loved location between the two census takings. It may be either a different part of the same town, a different town in the same state or a different state (common transfers from Missouri to Nebraska or New Hampshire to Vermont are fairly easy to detect with names of participants of the war which are uncommon).

Perrec is a field which I have designed to allow multiple spellings of the same name – James E. Sifrell and James E. Sifsell have the same first names and location – for any cross-checking of the first three names the format of PERREC will show as AA001-2; however if the spelling of the surname is different – e.g. Schmith and Smith, the format will show with the first three digits as 999(followed by four other numbers as 9998679). This same explanation will show for surnames indexed for alias as well as Peter Von Schmidt under both "V" and "S" if need be required. A surname which have been transposed incorrectly such as Ahrrison have been corrected but to locate the original record you will also need to know the Serial Number for these records shall begin with 8,000,001 and gradually go forward according to how they have been listed in the original documents.

A number of first names have been transposed, the easiest to diagnose is that of Goerge rather than George; Jaems for James and Chalres for Charles, however of other consequent has been Epter (Peter) and Clavin for Calvin. I assume that the latter two names are correct and not the former but the wide range of names may mean that I have erred on the side of normality. Some of the feminine names that we now associate with Frances may well mean Francis particularly when grouped with the middle initial "M", as in Francis Marion, Beverly was also used as man’s name as was Marion (John Wayne’s real name was Francis Marion Morrison) and Jesse or Jessie. Elisa could be transposed as Elias or Elisha and there may well be other surnames or first names which I haven’t picked up.


National & State Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers

Congress established national homes for disabled veterans in 1866. Veterans were eligible for admittance if they were honorably discharged; had served in the regular, volunteer, or militia forces mustered into federal service; were disabled and without support; and were unable to earn a living. In 1930 the homes were combined with other agencies to form the Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veteran Affairs).

The registers are divided into four sections: military, domestic, home, and general remarks. The military section includes information such as enlistment, rank, company, regiment, and discharge. The domestic section includes the veteran’s birthplace, age, height, religion, occupation, residence, marital status, and name and address of nearest relative. The home section includes the veteran’s rate of pension, date of admission to the home, discharge, death date, and burial place.

The National homes were in:

Sawtelle, California Pacific Branch

St. Petersburg, Florida St. Petersburg Home

Danville, Illinois Danville Branch

Marion, Indiana Marion Branch

Leavenworth, Kansas Western Branch

Togus, Maine Eastern Branch

Biloxi, Mississippi Biloxi Home

Tuskegee, Mississippi Tuskegee Home

Bath, New York Bath Branch

Dayton, Ohio Central Branch

Roseburg, Oregon Roseburg Branch

Hot Springs, S.D Battle Mountain Sanitarium

Johnson City, Tennessee Mountain Branch

Kecoughton, Virginia Southern Branch

Wood, Wisconsin Northwestern Branch

The Family History Library run under the Church of the Latter Day Saints have been instrumental in getting a lot of genealogical information published either by printed format or else on microfiche and microfilm. The Library has microfilms of the following:

Registers of Veterans at National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866 - 1937.The registers are indexed individually by the name of the veteran for each home. Upon admission each veteran was given a number. The registers are arranged numerically by these numbers. To find specific microfilm numbers, look in the Locality search of the Family History Library Catalog under: UNITED STATES - MILITARY RECORDS.

(Soldiers’ Home, Milwaukee)


Many states also maintained soldier homes as well. The FHL also has

records for some state homes, including:

Georgia - Index to registers of inmates of the Confederate Soldiers Home of Georgia.

Louisiana - Soldiers' Home of Louisiana (New Orleans, Louisiana).

Michigan - Soldiers' Home (Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Ohio - Ohio State Soldiers' and Sailors' Home (Sandusky).

Missouri - Confederate pension applications and soldiers' home admission applications.

Missouri. Adjutant General's Office.

Pennsylvania - Pennsylvania soldiers and sailors homes, 1864-1872 - Philadelphia soldier's home records, 1866-1883.

Tennessee - The Tennessee Confederate Soldier's Home.

Texas - Roster of the residents of the Texas Confederate Old Soldier's Home in Austin, Texas.

Virginia - Robert E. Lee Camp Confederate Soldiers' Home (Richmond, Virginia).

Note: Original records for the National & State Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers are at the National Archives in Washington DC.

Source: LDS Research Outline: United States Military


Some reports published by the Board of Managers for the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers contain alphabetical rosters of soldiers. The rosters provide name, rank, company, organization, length of service, war, pension rate, birthplace, admission date, age when admitted, and status

(including death date).


According to a list printed in the Milwaukee Soldiers Home Annual Report, a list of the state homes was thus by 1909:

California Yountsville

Colorado Monte Vista

Connecticut Noroton Heights

Idaho Boise

Illinois Quincy

Illinois (wives and widows) Bloomington

Indiana Lafayette

Iowa Marshalltown

Kansas Fort Dodge

Massachusetts Chelsea

Michigan Grand Rapids

Minnesota Minneapolis

Missouri St. James

Montana Columbia Falls

Nebraska Grand Island

Nebraska Milford

New Hampshire Tilton

New Jersey Kearney

New Jersey Vineland

New York Bath

New York Oxford

North Dakota Lisbon

Ohio Sandusky

Oregon Rossburg

Pennsylvania Erie

Rhode Island Bristol

South Dakota Hot Springs

Vermont Bennington

Washington Orting

Wisconsin Waupaca

Wyoming Cheyenne


(Dining Hall, National Soldiers Home, Dayton, Ohio)

SOLDIERS HOMES REPORTS – An Investigation of backgrounds to the Applicants.

Over the past eighteen months I’ve been inputting records into my database of Civil War soldiers for those who had applied to enter the United States Disabled Soldiers and Sailors Homes as well as several reports for homes that were conducted under the auspices of states.

Although these were only admitting past members of the United States services (the Confederate States had to rely upon the good fortunes of the states to administer support for their ex-servicemen). Consequently the Soldiers Homes had been the first point of call for those who were unable to support themselves.

The background of the Soldiers Homes had been first organised for veterans of the Mexican War; the Civil War brought a further influx of veterans and those of the War of 1812, Indian Wars and eventually the Spanish American War and Phillipines War were a part of the figures.

(Soldiers’ Home, Maine)

So far a total of 163,653 names have been entered, this does include additional entries for some men who had served in multiple units; there are also instances of men serving under an alias; or even slight changes of the spelling of names. A field called "PERREC" has been added so that these can be high-lighted; anyone with a Perrec starting with the number "9" will be a name that does not follow the first three letters of the surname – e.g., an alias where a name has been entered under his real name (Smith) and that of his alias (Jones). However, if the surname is with the first three letters – John McAvoy and John McAvey, then the number will be in format of two letters and three digits followed by the number of instances – VA001-2. The same format will apply if there are two or the different units for the same person.

The foreign fields have been entered under the country of which the member had been born – and again there have been instances of slight differences – U.K., Great Britain or even British Isles; as long as one of the countries of the British realm have been assigned then I have given another field for general associations

British – for England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland (at that stage no difference between Eire, Republic of Ireland or Northern Ireland; Isle of Man)

Mediterranean – for Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Italy, Greece, Malta, Madeira and similar

Teutonic – for Germany, Hanover, Baden, Bavaria, Bohemia, Saxony, Prussia, Austria, Switzerland (German surnames) and such

Low Countries – also to include Holland, Belgium and Luxenburg

France (and French Swiss surnames)

Nordic – for Greenland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden

Eastern Europe – for Russia and Slavic countries (Poland, Hungary)

Central America – for Mexico [though technically Mexico is classed as North America]

South America – for Argentina, Peru, Chile and Venezuela

Canada – also include West Canada, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador, Ontario, Quebec, British America

Caribbean – Cuba, Jamaica, West Indies

Pacific for Australia and New Zealand, also Sandwich Islands (Hawaii)

Central Asia for Persia, India

Eastern Asia for China, Thailand, East Indies (Indonesia), Malaysia, Singapore, Phillipines, Japan, Burma

Africa – including Egypt, Cape Verde Island

Others – at sea; North America,

Various databases have been indexed

By country of birth

By state of birth for U.S. born

By area of birth

By state of residence at the time of application

By state of service

By branch of service

By age at time of admission

By Age at time of Enlistment

By age of death

By year of death

By branch of admission

Records themselves do have a possibility of variance to official records. The records themselves of soldiers (and sailors) might have difficulties with the surname given in the records indexed in the Official Records, National Archive Soldiers Records; the state Adjutant Generals Reports, various pension and archival records as well as unit rosters. This probably means that it is necessary to check on several source documents to ensure that all areas are covered for variations. Similar problems exist with age of admittance; unit designations, rank of service and just about anything that can be questioned.

On the other hand by cross-checking what information we do know, I would assume that we can eliminate as many errors as have been handed down by the past.

There is one applicant who was shown to have been aged 161 when he died in 1912; he had served with the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery and the 3rd Connecticut Infantry Regiment. According to the roster in the 1912 Report he had been aged 161 when admitted to the home in 1901. He was therefore aged 172 when he died in 1912, born approximately in 1740. As the Connecitut rosters do not have any age at enlistment we are forced to look at other information. Similar problems exist for Abram Wells who had served with the 137th Indiana Infantry Regiment. He had been admitted to the soldiers home in 1901 aged 154; he died in 1912 aged 165. Several other centenarians were:

John A. Eagen, 1st Massachusetts Infantry, aged 112

John H. Croome, US Navy, aged 111

William Allen, 41st US Regular Infantry, aged 109

Charles Smith, US Navy, aged 107

Adolph Grimm, 47th Ohio Infantry, aged 106 (rosters show he was aged 44 when he enlisted in 1861, therefore born 1817 and not 1777 as indicated by the count-back – 40 hears made his age only 66 when he died).

Edwin Bailey, US Navy, aged 102

Alex Gourley, 39th Illinois Infantry, aged 101

Albert Sarun, 10th Illinois Cavalry, aged 101

Matthew Smith, 97th Ohio Infantry, aged 101 (according to rosters he was aged 35 when he enlisted in 1864, therefore born in 1829; if he died in 1912 he was only 83).

Robert Gillies, 119th New York Infantry, aged 100.

The condition of the original reports also has been of varying quality; those of the Illinois Soldiers Homes have been reproduced from secondhand photocopies and both name and units cannot be guaranteed until they have been checked against service records, adjutant general’s reports or the originals of the Soldiers Homes application forms. As such, please take care in accepting the information until it has been verified. Transcription errors with Names, Units, places of birth and dates of death have all been encountered and can only be made by further errors in my own attempts to get a better record of these men.

Barry Crompton

June 2004

Next job is to see whether those Civil War participants who had been classed as deserters actually returned to their homes. This is a major task to check out the muster rolls, compare to the 1860 and 1870 census records plus the GAR rolls, 1890 census, pension applications and soldiers homes reports. My basic guess is that they didn’t return home but I’m open to that being challenged. Some of the states which have sufficient information include Minnesota, Michigan (maybe), New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, Wisconsin and Massachusetts have all done Adjutant-General’s reports and should be available to Civil War data for desertions.

Choose names that are sufficiently different to enable the index of surnames in Ancestry to isolate the right names (possibly the beginning of the alphabet).



(amended February 2011)

The American Civil War Round Table of Australia was formed in May 1972 out of members of a Civil War living history/re-enactment group which had been in existence since the mid 1960's. By 1972 it was felt that more purpose would be served for a centre of serious study of the Civil War and particularly its relationship to and with Australia.

The first Civil War Round Table had been formed in Chicago during December 1940 and since then over 200 similar Round Tables have been instituted throughout the U.S. with four groups in England, Canada, Australia and Norway. An umbrella organization, the Civil War Round Table Associates, under the auspices of Jerry Russell, in Little Rock, Arkansas, serves as a central point for the clearing of information and when large-scale publicity is required to be done, all member societies receive the news as it comes to hand.

From a small beginning in 1972 with eight members meeting once a month at various members' house, the A.C.W.R.T.A. in 1993 had a membership of over 60 people in Australia and a further 15 overseas. Another 40 associate members and newsletter exchange means that coverage is maintained for the maximum amount of interest and distribution through the membership.

By 2005 the A.C.W.R.T.A. has grown to over 100 members with many years of membership and research behind them. There are members in each of Australia's six states plus Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, however, the main bulk of members reside in and around Melbourne where monthly meetings are now held at the Retreat Hotel in Nicholson Street, suburban Abbottsford on the fourth Wednesday of each month (except December). Each meeting sees a small amount of general business followed by auctions of materials from members' collections; a "show and tell" exhibit of any new memorabilia collected by members and a lecture presented by an occasional outside authority or member on some particular aspect of the Civil War. A monthly newsletter keeps members informed on new finds of historical importance; academic articles of Civil War history as well as book reviews, trading of items, local news and overseas comment. For more items of an historical nature, a journal began in 1990 which has received favourable comments from overseas readers. Each year sees additional issues of items within this framework. The A.C.W.R.T.A. has also hosted four conferences on the Civil War, the most recent in February 2005 saw over 90 people in attendance which is the largest group of Civil War enthusiasts to attend any single event in our history. The topic of the conference was the Navy in the Civil War which drew interest from the outside community and also saw John Quarstein of Virginia as our special guest speaker. Naturally interest on the visit of the Shenandoah to Melbourne as this coincided with the 140th annioversary of the ship’s arrival was a factor in public awareness.

Special interests amongst the membership of the American Civil War Round Table of Australia include the study of philately & currency, uniforms, photographs, wargames, weaponry and accoutrements, tactics and battles, music, politics and sociological changes, the woman's role in the Civil War, homefront issues, the naval war and a host of other areas. As diverse as the membership ages and occupations are can be seen in their wide range of interests. There are members who have been involved with living history organisations, tabletop and computer wargaming, modelling and painting military minatures, live musket target firing and also due to our Treasurer we now can discuss the Civil War over the computer with own special interest message group.

The relationship of Australia and the American Civil War is highlighted with the study of the C.S.S. "Shenandoah" to Melbourne in January/February 1865 as well as to the information currently being researched on those who had been in Australia prior to the war and the veterans who settled in Australia after the war. All information is keenly sought - books and pamphlets are currently being produced by members of the society.

Subscriptions to the American Civil War Round Table of Australia are currently Aus$25.00 per calendar year and cheques made payable to the "A.C.W.R.T.A." can be sent to the Treasurer, Mr. Jeff Yuille, 41 Hampstead Drive, Hoppers Crossing, Victoria, 3029, Australia. Entitlements are invitations to all Society functions and meetings, issues of both the newsletters and journal plus the opportunity to exchange information and friendship with the finest group of Civil War historians in Australia.

For further information please contact one of our committee members or to the Corresponding Secretary Barry Crompton at PO Box 4017, Patterson, Victoria, 3204, Australia; telephone after hours [03] 9557 7872.



(amended February 2011)

Barry is a Melbourne-born, 59-year-old office-worker from the south-eastern suburbs, who became interested in the American Civil War during the 1960's when the centennial heightened the amount of publicity over the war. Since then he has devoted more and more time to the study of this conflict as well as corresponding with a number of similar historians around the world. He has had five trips to the U.S. where he has met other Civil War buffs, tramped over the battlefields and museums, attended conventions & meetings representing Australia and wandered through the hallowed grounds of libraries and research centres seeking information for his activities.

He is a founding member of the American Civil War Round Table of Australia in 1972 and was inaugural secretary of the group; is a past-president and editor of the society's newsletter for sixteen years; awarded a life membership and winner of the society's research award on three occasions. He currently is a Past President, Public Officer, Researcher and Corresponding Secretary for that organization. Barry organised the first meeting of the members of the ACWRTA in Sydney (which has been become the New South Wales Chapter of the American Civil War Round Table of Australia; he was present at the first meeting of members of the ACWRTA in Adelaide, helped to organise the first gathering members in Canberra and met members of the ACWRTA in Brisbane. Barry has also toured Victoria to speak to members of the society who do not normally get to meetings in Melbourne. From small beginnings in one city, he has seen the Round Table grow to a national organisation.

As well as being an honorary citizen of the states of Tennessee and Kentucky (thus a "Kentucky Colonel") for his efforts in Civil War research; he is a member of numerous organizations in the U.S. and Europe with Civil War historical links including the Civil War Veterans Historical Assocation and is a life member of the Surratt Society and the Company of Military Historians as well as the Abraham Lincoln Association, the Society of Civil War Historians and the Museum of the Confederacy. With over forty years of experience behind him, he has a library of over 4,800 volumes as well as 2,500 magazines & journals, microfilm and microfiche documentation and computer data files, the largest collection of Civil War paper research material outside the U.S. He has been researching the exploits of a Confederate brigade of Tennesseans for publication in the near future and also has an interest in the subjects of Abraham Lincoln, Civil War music and philately as well as the veterans.

Barry has spoken to several organizations throughout his career. Locally he lectured to historical societies and has also spoken to groups in the United States including the Civil War Veterans Historical Association as well as Civil War Round Tables at Atlanta (Georgia), San Francisco (California), Oak Ridge (Tennessee), Southern Fairfield County (Connecticut), Jackson (Mississippi), as well as other similar associations.

He has also had articles published in the Journal of the American Civil War Round Table of Australia; the Journal of the Confederate Stamp Alliance, Confederate Historical Society of England Journal, American Civil War Round Table of the United Kingdom newsletter "Crossfire", Civil War Round Table of Montgomery County (Maryland) newsletter, and other Civil War groups.

With the current amount of information available on the Australian links with the Civil War, he can see this area becoming more and more important as new activities are uncovered.