Grandpa Was a Confederate Deserter

By Connie Lenzen

An article published in the 1 February 2001 issue of the Vancouver Columbian.

A Columbian reader writes, "My great-great grandfather was a Civil War (Confederate) deserter who concealed his family origins from just about everyone. He is supposed to have used his real name, but moved to a part of the country where he would not be recognized. Are deserters listed in Civil War directories?"

James Neagles, in his U.S. Military Records; A Guide to Federal & State Sources Colonial America to the Present, writes,

"The provost marshals, who served as military policemen, were concerned with Confederate and Union army deserters . . . After the Civil War, the records of this office were separated into those that mentioned only one person and those that mentioned more than one person, including lists of names. The single-name collection is arranged alphabetically by name, and it can serve as a rough index to names found in the "two-or-more-name" collection. The latter collection is divided into five parts: geographical and subject; chronological and numbered; chronological and unnumbered; names of prisoners (civilian and military) arranged by name of the prison; and papers relating to confiscated or destroyed property. These records are available in National Archives microfilm "Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Individual Citizens (M345 - three hundred reels) and "Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians (M416 — ninety-four reels)."

From the introduction to the above series,

"The provost marshals who served in territorial commands, armies, and Army corps were military police. They sought out and arrested deserters, Confederate spies, and civilians suspected of disloyalty, investigated the theft of government property, controlled the passage of civilians in military zones and those using government transportation; confined prisoners; and maintained records of paroles and oaths of allegiance. Provost courts were established in some territorial commands to try cases involving civilian violators of military orders, the laws of war, and other offenses arising under the military jurisdiction. They also tried cases involving military personnel accused of civil crimes."

Both of these record groups are available through the LDS Family History Library and the Family History Centers. Click on the links above to go to the Family History Library Catalog to view the entries. Then, go to and follow the links to locate a Family History Center in your area.

A copy of the "Union Provost Marshal's File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians" microfilms are located at the Pacific-Alaska Branch of the National Archives in Seattle. Look at the website,, to find the hours that they are open.

Another approach to finding informataion about this ancestor is locate him on a unit list before he deserted.

The Consolidated Microfilm Index to Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers (M253—536 reels) is available through the Family History Library and Family History Centers. In addition, a copy of the series is at the Pacific-Alaska Region of the National Archives in Seattle.

Another resource is the Compiled Service Records of Conferderate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations Raised Directly by the Confederate Government (1861-1865). It's available throught the Family History Centers.

© 2001–2009

Connie Lenzen, CG

CG, Certified Genealogist is a service mark of the Board for Certification of Genealogists, used under license by Board-certified genealogists after periodic evaluation, and the board name is registered in the US Patent & Trademark Office.

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