The United States Army was created when Congress created a permanent military under the Act of 29 September 1789. The Army has participated in every war the United States has entered.
The following books discuss the Army’s history and development.
- Coffman, Edward M. The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784–1898. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. (FHL book 973 M2cof.)
- Ganoe, William A. The History of the United States Army. New York: D. Appleton-Century, 1942. (FHL book 973 M2gw.)
- Jacobs, James Ripley. The Beginning of the U.S. Army, 1783–1812. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947.
- Weigley, Russel F. History of the United States Army. New York: Macmillan. 1967. (FHL book 973 M25we.)
- Richard M. Lytle. The Soldiers of America's First Army, 1791. Rowaman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2004.
Compiled service records were never created for enlisted personnel, but enlistment papers and other records are available at the National Archives and elsewhere.
- A register of enlistments is available online, see US Army Enlistments, 1798-1914. These give the soldier’s name, rank, regiment, company commander, height, weight, eye color, hair, complexion, age, occupation, county and state of birth, and enlistment date and place. The registers from 1798 to 30 June 1821 are arranged in alphabetical order. Those for later years are arranged by the initial letter of the soldier’s surname, then chronologically by month and year of enlistment.
- The "Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army..." by Francis B. Heitman lists Regular Army and volunteer officers from 1789 to 1903 in two volumes giving a brief history of the officers service and awards received. Casualties (including prisoners of war) from 1789 to 1902 are also listed as well as a chronological list of battles, actions, etc., in which troops of the Regular Army have participated. This book is the work of Francis B. Heitman, a private compiler, purchased and published under an act of Congress approved March 2, 1903.
- A helpful source for African-American soldiers is: Schubert, Frank N. On the Trail of the Buffalo Soldier: Biographies of African Americans in the U.S. Army, 1866–1917. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1995. (FHL book 973 Sch78o.) Contains short biographical sketches listing rank and unit served with; few contain birth and other personal data. The source of the original information is cited.
- The service records of the volunteer soldiers who served 1784 to 1811 are available at the Family History Library.Compiled service records of volunteer soldiers who served from 1784-1811An act of Congress in 1784 reduced the standing army to 20 men. Since the Revolution was over by that time, military units were mainly needed to quell Indian raids and disturbances. State and local militias usually handled the local problems. Enlistment in the standing army was commonly for short periods of time, the average being about 90 days. The service records may contain:
- Abstracts of payrolls
Abstracts of muster rolls
Provision and clothing receipts
Receipts for pay
Accounts for rations
- Abstracts of payrolls
- Many records may no longer be available because of a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center.
Pension files are available for Army enlisted men and officers. Check for evidence of a pension application in the previously described microfilm indexes for the War of 1812 through the Philippine Insurrection. Refer to the article of the specific war served, then look under the heading “Pension Records.”
An index to pensions awarded to soldiers based on army service between 1783 and 1861, including the Indian wars, is listed below:
- The "Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815-1926" (NARA T316) includes pensioners of the U.S. Army. The records are available online. They relate mainly to pensions based on death or disability incurred in service between the years of 1816-1861 and cover regular army, navy and volunteer soldiers.
The following is a published version of the same index:
- White, Virgil D.Index to Old Wars Pension Files 1815–1926. 2 vols. Waynesboro, Tenn.: National Historical Publishing, 1987. (FHL book 973 M22wh.)
Other Record Types
- Aircraft Accidents
- Bounty Land Warrants
- Casualty Records
- Prisoner of War Records
- Soldiers Home Records
- Unit Histories
Libraries, Archives, and Museums
- U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC)
950 Soldiers Drive
Carlisle, PA 17013-5021
Information desk: (717) 245-3972 (Closed Monday)
Hours: See their website. They have winter and summer hours
The Military History Institute is the United States Army's preeminent museum and research complex dedicated to educating and preserving the legacy of the men and women who have served their nation as soldiers. Its holdings include, books, clissified and unclassified government documents, photographs, letters, and diaries. Other offerings include exhibits as well as historical and educational programs: lecture series, workshops, school programs, historical demonstrations, and several annual and special living history events. All USAHEC sponsored events are free to the public. The site has a number of online digital collections.
Sources for Further Reading
- Dawson, Joseph G. III. The Late Nineteenth Century U.S. Army, 1865–1898: A Research Guide. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1990. (FHL book 973 M23ln.) A comprehensive bibliography of sources for the Indian Wars, Reconstruction, forts, and the Army on the western frontier.