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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in November 2013. It is an excerpt from their course US Court Records  by C. Ann Staley, CG. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).


Records of the Adjutant General’s Office (RG 94), 1780s-1917

When war broke out between the states, Federal Officials recognized that perhaps “treason” was too strong a term and the death penalty too severe to place upon the large Southern population. Two alternatives were created by Congress-the acts of 31 July 1861 (12 Stat. 284) and 17 July 1862 (12 Stat. 589), that fixed penalties for crimes of “conspiracy” and “rebellion.” The latter act also provided for future pardon and amnesty by Presidential proclamation to be extended “to any persons who may have participated in the existing rebellion.”

President Abraham Lincoln declared an amnesty proclamation on 8 December 1863 which extended pardon to persons taking an oath to support the Constitution and the Union and to abide by all Federal laws. The benefits were extended to six classes of individuals:

1. civil or diplomatic agents or officials of the Confederacy,

2. persons who left judicial posts under the United States to aid the rebellion,

3. Confederate military officers above the rank of Army colonel or Navy lieutenant,

4. members of the U.S. Congress who left to aid in the rebellion,

5. persons who resigned commissions in the U.S. Army or Navy and afterwards aided in the rebellion, and

6. persons who treated unlawfully black prisoners of war and their white officers. A supplementary proclamation, issued 2 March 1864, added a seventh exception (persons in military or civilian confinement or custody) and provided that members of the excluded classes could make application for special pardon from the president.[1]

President Andrew Johnson issued his first amnesty proclamation on 29 May 1865. Johnson adhered to Lincoln’s seven classes of persons and added several of his own. The amnesty papers relating to Johnson’s proclamations have been microfilmed:

M1003 Pardon Petitions and Related Papers Submitted in Response to President Andrew Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamations of 29 May 1864 “Amnesty Papers”.

Among those requesting amnesty was Mrs. Eliza C. Woodward of Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia; she requested “to be allowed the benefits of the Amnesty Proclamation 19th May 1865”.[2]

Milledgeville, Baldwin Co., Georgia

12th August 1865

To/ His Excellency President Andrew Johnson

Washington City



The Petitioner Mrs. E.C. Woodward formerly a citizen of the South Carolina but since 1862 a resident of the above State and County, respectfully sheweth that, being worth over Twenty -Thousand ($20,000) Dolls. She comes under the 13th clause of exceptions named in the Amnesty Proclamation 29th May 1865, and is therefore excluded from its benefits: 1st She was a Resident of South Carolina during the first year of the war, and is the owner of land Upon Hilton Head and Daufuski Islands and the main land adjacent. These possessions she left in December 1861 under an order from the Military Authorities of the Confederate Forces.

2nd she has heard that these places are now, or have been in the possession of the U.S. Forces 3rd No proceedings have been instituted, or are pending against her in any of the Courts of the U.S.

On that same day Mrs. Woodward took an oath to support, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Union of the States there under.

Federal Courts-Martial (RG 153)

The Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army) contains case files of general courts-martial, courts of inquiry, and military commissions, 1809-1939. The textual records include eight volumes of copies of general courts-martial and courts of inquiry for 1808-1815.

Thomas P. Lowry best describes the process of accessing Civil War (Union) courts-martial cases:[3]

A barrier to using many sources can be the absence of a good index. Such has been the case with Record Group 153 at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. This collection contains the original hand-written transcripts of approximately 80,000 Union general courts-martial, perhaps three-quarters of a million pages total. The U.S. Navy courts-martial are filed nearby. The fragmentary remains of Confederate courts-martial are scattered among many archives in several states, including the National Archives. Although the War Department prepared a handwritten name index to RG 153, it has many deficiencies that prevent easy access to the collection. This index fills five reels of microfilm. In a few hours, a researcher might be able to find only a single individual, while it may take a few weeks of full-time work to locate all the individuals from one regiment. Faded text, difficult writing, lack of any subject index, and scratched film make vexing tasks of even these simple surveys.

James Neagles has compiled an index to courts-martial cases during the American Revolutionary War and names three incidences for men with the surname Woodward.[4]

  • Woodward, Elijah. Colonel Shepard’s Regiment. Desertion and enlisting twice and receiving two bounties: 100 lashes for each offense and repay the bounties received.[5]
  • Woodward, Elijah. Colonel Shepard’s Regiment. Using many names and enlisting many times: death by shooting-the order to be executed “on Thursday, the 11th of September, next, between the hours of 8 and 11 o’clock in the morning, on the bottom of the Common in Boston.”[6]
  • Woodward (Woodard), Richard, Lt. Colonel Gridley’s Regiment of Artillery. Cowardice at the battle of Bunker Hill, mutiny: cashiered.[7]


Beers, Henry Putney. The Confederacy: A Guide to the Archives of the Government of the Confederate States of America. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986.

Bethel, Elizabeth. Preliminary Inventory of the War Department Collection of Confederate Records (Record Group 109). Additions and indexing by Craig R. Scott. Athens, Georgia: Iberian Publishing Company, 1994.

Bunch, Jack A. Military Justice in the Confederate States Armies. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: White Mane Books, 2000.

Bunch, Jack A. Roster of the Courts-Martial in the Confederate States Armies. Shippensburg, Pennsylvania: 2001.

Lowry, Thomas P. Curmudgeons, Drunkards, and Outright Fools: The Courts-Martial of Civil War Union Colonels. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2003.

Lowry, Thomas P. and Jack D. Welsh. Tarnished Scalpels: The Court-Martials of Fifty Union Surgeons. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 2000.

Lowry, Thomas P. Tarnished Eagles: The Courts-Martial of Fifty Union Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1997.

Munden, Kenneth W. and Henry Putney Beers. The Union: A Guide to Federal Archives Relating to the Civil War. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986.

Neagles, James C. Summer Soldiers: A Survey and Index of Revolutionary War Courts-Martial. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1986.


The National Archives and Records Administration have several microfilm series relating to courts-martial cases, including the following:

M1899 Court-Martial Case Files Relating to the “Hesse Crown Jewels Case,” 1944-1952. (13 rolls, no descriptive pamphlet)
T1103 General Court Martial of Gen. George Armstrong Custer, 1867. (1 roll, no descriptive pamphlet)
Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry Concerning the Conduct of Maj. Marcus A. Reno at the Battle of the Little Big Horn River on June 25 and 26, 1876. (2 rolls, no descriptive pamphlet)
R2154 Record of Inquiry Conducted by the War Department Regarding the Sand Creek Massacre of Cheyenne. (no descriptive pamphlet)
M1878 Records of the Sultana Disaster, April 27, 1865. (RG 92, 3 rolls, descriptive pamphlet is available)
M1105 Registers of the Records of the Proceedings of the U.S. Army General Courts-Martial, 1809-1890. (8 rolls, descriptive pamphlet available).

Military courts (Courts-martial) are not limited to the federal armed forces or armed forces of the Confederacy. As we have previously seen, most states have, also, found it necessary to take disciplinary action against some of its solders.


  1. Descriptive pamphlet, Case Files of applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons (Amnesty Papers"), 1865-67 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1976)
  2. Amnesty petition of Mrs. Eliza C. Woodward, 12 August 1865, Case Files of applications from Former Confederates for Presidential Pardons, 1865-67, National archives micropublication M1003, reel 24, frames 1067-71.
  3. Thomas P. Lowry, "Research Note: New Access to a Civil War Resource," Civil War History
  4. James C Neagles, Summer Soldiers: A Survey and Index of Revolutionary War Courts-Martial (Salt Lake City: Ancestry, Inc., 1986), 278.
  5. Neagles reference, no. 9: Numbered Record Books Concerning Military Operations and Service, Pay and Settlement of Accounts, and Supplies in the War Departments Collection of Revolutionary War Records, Volume 16: General Health, Boston, Massachusetts, 23 May 1777-20 October 1778: National Archives micropublication M853, reel 3, Hereinafter cited as Neagles reference, no. 9.
  6. Neagles reference, no. 9
  7. Neagles reference, no. 134: Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon (New York: New York times and Arno Press, 1971).


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course US Court Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.

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