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The U.S. Military Records Wiki page provides more information on federal military records and search strategies.
The major depository for military records in the United States is the National Archives. Copies of many of these records and others are found at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and at other federal and state archives. For Idaho the following sources are also very helpful.
Forts were authorized by the federal government, built to house and maintain the military who were to assist in maintaining peace by enforcing treaties and providing protection to settlers.
- Fort Boise -- The original Fort Boise was built in 1834 by the British Hudson's Bay Company. It was located on the Boise River about seven miles upstream from its mouth on the Snake River, near the present town of Parma, Idaho. In 1838 it was moved to the mouth of the Boise River, on the Snake River. It was a supply point along the Oregon Trail until 1854, when it was abandoned due to flooding and attacks by Bannock Indians. A new Fort Boise was built near the present city of Boise, Idaho in 1863. A veterans' hospital was established on the grounds of the newer Fort Boise and the remainder of its site was turned over to the State of Idaho in 1944. (For additional history of Fort Boise, see the Idaho State Historical Society's Reference Series No. 29 and No. 356.) Textual records of this fort (also known as Boise Barracks), 1864-1913, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
- Fort Hall -- was built in 1834, primarily as a trading post for fur trappers and Native Americans. It was located near where the Portneuf River empties into the Snake River, on the current Fort Hall Indian Reservation. The Fort also served as an important stop-over for those traveling the Oregon Trail. By 1863, the fort was no longer in use and had completely deteriorated. A Fort Hall replica has been built and is operated in Pocatello, Idaho. The remains of soldiers buried at Fort Hall were relocated to Fort McPherson National Cemetery on May 19, 1883.
- Fort Henry -- This fort was established in 1810 and was the first American fur trading post west of the Rocky Mountains. It was located near the present town of St. Anthony, Idaho, where a monument marking the site exists.
- Fort Lapwai -- Fort Lapwai was established in 1862 and occupied as a fort until 1885, following the Nez Perce War. The Northern Idaho Indian Agency, which was originally at Spalding, Idaho, was re-located to Fort Lapwai in 1904. The old fort was converted to use as a hospital and school. The parade grounds and some of the buildings remain intact. (For additional history of Fort Lapwai, see the site for the Nez Perce National Historical Park.) Textual records of this fort, 1866-1884, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
- Fort Lemhi -- An early fur trading post was established in the Lemhi Valley in the 1820s and 30s, but existed for only a short time. Mormon settlers later established a fort to protect their settlement in the valley from 1855 to 1858, when they abandoned the settlement and returned to Utah. Fort Lemhi was never considered an official U.S. military post.
- Fort Sherman -- Originally established in 1878, it was first called Camp Coeur d'Alene, then Fort Coeur d'Alene. The name was changed to Fort Sherman in 1887. The fort was turned over to the Interior Department in 1901. Of the 52 structures, only a handful remain. It is currently the site of Northern Idaho College. Textual records of this fort, 1877-1900, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
For brief histories of many of the forts of the Old West, see Darrel Wakley's web site, which includes a chapter on Forts of the Old West, arranged by state.
Many soldiers served in Idaho and other western states during the Indian Wars. The Family History Library has enlistment registers for soldiers who served in the regular army from 1798 to 1914. These provide the soldier's rank, unit, commanders, physical description, occupation, and birthplace. The records are arranged by year and by the first letter of the surname (Family History Library films 350307—).
An index of pension applications filed between 1892-1926, for service in the Indian Wars from 1817 to 1898 is on Family History Library films 821610-21. The pension records are at the National Archives.
Civil War (1861-1865)
An index to service records of a few Union volunteers from the Washington Territory is at the Family History Library (Family History Library film 821948). The library also has the federal index of pensioners, but the actual service and pension records are only at the National Archives.
Civil War Pension Index Cards - A free Internet index to pension applications of veterans who served in the US Army between 1861-1917 is available on FamilySearch Record Search. Each card gives the soldier’s name, application and certificate numbers, state of enlistment, and might include rank and death information. Other wars, of that time period, may be included.
World War I (1917-1918)
Draft Registration Cards
World War I draft registration cards for men age 18 to 45 may list address, birth date, birthplace, race, nationality, citizenship, and next of kin. Not all registrants served in the war. For registration cards for Idaho, see:
- United States. Selective Service System. Idaho, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M1509. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1987-1988. These records are available in microfilm format at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and through many of their regional archives. They are also available at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (their films beginning with 1452106) and at some other research facilities. The records have also been digitized and are available online through Ancestry.com for a paid subscription rate.The original cards are available for search in the National Archives Southeast Region (Atlanta), Georgia.
To find an individual's draft card, it helps to know his name and residence at the time of registration. The cards are arranged alphabetically by county, within the county by draft board, and then alphabetically by surname within each draft board. Reference to the draft cards for each county in Idaho is found on the Wiki page for each county. In addition, there were draft registration cards for "Idaho Indians, Prisoners, Insane, In Hospitals, and Later Registrants" which were not separated by county. Those cards are available at the Family History Library (their microfilm number 2022333 Item 2). These cards do not appear to be available online at Ancestry.com.
Most counties had only one board; large cities had several. A map showing the boundaries of individual draft boards is available for most large cities. Finding an ancestor's street address in a city directory will help you in using the draft board map. There is an alphabetical list of cities that are on the map. For a copy of this map see:
- United States. Selective Service System. List of World War One Draft Board Maps. Washington, D.C.: National Archives. (Family History Library film 1498803.)
Roster of Soldiers Who Died in World War I
A published roster of soldiers who died in World War I is W.M. Haulsee, et al, Soldiers in the Great War, Three Volumes. (Washington, D.C.: Soldiers Record Publishing Association, 1920; Family History Library book 973 M23s; fiche 6051244). Volume 1 includes Idaho.
Veterans History Project (Oral Histories)
The Idaho Oral History Center has conducted interviews of many veterans of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam Conflict, who served from Idaho. A list of those interviewed is available on the Idaho State Archives web site.
The Idaho State Military Museum in Boise
Encyclopedia of Indian Wars Western Battles and Skirmishes 1850-1890. By Gregory F. Michno. Mountain Press Publishing OC., Missoula, Montana C. 2003 ISBN 0-87842-468-7
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