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 North 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.
Indian Wars (1780s-1890s)
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. FHL film 350307 (first film).
United States, Registers of Enlistments in the U. S. Army, 1798 - 1914 Images of the records of men who enlisted in the United States Army, 1798-1914.
An index of pension applications filed between 1892-1926, for service in the Indian Wars from 1817 to 1898. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL films 821610-21; book 973 M22whi The pension records are at the National Archives.
Mexican War (1846-1848)
The Mexican War was caused by the annexation of Texas by the United States in 1845. Most volunteer regiments were from southern states. Records of Mexican War veterans might exist in a state where the veteran later resided.
- Mexican War Index to Pension Files, 1887–1926. (NARA T317). FHL films 0537000–13 Alphabetically arranged and includes the veteran’s name, rank, and unit; names of dependents; date of filing and application; certificate numbers; act filed under; and state from which application was made. Also available at:
- Robarts, William Hugh. Mexican War Veterans : A Complete Roster of the Regular and Volunteer Troops in the War Between the United States and Mexico, from 1846-1848… Washington, D.C. : Brentano’s, 1887. FHL book 973 M2rwh Digital version available at Internet Archive.
Click on these links to learn more about the Mexican War and about Mexican War pension records.
Civil War (1861-1865)
See Idaho in the Civil War for information about Idaho Civil War records, web sites, etc. with links to articles about the Idaho regiments involved in the Civil War.
Washington Dakota Territories 1861.idx.png
The regimental pages often include lists of the companies with links to the counties where the companies started. Men in the companies often lived in the counties where the companies were raised. Knowing a county can help when researching more about the soldiers and their families.
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System allows name searching for soldiers. The result set gives the regiments for the soldiers. Then you can check the Wiki regiment pages to determine counties. Often knowing the counties that had men in a regiment will help you determine if a soldier was your ancestor.
Spanish-American War (1898)
The Spanish-American War was largely fought in Cuba and the Philippines. Spanish-American War records might exist in the state from which the soldier served or in a state where the veteran later resided.
Click on the link to learn more about the Spanish American War.
World War I (1917-1918)
World War I was a global war fought on multiple continents with several nations involved. Over four million men and women served from the United States.
Draft Registration Cards
- 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. 1452106 (first film). Also available at:<r>
See WWI Draft Records for more information.
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) FHL fiche 6051244; book 973 M23s Volume 1 includes Idaho. A digitized version can be accessed at the FamilySearch Catalog entry.
World War II (1941-1945)
On April 27, 1942, the Selective Service conducted the fourth of six draft registrations related to WWII. The "World War II Selective Service Draft Cards: Fourth Registration, 1942" is often referred to as the “Old Man’s Registration” or the “Old Man’s Draft" because it included men with a date of birth from April 28, 1877 to February 16, 1897. Since there is overlap in the WWI and WWII Selective Service registration, men born in the years 1877 to 1900 may have registered twice and have both WWII and WWI draft records.
- Also available at:
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.
World War II United States Military Records provides additional information.
Korean War (1950–1953)
The Korean War was a conflict between North Korea (and its communist allies) and South Korea (with support of the United Nations, primarily the United States). See the Korean War wiki article for information on records and their availability.
Vietnam War (1964–1972)
The Vietnam War was a conflict between North Vietnam (and its communist allies) and South Vietnam (with support of its anti-communist allies, including the United States). See the Vietnam War wiki article for information on records and their availability.
The Idaho State Military Museum in Boise
Michno, Gregory F. Encyclopedia of Indian Wars Western Battles and Skirmishes 1850-1890. (Mountain Press Publishing OC., Missoula, Montana C. 2003) At various libraries (WorldCat) ISBN 0-87842-468-7