South Dakota Military Records
U.S. Military Records provides more information on federal military records and search strategies for South Dakota.
Many military records are found at the National Archives, the Family History Library, and other federal and state archives. For South Dakota, the following sources are also very helpful:
Fort Bennett in North Dakota: Textual records of this fort, 1870-1891, 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 Dakota --1865-1869
Fort Hale -- (Lower Brulé Indian Reservation) (1870 - 1884), near Reliance
Originally named Post at Lower Brulé Indian Agency or Fort Lower Brulé, located 15 miles south, then moved to the current site in 1870, opposite Crow Creek; Renamed in 1878. The exact site, northeast of town, is now under water.
The remains of soldiers buried at Fort Hale were relocated to Fort McPherson National Cemetery on July 30, 1891.
Fort Hartford --
Fort Kiowa -- (1822 - 1825), Fort Lookout
A Bernard Pratte and Co. fur trade post originally called Fort Lookout (1). It was a 140-foot square palisade with a blockhouse and watch tower.
Fort Meade -- (Veterans Administration)
(Fort Meade Cavalry Museum)
(South Dakota Military Academy - South Dakota Army National Guard)
(1878 - 1944), Fort Meade
Built to defend the gold-mining camps of the Black Hills against the Lakota, and to restore peace, if necessary, on the Indian reservations to the east. Originally called Camp Ruhlen and located on the western side of Bear Butte. Later moved to its present location and renamed Camp Sturgis, and later renamed again. The primary post for actions in the "Ghost Dance War" of 1890 which culminated in the Wounded Knee Massacre; retained because of its location on the railroad and with good routes to reservations when most forts in South Dakota were closed in the 1890's. Used for training and as a POW camp in WWII. The Veterans Administration acquired the site in 1944 to use as a hospital, and a large permanent, modern hospital was built north of the main part of the post, preserving the historic portions of the post, including construction from the WWI and WWII era. Virtually all of the 1880's Officers' quarters and barracks remain in their original setting. The lone survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn, a horse named Comanche, was retired here. The Old Fort Meade Museum is located here. In the 1980's, the South Dakota Army National Guard established its leadership institute, later named the South Dakota Military Academy, on the old post. At the south end of the original military reservation (now a BLM site) is located the Black Hills National Cemetery, just off I-90; the old post cemetery, now closed for burials, is the Fort Meade National Cemetery.
(information provided by Nathan A. Barton, CE, PE, DEE, member of South Dakota State Historical Society and Council on America's Military Past)
Textual records of this fort, 1878-1917, 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 Manuel (1812 - 1813), near Kenel
A St. Louis Missouri Fur Co. trading post, also known as Arikara Post (1). Sakakawea (or Sacagawea) died here in 1812. Her monument is near Mobridge. The post was abandoned after attacks by Indians and the deaths of 15 of the traders.
Old Fort Pierre -- (1831 - 1857), A Bernard Pratt and Co. fur trade post located on the west-side of the Missouri River about three miles above the mouth of the Bad (Teton) River, originally called Fort Pierre Chouteau or Fort Chouteau, and built to replace Fort Tecumseh. It was renamed in 1833. The military purchased the fort in 1855 and renamed it Fort Bennett (1). The fort no longer exists. Some materials were salvaged for the construction of
Fort Randall -- (1856 - 1892), near Pickstown
This was the state's first permanent white settlement and was located on the southern side of the dam. Only the chapel was spared from the damming of the river, which was restored in 1950 from original plans. This was the longest serving post on the Missouri River and was built to replace Fort Pierre (1). It became General Sully's base of operations against the Sioux in 1863 - 1865. During 1870 - 1872 the post was rebuilt at the present site, 1/4 mile from the original location and just downstream.
Textual records of this fort, 1856-1892, 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 Robinson -- Nebraska - The post began in 1874 as a temporary cantonment during the turmoil of the frontier Indian Wars. Through the years Fort Robinson was continually expanded and became one of the largest military installations on the northern Plains. The post survived the frontier period and was use by the U.S. Army after World War II.
Fort Sisseton -- Textual records of this fort, 1864-1889, 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 Sully -- Textual records of this fort, 1863-1894, 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 Thompson - (Crow Creek Indian Reservation)
(1864 - 1867, 1870 - 1871), Fort Thompson
A Federal 300-by-400 foot stockade located at the mouth of Soldier Creek, originally named Post at Crow Creek Indian Agency and became a subpost of Fort Sully (2) in 1870. The government turned the fort over to the Crow Creek Agency in 1871. It was dismantled in 1878.
Fort Totten -- in North Dakota
Encyclopedia of Indian Wars Western Battles and Skirmishes, 1850-1890. By Gregory F. Michno. Mountain Press publishing Co. Missoula, Montana C. 2003 ISBN 0-87842-468-7
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.
- United States. Adjutant General’s Office. Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served during the Mexican War in Organizations from the State of Tennessee. Washington D.C.: National Archives, 1965. FHL films 882797-882811. This includes regimental returns, a record of events during the war, and company muster rolls.
- 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:
- United States, Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926 (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. (Learn more.)
- United States, Mexican War Pension Index, 1887-1926 (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. (Learn more.)
- 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.
Civil War (1861 to 1865)
See Dakota Territory in the Civil War for information about South Dakota Civil War records, web sites, etc. with links to articles about the Dakota Territory regiments involved in the Civil War.
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.
Indian Wars (1780s-1890s)
The library has enlistment registers for soldiers who served in the regular army from 1798 to 1914 FHL film 350307 (first of 81 films). Many of these soldiers served in the western states, including South Dakota, during the Indian Wars. The enlistment registers provide the soldier's rank, unit, commanders, physical description, occupation, and birthplace. The records are arranged by year and alphabetically by surname.
The library has an index of soldiers who applied for pensions between 1892 and 1926, for service in the Indian Wars from 1817 to 1898 FHL films 821610-21. The pension records are available only at the National Archives.
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.
- United States, General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934 (NARA T288). (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. The "General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934". The index covers veterans of the Civil War, Spanish‑American War, Philippine Insurrection, Boxer Rebellion (1900 to 1901), and the regular Army, Navy, and Marine forces. (Learn more.)
- United States, Index to Service Records, War with Spain, 1898 (FamilySearch) Free digital copy. (Learn more.)
A roster of the officers and enlisted men of the First Infantry Regiment, South Dakota Volunteers is in Doane Robinson, History of South Dakota, Two volumes (B.F. Bowen & Co., 1904; Family History Library FHL book 978.3 H2r v. 1 and FHL film 1000583.
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.
- United States, World War One Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (FamilySearch) - free
For a published roster of soldiers who died in the war, see W. M. Haulsee, F.G. Howe, A. C. Doyle, Soldiers of the Great War, Three Volumes. (Washington, D.C.: Soldiers Record Publishing Association, 1920;FHL book 973 M23s v. 3 and FHL fiche 6051244.
United States Selective Service System, South Dakota, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M1509. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1987-1988. FHL film 1877785 (first of 22 films) These cards have been digitized and are searchable online. See WWI Draft Records for more information.
World War II (1941-1945)
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.
- South Dakota Military Veterans Cemeteries and other Military Records
- Veterans List: Provided by the Moody County Historical Society, South Dakota and contains veterans from the Civil War to the Vietnam War and has a total of 1,200 records.
- South Dakota Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.
- NOTE: All of the information from the original research outline has been imported into the FamilySearch Wiki and is being updated as time permits.