Kenneth L. Alford, “Appendix C: Identifying Latter-day Saint Civil War Veterans,” in Civil War Saints, ed. Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 405–9.
Identifying Latter-day Saint Civil War Veterans
Kenneth L. Alford
Shortly after this book project began, I was surprised to learn that no thorough search for Latter-day Saint Civil War veterans had been undertaken and published. Over a century and a half has passed since the beginning of the Civil War, and my research team and I felt that it was past time to identify and celebrate Latter-day Saints who served both the North and the South during the Civil War. The results of our efforts are found in appendix E. The purpose of this appendix is to briefly explain how we found and attempted to document both membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Civil War veteran status.
Defining a “Latter-day Saint”
To identify someone as both a Latter-day Saint and Civil War veteran required us to define both terms. For the purposes of this research, a Latter-day Saint is defined as an individual who was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during his or her lifetime. This definition defines as a “Latter-day Saint” individuals who were baptized prior to the Civil War, during the war, as well as after the war. It also includes individuals who were excommunicated during the course of their lifetime. (It does not, of course, include individuals who have been baptized vicariously.)
Defining a “Civil War Veteran”
Identifying someone as a “Civil War veteran” required slightly different definitions for Union and Confederate soldiers. In order to be included in this study, Union soldiers, sailors, and marines must have served on active federal service between January 9, 1861 (when Confederate artillery opened first on the Star of the West in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina), and June 23, 1865 (the date that General Stand Watie surrendered the last Confederate soldiers). Active federal service is defined as service that qualified for federal pension benefits—a definition similar to that used by the Grand Army of the Republic to qualify applicants for membership. Applying that definition to the soldiers who served in Utah Territory during the Civil War means that soldiers who served in the Utah Cavalry under Lot Smith’s command are considered Civil War veterans; their ninety-day active-duty service was valid for pension credit and Grand Army of the Republic membership purposes. However, teamsters who served with the Lot Smith Utah Cavalry were not on active duty military service, did not receive federal pension credit, and are not considered Civil War veterans. On the other hand, members of the Nauvoo Legion in Utah who served with Colonel Robert T. Burton are also not considered Civil War veterans as their service did not qualify them for federal pension benefits. Likewise, soldiers from the Utah Territory who fought during the Black Hawk War in Utah Territory were also not considered Civil War veterans for this research. The Confederate States of America did not employ the same service definitions as their Union counterparts. Any soldier or sailor who fought for the Confederacy is considered as a Civil War veteran for this research. There was no active duty versus militia distinction for wartime military service in the Confederate States of America.
Part of the reason that no thorough Latter-day Saint Civil War veterans list has been previously published is the tools to find and document both LDS Church membership and Civil War veteran status have been largely unavailable or difficult to obtain. The recent proliferation of Internet databases related to both LDS Church membership and Civil War veterans has made the accompanying LDS Civil War veterans list in Appendix E possible. The resulting list was made possible through the efforts of numerous people who assisted in its preparation—from student research assistants to independent historians and family history buffs. (Please see Acknowledgments for the names of those who directly contributed to this effort.)
While there are certainly numerous exceptions, here is the basic process used to add individuals to the Latter-day Saint Civil War veterans list:
1. Obtain the name of a possible LDS Civil War veteran
2. Confirm that the individual was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
3. Confirm that the individual qualified as a Union or Confederate veteran
4. Seek to confirm that the LDS member and the veteran identified were the same individual
5. Double-check the work of the previous steps
The first step—obtaining the name of a possible LDS Civil War veteran—proved to be one of the most challenging and difficult steps in the process. Federal service as a member of the Lot Smith Utah Cavalry provided almost one hundred individuals who were added to the final list. The second most fruitful source for LDS Civil War veterans was the veteran schedule that was prepared as part of the 1890 U.S. Census. Census, cemetery, and other records from the San Luis Valley in Colorado proved to be another good source for finding almost three dozen LDS Civil War veterans (many of whom served in the Confederate armed forces). Additional names for potential veterans came from a variety of sources, most notably Frank Esshom’s Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah, Andrew Jenson’s LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, newspaper obituary articles (found primarily in the online database Utah Digital Newspapers), lists from amateur historians and genealogists, federal pension and service records, records obtained through the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, other books, tips from friends and acquaintances, and even Improvement Era articles from the early part of the twentieth century. (It should be noted that while the entire 1890 veteran’s census schedule listings from Utah Territory were checked for LDS Civil War veterans, the time and budget associated with this project meant that other state and territory veteran schedules were checked only incidentally. Additional research and scholarship opportunities await future researchers who wish to “add to the list.”)
The second step—confirming that the veteran was baptized as a Latter-day Saint during his lifetime—was often frustrating but was generally a straightforward process. The available databases were a great help, but they are not complete (nor in some instances, as we discovered, completely accurate). To confirm soldiers as Latter-day Saints, we used the LDS Church family history website http://new.familysearch.org, public records, newspaper obituaries, journals, biographical encyclopedias, and occasionally information obtained through Internet searches. In a few instances (which are noted in the list) where it can be reasonably inferred that a person was LDS (for instance, records that note the individual was an elder or a bishop), their name has been included in the list (with an explanatory note). When LDS membership has been confirmed through New Family Search, the accompanying individual identification number is included to enable readers to check our work. If baptismal information was unavailable in New Family Search, we checked Susan Easton Black‘s Membership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1848. In a few instances, LDS membership could not be confirmed through New Family Search or early membership records, but was accepted based on published accounts that mentioned the individual’s LDS Church membership or activity. For a very small number of Civil War veterans (such as a few soldiers who served in the Lot Smith Utah Cavalry), LDS membership was unable to be confirmed but is presumed. (Those records areannotated as such.)
The third step—confirming veteran status—required a variety of research skills. At this time, there is no complete database (online or otherwise) of everyone who served during the Civil War; the Civil War Soldiers and Sailor System database (sponsored by the National Park Service, http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss/) and the Veterans with Federal Service Buried in Utah, Territorial to 1966 database (available online from Family Search and Ancestry.com) proved to be the most helpful. Obituaries obtained from Utah Digital Newspapers and photographs of grave markers that noted Civil War service (available online at FindAGrave.com) were additional resources for identifying Civil War veterans. Diaries and journals were also consulted, if available. Where that was not possible, a newspaper reference to that person’s Civil War veteran status was accepted on good faith. Biographical encyclopedias, Improvement Era articles, and other sources were researched in a similar manner. Ancestry.com’s U.S. Civil War Collection, and Civil War records collections available online at FamilySearch.org were also helpful.
The fourth step—confirming that the LDS member and the Civil War veteran were, indeed, the same person—engendered both confidence and frustration. Federal military records from the Civil War seldom contain vital records information such as birth, marriage, or death dates. In many instances, there were no overlapping data fields that could confirm, without any doubt, that the “John Q. Doe” who was baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the same individual as the “John Q. Doe” who served during the Civil War. One of the easiest ways to confirm that an LDS member and a soldier of the same name were the same person was through pension records. If biographical data obtained through New Family Search, obituaries, findagrave.com, and other sources identified the name of the soldier’s wife, we could frequently locate the veteran in Ancestry.com’s Civil War Pension Index which often listed the soldier’s wife, the regiment he served in, and sometimes additional identifying information which could be compared against New Family Search records. In the absence of pension files, we frequently relied on biographical information found in sources such as obituaries and biographical histories. We are grateful to have so many wonderful resources available, but, at the same time, we have frequently been frustrated that they are not more complete.
The final step—double-checking work from the previous steps—enabled us to challenge previous assumptions and, at the same time, reminded us how easy it is to have small errors creep into a research effort of this nature and size.
We have made every effort to verify that the individuals who appear on our list were Latter-day Saint Civil War veterans. For every person who appears on the final list, we screened and eliminated over fifty other individuals during the course of this research. Sometimes, quite honestly, we had to make a best guess and assume the Church member and the soldier with the same name were the same person. We have made every effort to so identify those veterans (placing an “MLM” [“Most Likely Match’] tag in the Notes field associated with those records).
During the course of our research, we discovered several individuals who, while failing to meet one or both criteria to be included in the LDS Civil War Veteran Appendix, deserve to be mentioned on their own account. They are listed as “Special Interest” veterans in the final appendix. That list includes the teamsters who served with the Lot Smith Utah Cavalry (but who were not considered soldiers and, therefore, did not qualify for federal pensions), and a few other Civil War veterans who had a special or unique relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, such as Levi Lamoni Wight, a son of excommunicated LDS apostle Lyman Wight, who fought for the Confederacy, and Thomas L. Kane. We also recognize that this list of “Special Interest” Civil War veterans is not comprehensive.
We are pleased to recognize the military contributions of these Civil War soldiers, sailors, and marines and have included source information with each individual’s listing so that readers can, as desired, check and confirm or correct our work. (Please see Appendix D for an explanation of the various fields associated with each veteran record and the research resource codes used.) We are not under the illusion, though, that our list as published is complete nor, unfortunately, even completely accurate. It is, though, a multiyear first effort to create a reproducible list of Latter-day Saint Civil War veterans.
We invite readers to submit additions, suggestions, and corrections to improve upon our initial work. Please send list-related information (including as much documentation and source information as possible) to:
Dr. Kenneth L. Alford
(LDS Civil War Veterans Project)
c/o 375 JSB
Brigham Young University
Provo, Utah 84602