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Military Records for Genealogy Research: Mexican War

Overview

The American Army, Under General Scott, Entering the City of MexicoWar with Mexico was formally declared on May 13, 1846 and lasted until February 2, 1848.  In that period, approximately 75,000 men volunteered for military service. Volunteer units were organized in the following states: Alabama; Arkansas; California; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana: Iowa (Mormon Battalion); Kentucky; Louisiana; Maryland and the District of Columbia; Massachusetts; Michigan; Mississippi; Missouri; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Pennsylvania: Ohio; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; and Virginia. Another 35,000 men served in the regular U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, or the Marines. 

The average Mexican War soldier was a young man in his late teens or early twenties. Approximately 13,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors died in the Mexican War,  Of these, only about 2,000 were killed by the enemy or died of battle wounds, the majority of deaths being the result of disease or illness. Widows and disabled veterans were eligible for pensions. Federal service, pension and bounty land records are held by NARA, with some state archives holding additional records relating to the Mexican War.

FEDERAL MILITARY RECORDS (NARA)

Note that the U.S. Mexican War Soldiers and Sailors database is a searchable online name index of those who served in the Mexican War, a joint project of the National Park Service and the Federation of Genealogical Societies, but the information it provides is pretty minimal (for example, the Regiment may be provided, but not the state of enlistment).

COMPILED MILITARY SERVICE RECORDS (CMSR's) -- VOLUNTEER SOLDIERS

1. Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the Mexican War, 1899 - 1927 (Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, multiple Microfilm Publications)

2. Indexes to the Carded Records of Soldiers Who Served in Volunteer Organizations During the Mexican War, 1899 - 1927 (Record Group 94 Records of the Adjutant General's Office, Microfilm Publication M616)

OTHER SERVICE RECORDS -- VOLUNTEER SOLDIERS

1. Carded Medical Records of Volunteer Soldiers in the Mexican and Civil Wars, 1846 - 1865 (Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • From NARA's website: "In the 1890s, the War Department created various types of carded records relating to U.S. military service.

      In addition to compiled service records for Volunteers, the Record and Pension Office produced carded medical records for both Volunteer and Regular Army personnel using records transferred from the Office of the Surgeon General. Carded medical records were originally intended to help with the verification and approval process for pension applications. The records provide information about soldiers' service-related Wounds, Injuries, Sicknesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths" (see also NARA catalog record

  • Digitized Records available online

REGULAR ARMY SERVICE RECORDS

1. Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914 (Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, Microfilm Publication M233)

2. Enlistment Papers, 1798 -1912 (Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, Microfilm Publication M2031)

  • Description of Records
    • records are arranged in two series, the first covering 1798 - July 14, 1894, and the second covering July 15, 1894 - October 1912. Information varies by series, but generally includes the soldier's name, place of enlistment, date of enlistment, by whom enlisted, age, occupation, a personal description, regimental assignment, and certifications of the examining surgeon and recruiting officer. 
    • For more information, see the NARA catalog record and the article U.S. Regular Army Registers of Enlistment and enlistment papers, 1798–1914
  • NOT DIGITIZED

3. Carded Medical Records of the Regular Army, 1821 - 1884 (Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1762 - 1984, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • Provides information about service-related Wounds, Injuries, Sicknesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths of Regular Army soldiers (see also NARA catalog record)
  • Digitized Records available online -- NOT DIGITIZED

NAVY SERVICE RECORDS

1.  Index to Rendezvous Reports, Before and After the Civil War, 1846–1861, 1865–1884, Microfilm Publication T1098

  • Description of Records
    • Rendezvous reports are the Navy's equivalent of Army enlistment registers (see Sailors in the United State Navy, 1798-1885). This is an alphabetical card index with the name of the sailor, his rendezvous station or vessel, the date of return, the page on which his name is recorded within the report, and his record of naval service with dates and locations.
  • Digitized Records available online

2. Records Relating to Enlisted Men Who Served in the Navy Between 1842 and 1885 (Record Group 24: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • From NARA catalog record: "This series contains collected records of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting as well as correspondence of the Bureau of Navigation, particularly of the Muster Roll and Record Section of the Enlisted Personnel Division. Correspondence was collected on each enlisted man who had served in the Navy between 1842 and 1885 . . . The files contain letters received, copies of letters sent, endorsements, applications for certificates of honorable discharge or for copies of other documents, certificates of medical officers or of special boards convened to examine applicants for pensions or other benefits, legal papers such as affidavits and powers of attorney, and similar items.
  • Not digitized or microfilmed -- currently available only on-site at NARA

3. Abstracts of Service Records of Naval Officers, 1798 - 1924, (Record Group 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Microfilm Publication M330)

4Records of the United States Marine Corps, Entry 76 (Record Group 127)

  • Description of Records
    • Service records or “case files” of enlisted marines at the National Archives
    • Records are arranged by date of service, but there is an index, "Alphabetical Card List of Enlisted Men of the Marine Corps,
      1798–1941," in Entry 75
  • NOT DIGITIZED OR MICROFILMED

For additional Naval records, see the Other Records tab.

Pursuant to an act of Congress approved January 29, 1887, and continuing through 1926, veterans who had served sixty days or their unmarried widows were eligible for pensions.

PENSION APPLICATION FILES AND INDEXES

1. Case Files of Mexican War Pension Applications , ca. 1887 - ca. 1926 (Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • Pension application files based on service of volunteer soldiers
    • From NARA catalog record: "This series consists of the case files of approximately 36,000 approved and disapproved pension applications based on service performed during the Mexican War, 1846-1848. These applications were submitted by veterans of the Mexican War or their widows, not remarried."
  • Digitized Records available online -- NOT ALL RECORDS HAVE BEEN DIGITIZED
  • Non-digitized files can be identified using the index described below, and ordered online

2. Name Index to Mexican War Pension Files (Record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Microfilm Publication T317)

3. Selected Pension Application Files Relating to the Mormon Battalion, Mexican War, 1846-1848 (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Microfilm Publication T1196)

4. Case Files of Pension Applications Based on Death or Disability Incurred in Service between 1783 and 1861 ("Old Wars"), ca. 1815 - ca. 1930 (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • Pension application files of Regular Army personnel ("Old War" refers to service in the Regular Army between the 1780s and the Civil War.) 
    • From NARA catalog record: "This series consists of the pension application case files relating chiefly to claims based on death or disability incurred in service in the regular forces between the end of the Revolutionary War in 1783 and the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. The claims concern service in the Regular Army, Navy, or Marine Corps during the War of 1812, Mexican War, Indian wars, and in a few cases, the Civil War."
  • Digitized Records available online

5. Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815-1926 (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Microfilm Publication T316)

6. Name Index to Pension Applications Files of Remarried Widows Based on Service Before 1861, 1887 - 1926 (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Microfilm Publication M1784)

7. Numerical Register of Original Widows Service Pensions for Service in the Mexican War, ca. 1887 - ca. 1887 ((Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • Numerical index to pensions awarded to widows under the original Act of January 29, 1887; entries only list the pension number and the first three letters of the individual's surname (see NARA catalog record)
  • Not digitized or microfilmed; currently only available at NARA

PENSION PAYMENT RECORDS

1. Pension Payment Cards, 1907 - 1933 (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Microfilm Publication M850)

Additional payment records for Mexican War veterans may be included in the following undigitized collections, currently available only on-site at NARA:

  • Pension Agency Payment Books, 1805–1909 (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, not microfilmed, NARA catalog record ARC 2600765)
  • Records of Pension Payments, 1859 - 1901 [NAVY] (Record Group 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, not microfilmed, NARA catalog record ARC 2774843)
  • Register of Pension Payments, 1813 - 1866 (Record Group 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, not microfilmed, NARA catalog record ARC 2642336)
  • Registers of Pension Payments, ca. 1811 - 1868 ((Record Group 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, not microfilmed, NARA catalog record 2545102)
  • Registers of Pension Payments, 1789 - 1872 (Record Group 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury, not microfilmed, NARA catalog record 2642440)

PENSION LIST

On December 8, 1882, the U.S. Senate required the Secretary of Interior to submit a list of pensioners on the roll January 1, 1883. The completed list was published in 1883 in five volumes as "List of Pensioners on the Roll, January 1, 1883...". Although the majority of pensioners listed were from the Civil War, a small number of individuals or their widows are mentioned regarding the Mexican War. 

These volumes are available online and at NYPL:

Another list was created in 1910: List of Survivors of the Mexican War on Pension Agency Rolls, 3/1910, which is currently only available at NARA

Under the Bounty Land Act of 1847, the government authorized bounty land warrants to encourage enlistments in the Mexican War. Warrants under this act were the first that could be used to claim land anywhere in the public domain (rather than limiting claims to specific military districts, as had previously been the case). 

Regular and volunteer soldiers and non-commissioned officers who served for at least 12 month were entitled to 160 acres of land, while those who served for a lesser term were eligible for smaller warrants of 40 acres. Later legislation expanded eligibility to officers, and eased the service restrictions. Initially, the warrants were not assignable, but land speculators found ways to get around this restriction even before it was eilminated in 1852.

In some but not all cases, the bounty-land records for these veterans are interfiled with the Mexican War pension files (described at the adjoining tab). If no bounty warrant is found in the veteran's pension file, the documents may still be in what has informally been called the "Unindexed Bounty-Land Warrant Files," descripted below.

APPLICATION FILES AND INDEXES

1. Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, ca. 1800 - ca. 1900 (formal title Case Files of Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Service Between 1812 and 1855 and Disapproved Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • From NARA catalog record: "This series consists of approximately 360,000 bounty-land application files submitted by veterans or their heirs based on service between 1790 and 1855. The majority of the claims are based on service in the War of 1812, Indian wars, and the Mexican War. Each file consists of the application of the veteran or widow; records submitted as evidence of service, and a file jacket which shows whether the claim was approved or disapproved. Documentation submitted in support of a claim may include documentary evidence of service such as commissions or discharges; and affidavits or written declarations made by the widow, dependents, other veterans, or other persons having knowledge of the facts concerning the claim."
  • Digitized Records available online
  • Non-digitized records can be ordered using a form that is available on the NARA web site.

2. Case Files of Bounty-Land Warrant Applications of Indians Based on Service Between 1812 and 1855, ca. 1812 - ca. 1900 (Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • From NARA catalog record: "This series consists of bounty-land application files which were submitted by Native American (Indian) veterans or their heirs based on service between ca. 1812 and 1855"
    • For more information about these files, see the useful Prologue article Indian Bounty Land Applications
  • Not digitized or microfilmed

 

BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT

To claim bounty land, veterans whose applications were approved could use their warrant to apply for a land patent, or deed of ownership. Once the patent was obtained, the veteran could take ownership of the land himself, assign it to another person, or sell it to a land speculator. Most veterans chose the last option. Regardless of whether the land was sold or retained, the patent should be included in the  Bureau of Land Management's General Land Office database of land patents ("BLM GLO"), AND the veteran should be listed as the "warrantee."

  • Note that if you don't know the state in which the patent may have been granted, you can select "any state" by in the "Location" field by scrolling to the bottom of the state list). Be aware that this database does not include bounty land warrant applications that were rejected.
  • If you locate a veteran in the database, you can order a copy of the Land Entry Case Files.

CASUALTY REPORTS

1. Returns of Killed and Wounded in Battles or Engagements with Indians, British Troops, and Mexican Troops, compiled 1850 - 1851, documenting the period 1790 - 1848 (Record Group 94,  Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Microfilm Publication M1832)

  • Description of Records
    • Compilation of returns of soldiers and sailors killed and wounded in engagements that took place between 1790 and 1848. The information included varies but can can include battle dates and places, with names of commanding officers, number of troops engaged, casualties, and remarks on some of the engagements (see NARA catalog record)
  • Digitized Records available online

COURT MARTIAL RECORDS

1. Court Martial Case Files, 1800 - 1894 (Record Group 153, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army), not microfilmed)

  • Description of Records
    • from NARA catalog record: "This series consists of the records of general courts-martial, courts of inquiry, and military commissions. Included are documents describing the organization and personnel of the courts; charges and specifications; pleas and arraignments of the defendants; papers and exhibits submitted for the consideration of the courts; proceedings, findings, and sentences of the courts; reports of the reviewing authorities; statements of action by the Secretary of War and the President of the United States; and related correspondence and evidence."
  • Digitized Records available online -- NOT DIGITIZED
  • Indexes

NAVY

1. Navy Casualty Reports, 1776-1941 (reports compiled by Casualty Branch, U.S. Bureau of Naval Personnel, and held by Navy Department Library)

2. Records of General Courts-martial and Courts of Inquiry of the Navy Department, 1799–1867 (Record Group 125, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Navy), Microfilm Publication M273)

  • Description of Records
    • Transcripts of proceedings of general courts-martial. A name index identifies the case file of a particular person and the records relating to a court of inquiry. Each dossier, when complete, contains the precept appointing the court; letters detailing or detaching its several members; a letter dissolving the court; the charges and specifications; minutes of the court, consisting chiefly of a verbatim transcript of testimony; the plea of the defendant (often printed); copies of correspondence introduced as part of the minutes; the finding of the court; the sentence in case of a finding of guilty; and various endorsements (see also NARA catalog record and American Prisoners during the War of 1812)
  • Digitized Records available online

3. Area File of the Naval Records Collection, 1775-1910 (Record Group 45, Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library, Microfilm Publication M625)

GENERAL INDEXES, REGISTERS AND REFERENCE WORKS

SPECIAL GROUP INDEXES

For additional resources, try browsing our online catalog with the following subject headings:

STATE RECORDS

ONLINE GUIDES

  • The FamilySearch Research Wiki article Mexican War, 1846-1848 includes links to pages for states that participated in the conflict 

PRINT GUIDES AT NYPL

Only two New York regiments participated in the Mexican War: the First and Second Regiments of New York Volunteers, under colonels Jonathan Stevenson and Ward Burnett.  Stevenson’s regiment mostly served as an occupation force in Lower (Baja) California, while Burnett’s New Yorkers participated in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, earning praise for their courage and performance.       

NEW YORK STATE ARCHIVES

RESOURCES AT NYPL

ONLINE RESOURCES

By the time of the Mexican War, all state volunteer units were incorporated into the federal army, so state records will consist mainly of indexes, abstracts, and lists of soldiers serving from a particular state. These types of records and publications are generally available at he State Archives and/or State Historical Society. Most of these repositories will have finding aids and other tools to access their military records online, such as:

  • Illinois Mexican War Veterans -- searchable database of names included in the 1902 Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Illinois.
  • Tennessee Secretary of State -- holds card file listing Tennesseans who served in Seminole War, Cherokee Removal and Mexican War Records. The cards generally provide name, rank, date and place of enlistment, commanding officer, and date and place of discharge. 
  • Indiana Mexican War Volunteer Index, 1846-1848 -- searchable index of the names of men who served in all five the state's Mexican War Volunteer Regiments 

RESOURCES AT NYPL

NYPL holds a smattering of state-wide indexes to Mexican War service, including the following:

To locate additional titles, try browsing our online catalog with the following subject headings: