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Where are the discharge papers?

You may be surprised to hear that there is no record group at the National Archives that contains the Civil War discharge papers. These discharges were given to the individual soldiers, and they became their property. They would use them if they ever needed to confirm that they had been in the military and that they were honorably discharged. The military did not keep duplicate copies. As a result, many of these have been lost over time.
These are occasionally found in the soldier’s pension file or other various records, but even that is a rare occurrence. The veteran may have mistakenly thought that he needed to submit that as part of his application process, or there may have been some question as to the length or outcome of his service. The soldier may have submitted his discharge paper as extra proof.
Civil War discharge papers have become collector’s items. They show up for sale at Civil War shows and occasionally they’re scanned and uploaded onto online family trees on sites like Ancestry.
Do you have your ancestor’s Civil War discharge papers? If so, count yourself as one of the lucky ones that have that piece of history in your hands!

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