Military Records

Pre-World War I U.S. Army Pension and Bounty Land Applications

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Affidavit of John Crosley, son of former slave Prince Crosley, who served in the Revolutionary War

(National Archives Identifier 4662572)

The National Archives Building in Washington, DC (Archives 1), houses pension applications and pension payment records for veterans of the U.S. Regular Army and State Volunteers, their widows, and heirs from the Revolutionary War to the early twentieth century (pre-World War I).

Early pensions were only based on injuries or death sustained in the line of duty, but later pension acts allowed benefits for general military service.

From 1788 to 1855, the War Department also granted bounty land warrants as a reward for military service. Archives 1 houses bounty land warrant applications, as well as surrendered warrants. (For more information about surrendered warrants, see Accessing Land Entry Records.)

Pension applications and bounty land applications are both part of Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration. In general, records are arranged by the war or conflict, thereunder by the veteran's name (for the Revolutionary War through the Mexican War) or by file number (for the Civil War and later conflicts).

Researchers can order copies of pension and bounty land applications by using NATF Form 85 or placing an order online.

Contents of Applications

When applying for a federal military pension or bounty land, veterans (or their widows or heirs) had to provide proof of their federal military service.

At a minimum, they had to provide their regiment and approximate dates of service so that government officials could compare this information with records on file, including muster rolls and compiled military service records. Widows and heirs had to provide proof of their relationship to veterans.

For a detailed look at how the government processed Civil War pension applications, see the Prologue article "A Reasonable Degree of Promptitude: Civil War Pension Application Processing, 1861–1865."

Supporting Documentation

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War of 1812 Bounty Land Application for Daniel Heilman (National Archives Identifier 564415)

Pension and bounty land application files can include supporting documentation such as narratives of events during service, birth records, marriage certificates, death certificates, family letters, statements from witnesses, and affidavits.

This documentation can provide the veteran's regiment, rank, place of residence, age or date of birth, and time in service.

A widow's application can also include the widow's maiden name, date and place of marriage, place of residence, date of the veteran's death, and names of children under the age of 16.

A child or heir's application can include information about the veteran and widow, including the date and place of the widow's death, as well as the child's place of residence and date of birth.

Note that not all application files include all of this information.

Applications by War/Conflict

Archives 1 houses pension and bounty land applications for veterans of the U.S. Regular Army and State Volunteers, their widows, and heirs from the Revolutionary War to the early twentieth century (pre-World War I).

Microfilmed indexes to these records are available. Most indexes have been digitized and made available online. Some application files have also been digitized.

Accordion

Congress authorized bounty land warrants for military service in the Revolutionary War under acts of 1788, 1803, and 1806.  Veterans were granted pensions beginning in 1818, and widows became eligible in 1836. Surviving veterans also qualified under the final bounty land act of 1855.

Most bounty land claims for Revolutionary War service have been combined with other Revolutionary War pension files. (For disapproved pensions, see the section on the War of 1812 below.)

Revolutionary War pensions are the only pension or bounty land application files that have been reproduced fully on microfilm. The microfilmed records have also been digitized and made available online.

Available Records

  • M804, Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (National Archives Identifier 300022)
  • M805, Selected Records of Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (National Archives Identifier 300022)

  • M829, U.S. Revolutionary War Bounty-Land Warrants Used in the U.S. Military District of Ohio and Related Papers (Acts of 1788, 1803, and 1806), 1788–1806 (National Archives Identifier 635444)
  • M910, Virginia Half Pay and Other Related Revolutionary War Pension Application Files (National Archives Identifier 2601035)

Regular Army veterans received disability pensions for service during the “Old War” period from the end of the Revolutionary War to the beginning of the Civil War. Veterans of state militias that were federalized received pensions for War of 1812 service starting in 1871, and their widows in 1878. Bounty land warrants for service during the war were based on acts of 1811 and 1812. Surviving veterans also qualified for such benefits under acts of 1842, 1850, 1852, and 1855.

Pension and bounty land applications are consolidated if the veteran applied for both; however, veterans who received bounty land but died before becoming eligible for a pension will have their bounty land applications filed separately.

Available Records: State Volunteers

  • M313, Index to War of 1812 Pension Application Files (National Archives Identifier 563315)
  • War of 1812 Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, ca. 1871–ca. 1900 (National Archives Identifier 564415)
  • Case Files of Bounty-Land Warrant Applications Based on Service Between 1812 and 1855 and Disapproved Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, 1800–1900 (National Archives Identifier 567388)
    • Partially digitized on Fold3.com
    • Select applications are available in the National Archives Catalog.
    • This series also covers bounty land issued for Mexican War and Indian War service.
  • M848, War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815–1858 (National Archives Identifier 4923870)

Available Records: Regular Army

  • T316, Old War Index to Pension Files, 1815–1926 (National Archives Identifier 2601038)
  • Case Files of Pension Applications Based on Death or Disability Incurred in Service between 1783 and 1861 ("Old Wars"), ca. 1815–ca. 1930 (National Archives Identifier 1105306)
    • Select applications are available in the National Archives Catalog.
    • This series also covers Regular Army, Navy, and Marine Corps service during the Mexican War.

Congress granted bounty land warrants for service in the Mexican War under an act of 1847. Veterans and widows first became eligible for pensions in 1887, as long as the soldier had served at least 60 days or was engaged in battle, and was honorably discharged and at least 62 years old. Bounty land applications are interfiled with the Mexican War pension files.

Available Records

  • T317, Name Index to Mexican War Pensions, 1887–1926 (National Archives Identifier 2588092)
  • Case Files of Mexican War Pension Applications, ca. 1887–ca. 1926 (National Archives Identifier 1104361)
  • Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Soldiers Who Served in Both the Mexican War and the Civil War, ca. 1847–ca. 1888 (National Archives Identifier 2812527)

The bounty land acts of 1850, 1852, and 1855 granted warrants for service in all Indian wars from 1790 up to the beginning of the Civil War. The application files are unindexed except for those relating to service during the War of 1812 (see National Archives Identifier 567388 in the War of 1812 section above). On March 3, 1927, Congress approved pensions for service in all Indian wars fought between 1817 and 1898.

Available Records

  • T318, Name Index to Indian War Pension Files, 1892–1926 (National Archives Identifier 2588091)
  • Case Files of Indian Wars Pension Applications, 1892–ca. 1926 (National Archives Identifier 1105236)

The pension system for Union soldiers began in 1862 with the issuance of pensions for disabilities sustained during service. In 1890, benefits were expanded to include pensions for general service of at least 90 days with an honorable discharge. Veterans of later conflicts, including the Spanish-American War and Philippine Insurrection, were generally covered under the same pension system.

Note: The National Archives does not hold pensions for Confederate service. Former Confederates were issued pensions by the Southern state governments, based on the state where the veteran lived after the war, not the state from which he served. See Confederate Pension Records for further information about Confederate pensions.

Available Records

  • T288, General Index to Pension Files, 1861–1934 (National Archives Identifier 563268)
  • T289, Organizational Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900 (National Archives Identifier 2588825)
  • A1158, Numerical Index to Pensions, 1860–1934 (National Archives Identifier 55287630)
  • Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Soldiers Who Served in Both the Mexican War and the Civil War, ca. 1847–ca. 1888 (National Archives Identifier 2812527)

  • Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain, 1861–1934 (National Archives Identifier 300019)
  • Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of the Army and Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain, 1861–1934 (National Archives Identifier 300020)
  • Case Files of Disapproved Pension Applications of Veterans of the Army and the Navy Who Served Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain, ca. 1861–ca. 1934 (National Archives Identifier 563386)
  • Case Files of Disapproved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Veterans of the Army and Navy, ca. 1861–ca. 1934 (National Archives Identifier 567876)

Some widows drew pensions from the service of multiple husbands. In such cases the pension application information for soldiers is usually included in a single file, under the surname of the most recent husband. The index includes the name of the claimant, the name of the soldier and his service unit, and the pension number.

Available Records

  • M1784, Index to Pension Application Files of Remarried Widows Based on Service in the War of 1812, Indian Wars, Mexican War, and Regular Army before 1861 (National Archives Identifier 2588478)
  • M1785, Index to Pension Application Files of Remarried Widows Based on Volunteer Service in the Civil War and Later Wars and in the Regular Army After the Civil War (National Archives Identifier 2589163)

Pension Payment Records

In addition to pension applications, Archives 1 houses documentation of payments made to veterans who were approved for pensions.

Some series of pension payment records are found in Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration. Others are found in Record Group 217, Records of the Accounting Officers of the Department of the Treasury.

Series are listed below in rough chronological order.

  • Registers of Pension Payments, 1789–1872 (National Archives Identifier 2642440)
  • M1786, Record of Invalid Pension Payments to Veterans of the Revolutionary War, and the Regular Army and Navy, March 1801–September 1815 (National Archives Identifier 2600769)
  • Index to Pension Agency Payment Books, 1805–1909 (National Archives Identifier 2600763)
  • Pension Agency Payment Books, 1805–1909 (ARC Identifier 2600765)
  • Registers of Pension Payments, ca. 1811–1868 (National Archives Identifier 2545102)
  • Register of Pension Payments, 5/29/1813–7/27/1866 (National Archives Identifier 2642336)
  • Pension Payment Records, 1826–1857 (National Archives Identifier 2602484)
  • Records of Pension Payments, 1859–1901 (National Archives Identifier 2774843)
  • M850, Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907–1933

See Revolutionary War Final Pension Payments for more information about Revolutionary War pension payments.

Related Records

Archives 1 houses additional documentation of U.S. Army veterans' military service. These records include:

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