Native American Heritage

Photo of Gen. Stand Watie, ca. 1860 - ca. 1865, National Archives Identifier 529026

Indian Companies

Volunteer Militias and Regiments

From the War of 1812 to the Civil War, Americans Indians served in numerous U.S. volunteer militia organizations. Sometimes they fought against other American Indians in campaigns such as the Creek War of 1813, the Second Seminole War (1836–1842), and the Navajo War of 1849 in New Mexico.

During the Civil War, many American Indian cavalry units served in the Confederate Army of the Trans-Mississippi under Cherokee leader and Brigadier General Stand Watie. The Union Army’s Indian Home Guard also recruited volunteers from the Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek, and Seminole).

The National Archives in Washington, DC, houses records documenting American Indians' service in volunteer militias and regiments prior to World War I, including compiled military service records, volunteer muster rolls, and bounty land applications.

Learn more about Indian volunteer companies in the 2007 Prologue article "Native Americans in the Antebellum U.S. Military" and the 1993 Prologue article "Indian Bounty Land Applications."  

Compiled Military Service Records, 1812–1865

refer to caption

Compiled Military Service Record of Es-mi-le (Esmila)

The War Department created military service records for volunteer soldiers in state regiments from the Revolutionary War to the Philippine Insurrection. These records include basic service information compiled from muster rolls, payrolls, and other War Department records.

  • Carded Service Records of Volunteer Organizations: War of 1812 (National Archives Identifier 300392)
  • Carded Service Records of Volunteer Organizations During Indian Wars (National Archives Identifier 300395)
  • Carded Service Records of Volunteer Organizations: Civil War (National Archives Identifier 300398)
  • Carded Records of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations (National Archives Identifier 586957)

Compiled military service records of Confederate soldiers are fully digitized and available online through and; select records are also available in the National Archives Catalog. See Compiled Military Service Records for the digital availability of other records.

U.S. Volunteer Muster Rolls, 1812–1866

The muster rolls of U.S. volunteer organizations include Indian companies. These records provide the company’s locations during the reporting period, as well as the names of individuals who had deserted, died, or been discharged.

  • Muster Rolls of Volunteer Organizations: War of 1812 (National Archives Identifier 654644)
  • Muster Rolls of Volunteer Organizations in Various Indian Wars and Other Incidents Requiring the Employment of Troops, 1794–1858 (National Archives Identifier 654651)
  • Muster Rolls of Volunteer Organizations: Civil War, Mexican War, Creek War, Cherokee Removal, and Other Wars, 1836–1866 (National Archives Identifier 300388)

These records have not yet been digitized. Contact the Archives 1 Reference Branch in Washington, DC, for access information.

Applications for Bounty Land Files

An act of March 3, 1855 (10 Stat. L. 701) extended military bounty land laws to include American Indians, entitling veterans from the Revolutionary War and the Indian Wars of 1818 and 1836 to warrants that could be exchanged for public lands. A few earlier acts had specified bounty lands for Indians, but this act marked the first time land was made available on a large scale.

Bounty land was only given out as a benefit for military service, but the applicant could be the veteran, his widow, or a dependent heir. Regardless of who applied, the claim was based on the service of the veteran.

Records Created by the Veterans Administration

  • Case Files of Bounty-Land Warrant Applications of Indians Based on Service between 1812 and 1855, ca. 1812–ca. 1900 (National Archives Identifier 160913340)
  • Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, ca. 1800–ca. 1900 (National Archives Identifier 567388)
  • 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)

Records Created by the Office of Indian Affairs

  • Index to Abstract List of Indian Applicants for Military Bounty Lands, 1855–1875 (National Archives Identifier 2111798)
  • Abstract List of Indian Applicants for Military Bounty Lands, 1855–1882 (National Archives Identifier 2113317)

These records have not yet been digitized. Contact the Archives 1 Reference Branch in Washington, DC, for access information.