I have had quite a few inquiries this week about researching Confederate soldiers.
There is actually quite a bit of information available. After the war, all of the Confederate records were transferred to a central depository in Washington, D.C. These records are now held at the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration). You can get copies of service records, pension records, payroll and hospitalization records and prisoner of war records. There is a goldmine of information.
You can get service records using an NATF Form 86 for each soldier. Pension records can be ordered using an NATF Form 85. Since you are dealing with the federal government, there are a lot forms and red tape. You can obtain these forms at www.archives.gov/global_pages/inquire_form.html or you can write to NARA, Attn: NWDT1, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001.
Each former Confederate state also has its own archives. You can get these records there as well and it usually doesn't take as long. The Georgia State Archives is located at 5800 Jonesboro Road, Morrow, Ga. You can visit them in person or you can contact them at (678) 364-3710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To have someone search the archives, you need to have a little bit of information. You need the soldier's name at the very least. If you know their home state and unit, all the better. The more information you can give the archivist the better chance you have of him finding the records.
The NPS (National Parks Service) has a Union and Confederate searchable soldier database at http://www.itd.nps.gov/ewss/soldiers.htm. If you can locate your soldier here, you will find out in which unit he served.
There is one problem with searching, however. Some soldiers are only listed with their first initial. You might have several soldiers that could be the one you are looking for. The NPS also gives the history of each unit which is very interesting. You can find out which battles your soldier might have participated in and whether or not his unit was present at the surrender.
One of the best resources for McDuffie County Confederate soldiers is two books written by Thomas Holley. There were 3 companies mustered from this area, The Thomson Guard, Ramsey's Volunteers and Hamilton's Rangers.
Tom has written books on the first two units and is currently working on the third. These books are invaluable. He researched every soldier on that company's roster and has included everything he found in these books. He has census records, personal letters, genealogies and service record/pension information.
Tom has a few books left that he is willing to sell. You can call him at 595-3268 (day) or 595-5304 (night). You can also find these books at the lcoal library.
As wonderful as these records are, they are far from complete. Many of the service records were lost in the war. Many soldiers had died before they received a pension and some never even applied.
However, if you do find your soldier's records you will have something worth reading.