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Military Records: Revolutionary War

The Revolutionary War pension application files were primarily created as a result of legislation enacted by Congress between 1818 and 1855. Revolutionary War pension files average 30 pages, with some ranging up to 200 pages. There are five basic types of files: Survivor (s) files (successful application made by the veteran himself), Widow (W) files (successful application made by veteran's widow), Rejected (R) files (application made by a veteran, widow, or other heir that was rejected), No Papers files (a file for a disability pension application claim destroyed by the War Dept. fire of 1800 or the British burning of Washington in 1814), and Bounty Land Warrant (BLW) files (successful application for a bounty land warrant).

Loyalists, also referred to as "Tories," "King's Men," or "Royalists" were persons who remained loyal to the Crown during the American Revolution. They constituted 15-20 percent of the colonial population (about 300,000 persons). Some depended on Britain for their livelihood and had considerable wealth and property, such as appointees to petty offices, lawyers, and merchants, while others were simple farmers and craftsmen. The most loyalists were in New York (New York City), South Carolina (Savannah, Charleston), Georgia, and East Florida; they were relatively strong in Massachusetts (Boston) and New Jersey; they were fairly strong in New Hampshire (Portsmouth, Falmouth), Rhode Island (Newport), Connecticut, and North Carolina; and, they were fairly weak in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. After the war, under laws of the Continental Congress, person who had been sympathetic to the British cause were stripped of their civil rights, subjected to mob persecution or imprisonment, and had their land confiscated. The result was an exodus of exiles who wanted to continue as British citizens on British soil. In 1784, about 70,000-100,000 loyalists left the United States. About 17,000 took slaves to British sugar colonies in the West Indies; about 7,000 went to Britain; and about 46,000 went to Canada (16,000 to Nova Scotia; 14,000 to New Brunswick; and 10,000 to Hamilton, Niagara, the Bay of Quinte, Kingston on Lake Ontario, and to the St. Lawrence River area between lake Ontario and Montreal. Some loyalists sought to recover their fortunes, land, and property and between the mid 1780s and 1840s descendants of persons who fled to Canada returned to the United States. Many were the early settlers of Michigan.

  • Allen, Robert S. Loyalist Literature : An annotated bibliographic guide to the writings on the Loyalists of the American Revolution. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1982.
  • American Revolutionary War Soldiers & Their Descendants. Get in touch with other people researching the same Revolutionary War soldiers.
  • American State Papers, Class 9, Claims. Washington, 1834. Veterans affected by documents destroyed in 1800 or British burning of Washington in 1814. Data relating to the "pre-1814" files were copied from the 1835 Report from the Secretary of War in Relation to the Pension Establishment of the United States. 23rd Congress, 1st session, S. Doc. 514 by the Veteran's Administration.
  • ($). Ancestry has about 25 databases directly related to the Revolutionary War, such as Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots; American Genealogical-Biographical Index; American Revolutionary War Rejected Pensions; Daughters of the American Revolution Lineage Books (152 vols.); Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution (17 vols.); Revolutionary War Service Records, 1775-83; Sons of the American Revolution; Daughters of the American Revolution; and others. Some of the largest Loyalist databases include: Loyalists in the American Revolution: Miscellaneous Records; Old United Empire Loyalists List; and, United Empire Loyalists, Parts I-II.
  • Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants -- Awarded by State Governments. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1996.

  • Bockstruck, Lloyd DeWitt. Revolutionary War Pensions Awarded by State Governments 1775-1874, the General and Federal Governments Prior to 1814, and by Private Acts of Congress to 1905. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co, 2011.
  • Boyle, Joseph Lee. Fire Cake and Water -- The Connecticut Infantry at the Valley Forge Encampment. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Co., 1999, 2004 reprint.
  • Brown, Wallace. The Good Americans. The Loyalists in the American Revolution.
    New York: William Morrow & Co, 1969.
  • Bunnell, Paul J. Research Guide to Loyalist Ancestors Archives, Manuscripts, and Published Sources. Bowie MD: Heritage Books Inc. 2000.
  • Coldham, Peter Wilson. American Loyalist Claims. National Genealogical Society. 1980. The aftermath of the Revolution produced vast amounts of written evidence from both loyalists and patriots regarding their wartime activities and inheritance of property. Original documents (collected by London officials and now accessible in Surrey) include wills, deeds, descriptions and valuations of real and personal property, memorials by the claimant or his representatives, personal correspondence, etc. Indexed.
  • Cornwallis, Charles Cornwallis, Marquis. An answer to that part of the Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton which relates to the conduct of Lieutenant-General Earl Cornwallis during the campaign in North-America, in the year 1781. London: Printed for J. Debrett, 1783.
  • Cruikshank, Ernest A. and Gavin K. Watt. The History and Master Roll of the King's Royal Regiment of New York. Rev. edition. Campbellville, Ontario: Global Heritage Press, 2006.
  • Curtis, Edward E. "Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution." The American Historical Review, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Oct., 1927), pp. 116-117
  • Divided Hearts: Massachusetts Loyalists, 1765-1790: A Biographical Directory.  Has information on 1,705 loyalists. New England Historic Genealogical Society ($).

  • Family Tree Maker. Revolutionary War Pension Lists. Military Records. Family tree maker's family archives, #145. [S.l.]:, 2001. Contains images of the pages from twelve volumes of Revolutionary War pension records. Originally published between 1792 and 1841, these records were reprinted by the Genealogical Publishing Company and volumes contain information on approximately 110,000 individuals. Accuracy was checked by the War Department before submission to Congress. Arranged by state and territory, information given for each pensioner generally includes rank, regiment annual allowance, description of service ... The following volumes are included in this Family Archive: The Pension Lists of 1792-1795, Index to U.S. Invalid Pension Records, 1801-1815 ... and many more.
  • ($). Features historical newspapers, books, documents and obituaries. Revolutionary War resources include pension requests, widows' claims, land grants and the American State Papers (1789-1838).
  • Giller, Sadye and William H. Dumont. Index of Revolutionary War pension applications. Washington, 1966
  • Hatcher, Patricia Law. Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots. Dallas, Texas: Pioneer Heritage Press, 1987-88.
  • Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April 1775 to December 1783. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Company. 1914, 1932, 2005 reprint.
  • HeritageQuest Online. ($) Many Revolutionary War soldiers were awarded pensions and land for their military service. HeritageQuest Online has actual images of all 81,000 pension and bounty land warrant applications. They name more than 138,000 pensioners and dependents, but only the pensioners names are indexed.
  • How to Obtain a Revolutionary War Pension File.
  • Illinois Trails Military Data Online. In addition to lists of Revolutionary War pensioners and Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Illinois, this site also has a list of American prisoners of war during the Revolution.
  • Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives. Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1976. Is an index to the name of every pensioner (veteran and widow) who applied. This index is also known as "Hoyt's Index."
  • Index to Loyalist Muster Rolls - Search their extensive collection of orderley books, lists of regiments and muster rolls.
  • Index to New York Revolutionary War Invalid Pension Records 1801-1815. This index covers New York residents in pension records at the National Archives.
  • Johnston, Henry P. The Yorktown Campaign and the surrender of Cornwallis, 1781. NY: Harper & Bros., 1881.
  • Johnston, Ross B. West Virginians in the American Revolution. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Co., 1939-1947, 2005 reprint.
  • Kentucky Secretary of State Land Office: Revolutionary War Warrants. Virginia granted land in Kentucky to Revolutionary War veterans, and this database indexes the 4,748 bounty land warrants.
  • Library of Virginia. Military records include images of Revolutionary War bounty warrants, state pensions and rejected claims.
  • Loyalist Lists: Over 200 Loyalist Names and Families from the Haldimand Papers. Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1984.
  • McCall, Mrs. Howard H. Roster of Revolutionary Soldiers in Georgia. Volume I. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Co., 1941, 2004 reprint.
  • McCall, Mrs. Howard H. Roster of Revolutionary Soldiers in Georgia. Volume II. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Co., 1968, 2004 reprint.
  • McCall, Mrs. Howard H. Roster of Revolutionary Soldiers in Georgia. Volume III. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Co., 1969, 2004 reprint.
  • Merriman, Brenda Dougall. United Empire Loyalists: A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada. Campbellville, Ontario: Global Heritage Press, Inc., 2006.
  • Moore, Christopher. The Loyalists: Revolution, Exile, Settlement; 1984
  • Murray, Suzanne. Revolutionary War compiled military service records, pension application files, and bounty-land warrant application files. Arlington, Virginia: Education Dept., National Genealogical Society, 1994
  • National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). M804. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files. 2,670 microfilm rolls and M805. Selected Records from Revolutionary War and Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files. 898 microfilm rolls. Two filmings of these records.  M804 has all the pension files and M805 has only selected records from the files, up to a maximum of ten substantive pages per file. The latter were deemed more significant genealogical documents by NARA employees decades ago, and include pension and bounty land warrant applications, old jackets (envelopes) showing the act under which pension payments were made or the bounty land warrant number, property lists, family records from Bibles or orther books, copies of marriage records, and final payment vouchers. The "nonselected" records were everything else. Many libraries purchased the more incomplete M805 version.
  • National Genealogical Society. Index of Revolutionary War pension applications in the National Archives.  Washington, D.C.: The Society, 1976. Alphabetically listed Revolutionary War veterans and their widows who applied for pensions and bounty land warrants, including all additions and corrections uncovered by the National Archives in their preparation for microfilming the actual pension files. An excellent article on pension legislation appears in the introductory matter.
  • New England Historic Genealogical Society ($). Massachusetts Revolutionary War Pensioners' Recepts, 1799-1807 and 1829-1837, contain images of soldiers' receipts, including the pensioners' signatures or marks.
  • New York Revolutionary War Pension Lists of 1792-1795. Describe the wounds from buckshot, musket balls and Indians' tomahawks.
  • Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty's Daughters: the Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800. New York: HarperCollins, 1980.
  • Nova Scotia Archives & Records Management. This databases has abstracts of petitions for land on mainland Nova Scotia from 1769 to 1799 and on Cape Breton Island from 1787 to 1843.
  • The On-line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies. In addition to an index to loyalist muster rolls, you'll find regimental documents, land petitions and post-war settlement documents.
  • Palmer, Gregory S. A Bibliography of Loyalist Source Material in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. Westport, Conn., 1982.
  • Palmer, Gregory. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. Westport, Connecticut: Meckler Publishing Co., 1984.
  • Pennsylvania State Archives. The archives has digitized the Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File, providing information on Revolutionary War service in the Pennsylvania Militia, the Pennsylvania Line and the Navy. Details include name, rank, county of residence and battalion. The Militia Officers Index Cars, 1775-1800, include information on Pennsylvania militia officers who served during the American Revolution.

  • Peterson, Clarence Stewart. Known Military Dead During the American Revolutionary War, 1775-1783. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1967.

  • Prechtel-Kluskens, Claire. "Dig Deeper into Less Well Known Revolutionary War Records." NGS Magazine 35, 2 (April-June 2009): 52-55.
  • Prechtel-Kluskens, Claire. "National Archives: Revolutionary War Pension Files--An Introduction." NGS NewsMagazine. 32:2 (April/May/June 2006): 34-37.

  • Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. Many Loyalists were granted land in New Brunswick after the war and land records often reveal their places of residence and names of the family members. On this site you can search indexes to 54,017 land grants and 67,535 land petitions.
  • Reid, William D. Reid. Sons and Daughters of American Loyalists of Upper Canada. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1973.
  • Resch, John Phillips. Suffering Soldiers: Revolutionary War Veterans, Moral Sentiment and Political Culture in the Early Republic. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999.
  • Revolutionary War Pensioners Living in the State of Ohio in 1818-1819. Includes veterans from other states.
  • Sabine, Lorenzo. Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution. Boston: Little, Brown, Co., 1979, 1984.
  • Salley, Alexander S. Records of the Regiments of the South Carolina Line in the Revolutionary War. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Co., 1904-1906, 2005 reprint.
  • Smith, Clifford Neal. British and German Deserters, Dischargees, and Prisoners of War Who May Have Remained in Canada and the United States, 1774-1783. Part One and Part Two [and] Deserters and disbanded Soldiers from British, German, and Loyalist Military Units in the South, 1782. 3 parts in 1. Baltimore, Maryland, Clearfield Co., 1988, 1989, 1991, 2004 reprint.
  • Sons of the American Revolution ($)  Has various indexes available on CDs.

  • Thwaites, Reuben Gold, and Louise Phelps Kellogg. The Revolution on the Upper Ohio, 1775-1777. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1970.
  • United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada. Is Creating a directory of Loyalists and the list contains about 3,000 names so far.

  • United States. Revolutionary Pensioners of 1818. Baltimore, Md: Clearfield Co, 1991. Part A of this important sourcebook contains the names of 3,814 invalid pensioners, arranged alphabetically under each state or territory, with their rank and annual stipend. Part B contains the names of 2,086 additional pensioners with their rank, annual stipend, and starting date of the pension.
  • USGenWeb Archives Revolutionary War Pensions Project. Volunteers have transcribed many Revolutionary War pension records.
  • Valley Forge Legacy. This database has details on more than 30,000 soldiers who served at Valley Forge with George Washington in the winter of 1777-78.
  • Wallace, W. Stewart. The United Empire Loyalists: A Chronicle of the Great Migration; Volume 13 of the "Chronicles of Canada (32 volumes); 1914, Toronto.
  • Ward Chipman Paers. Ward Chipman the Elder, (1754-1824), a Massachusetts lawyer, was also an army administrator in the State of New York between 1777 and 1783. In 1784, he settled in New Brunswick, where he served as solicitor general until 1808. The Ward Chipman Papers contain muster rolls of Loyalists, and their families, who were members of demobilized regiments and who settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. This research tool provides access to nearly 19,000 references to Loyalist families.
  • White, Katherine Keogh. The King's Mountain Men: The Story of the Battle, with Sketches of the American Soldiers Who Took Part. Baltimore, Maryland: Clearfield Company, Inc., 2007, 1924.
  • White, Virgil D. Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files.  5 volumes. Waynesboro, Tennessee: National Historical Publishing Co., 1990-92. It is primarily based on microfilm publication M805. It gives a brief synopsis of the contents of the pension files and, most importantly, helps researchers discover clues to relationships between Revolutionary era families due to the the testimony given by relatives and neighbors on behalf of a veteran's claim.
  • White, Virgil D. Index to Revolutionary War Service Records. 4 volumes. Waynesboro, Tennessee: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1995.
  • Winthrop, Robert Charles. Oration on the hundredth anniversary of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis to the combined forces of America and France, at Yorktown, Virginia, 19th October, 1781: delivered at Yorktown, 19th October, 1881. Boston, MA: Boston, Little, Brown, 1881.
  • Young, Alfred F. The Shoemaker and the Tea Party. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, 1999. Is an account of the public's memory and treatment of the Revolutionary War years in the first fifty years of American history.