Revolutionary War Service Series (Pension Applications proper)

The records, --The Revolutionary War service series consists of pension application records created chiefly under acts of Congress dating between 1818 and 1853. The earliest act, approved March 18, 1818 (3 Stat. 410), applied to veterans of the continental establishment and the naval service who had served a minimum of 9 months. Its effectiveness was greatly curtailed by an act of Congress approved May 1, 1820 (3 Stat. 569), which provided that the pensioners submit property schedules proving that they were needy. The most liberal act was an act approved June 7, 1832 (4 Stat. 529), which provided that veterans with 6 months service, irrespective of the type of service and irrespective of need, were entitled to apply for pensions. Beginning with an act approved July 4, 1836 (5 Stat. 127), widows of veterans with the requisite minimum service were entitled to pensions provided that they had married the veterans before the expiration of the last period of the veteran's service. Other acts provided pensions for widows who married veterans at later dates; finally an act approved February 3, 1853 (10 Stat. 154), allowed pensions to widows irrespective of the dates of marriage. Because of the absence of many of the official records of the Revolutionary War, it was often necessary for an applicant to submit evidence of service and identity such as a certificate of discharge or a commission, an affidavit of a comrade in arms, or a leaf from a family Bible with family data.

The files are arranged alphabetically by name of veteran. Interfiled with or consolidated within the individual files of the Revolutionary War service series are the following related materials: transcripts of the invalid pension reports described above under Revolutionary War Invalid Series (contained in that section on the web page) most of the Revolutionary War bounty-land warrant application records and the large record cards relating to bounty-land warrant application records that were destroyed by fire, described below under Bounty-Land Warrant Application Records; and some final payment vouchers described below under Pension Payment Records, Treasury Department Records of Payments to Revolutionary War and Other Pensioners.

The records contain appropriate cross references to the half-pay files of Virginia naval officers described later in this chapter under Claims Files for Special Naval Awards. Select documents in some files, such as commissions, discharge papers, diaries, and family Bibles submitted with the claims as evidence, have been segregated for historical purposes, but appropriate cross references have been made in the files. Some documents were segregated and transferred to the Library of Congress in 1909 pursuant to an act of Congress approved February 25, 1903 (32 Stat. 865).

Indexes to the records. - -An alphabetical name index to the Revolutionary War pension application files has appeared serially beginning March 1943 in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. The index does not, however, include entries relating to transcripts of the 1796 reports on invalid pensioners described above under the Revolutionary War invalid series in the section on Reports Retained by the War Department. The printed index covering entries for the files of veterans whose surnames begin with the letters A through S is available on microfilm. Also reproduced on microfilm are the face sides of jackets (envelopes) or record cards relating to veterans whose surnames begin with the letters T through Z.

The printed and microfilmed indexes show the name of the veteran; the State from which he served, provided the service was other than that rendered with the Continental Line or naval forces; the name of his widow in appropriate instances; and the pension application file number and or the bounty-land warrant application file number. (The Revolutionary War bounty-land warrant application files are described later.)

Information in the records. --A pension application file shows the name, rank, military or naval unit, and period of service of the veteran. If he applied for a pension, it shows his age or date of birth, place of birth, and place of residence. If the widow applied, it shows the date and place of his death, her age and the place of her residence, the date and place of her marriage to the veteran, and her maiden name.

Research aids. --There are several published lists of value in identifying Revolutionary War pensioners. The Revolutionary War and other pensioners who were or had been on the rolls are listed by name of State or Territory in War Department Report From the Secretary of War, . . . in Relation to the Pension Establishment of the United States, 1835 (23d Cong., 1st sess,, S. Doc, 514; serials 249-251), unindexed. Volume 1 lists the names of pensioners residing in New England; volume 2, those residing in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia; and volume 3, all others.

The names of pensioners on the rolls, in 1840 were obtained from the population census schedules. The pensioners are listed by name with age in Department of State, A Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services (Washington, 1841), an unindexed volume, which was reprinted in 1954. Entries are arranged by name of State or Territory, thereunder by name of county, and, in the case of some counties, by name of minor subdivision. Some entries, however, do not relate to Federal pensioners and may refer to State pensioners.

The Genealogical Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has prepared a typescript index to the names appearing in the publication just cited. The Society also has a negative microfilm copy of the index. The National Archives Library also has a typescript copy and a microfilm copy of the index.

For an alphabetical list of some abstracts of pension application files and citations to publications in which the abstracts have been published, consult Donald Lines Jacobus, Index to Genealogical Periodicals, vol. 2, p. 102-115 (New Haven, 1948).


Ordering Copies of Military Service Records (after Côtè, "The Genealogist's Guide to Charleston Co., SC" Richard N. Côtè, Côtè Genealogical Publications, Ladson, SC 1978.)

Copies of the continental line military service records (which are more rare than those of South Carolina militia), revolutionary war pension application records (the most rewarding records, if you are lucky enough to have an ancestor in them), and bounty land warrant records (There were supposedly some bounty lands given in SC) may be ordered from the National Archives: National Archives (G.S.A.), Military Service Records (NNCC), Washington, D.C. 20408, and request three or four copies of GSA Form 6751: Order and Billing For Copies of Veteran's Records. To file a request for records, you must have the following minimum information: name; State from which he served; war in which he served, or dates between which he served.  Note that there are a few documented women who served (masquerading as males) in the revolutionary war!  There is room for unit and branch in which he served (infantry, cavalry, artillery, navy), date of birth, place of birth, name of widow, and other information, if available. The more information you supply, the more likely it will be that the National Archives can locate the records.  If any potentially relevant information is located, you will receive notification of cost for photocopies and a bill.  Note that the Archives will only send what they find.  This information is not necessarily that of your ancestor!  For a more complete search, visit the U.S. National Archives in Washington in person, or one of the regional branches (which all have microfilm copies of these records.


Details on records at the U.S. National Archives is taken from, and thanks to: "Guide to Genealogical Records in the National Archives" M.B. Colket, Jr. & F.E. Bridges, U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 022-002-00016-3, 1964.  Errors in transcribing are my own.

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This digitization and all subsequent modification is Copyright ©  1999, Dr. Frank Oliver Clark. These documents may be freely used for private purposes, and included in your own genealogy.  However, this digitization and all subsequent modification is copyrighted by Dr. Frank O. Clark and may not be sold, nor given to anyone who may attempt to derive profit from same. Please send any errors, corrections, conjectures, updates, etc. to Dr. Frank O. Clark.