“Wounded Civil War Soldiers” by Allen C. Redwood from the CMH website.

“Wounded Civil War Soldiers” by Allen C. Redwood from the CMH website.

An essential resource for understanding the military during the Civil War, or any other war for that matter, is The Center of Military History (CMH). The center is responsible for recording the official history of the Army in both peace and war.

The center is one of the major publishers of military history in the world.

Historians at the center compiled the Official Records of the Rebellion, a monumental history of the Civil War begun in 1874.

Over the decades the center has expanded its role in military history education, the management of the Army’s museum system and the introduction of automated data-retrieval systems.

All center publications currently in print are listed on CMH’s online book catalog. The center’s newest and recent books appear in a print catalog, Publications Catalog of the U. S. Army Center of Military History. Both the online and print catalogs explain how to get CMH publications. Many publications also are posted on the center’s home webpage.

One CMH online publication I used in researching Poore Boys In Gray, for example, was Ted Ballard’s Battle of Ball’s Bluff.

In addition, Army historians maintain the organizational history of Army units. The center provides units of the Regular Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve with certificates of their lineage and honors and other historical material concerning their organizations.

The center also determines the official designations for Army units and works with the Army staff during force reorganizations to preserve units with significant histories, as well as unit properties and related historical artifacts.

CMH serves as a clearing-house for the oral history programs in the Army. It also preserves its own oral history collections, including those from the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, and the many recent contingency operations.

CMH manages a system of 59 Army museums and 176 other holdings, encompassing about 500,000 artifacts and more than 15,000 works of military art.

CMH’s art and documents collections, library and reference services are available to private researchers. Official priorities permitting, its historians, curators and archivists advise researchers on military history and stand ready to share their expertise concerning the location of sources.

I have found the staff at the center responsive to questions I sent by email whenever I needed an additional resource or didn’t understand something about military operations.

Whether you are researching your Civil War ancestor or an ancestor who served in another war, don’t overlook the Center of Military History.