Presentation Notes: 2004-2005

Massachusetts Military Records: From the Militia to the Present

Presented by Presented by Leonid Kondratiuk

Presentation Notes by Jeanne M. Carley

Leonid Kondratiuk, state military historian of the Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives, spoke about Massachusetts military records at the April 13 meeting of CCGS. The National Guard is in charge of state military records in two locations, Waltham and Milford (computerized records). They have all records of every serviceman in the state from 1775 to the present.

Mr. Kondratiuk, a retired colonel, has overseen the program for the National Guard for the past 25 years. He told his listeners that the first militia unit was organized by the Pilgrims in Plymouth Colony by Miles Standish. Each colonist (citizen military) did his training for duty and paraded on the commons. Every male had to fulfill his military obligation. Records were kept on a muster roll and they were fined or jailed for not appearing. Each had to have his own weapons, a halberd (having an axlike blade and a steel spike mounted on the end of a long shaft), an arquebus (matchlock gun), then used muskets. At first they wore suits of armor and carried pikes. The officers were selected by the Governor and had to be trustworthy; eventually they were elected throughout the 19th century.

Colonial militia records do not list members of the militia, with some exceptions; all males aged 16-60, with few exceptions, were members of the militia. The first records were of King Phillips's War between the Plymouth Colony and the Indians. Not a lot survived, but all males served, even the minister. This was the last time the entire militia was called up. For the French and Indian War, see: Massachusetts Soldiers in the French and Indian Wars by Robert MacKay (NEHGS, 1978). At that time, the "impregnable" Louisburg fortress in French Acadia was captured and again, the second time. What provincial rolls exist are in the State Archives.

In the Revolutionary War, virtually all males of military age served on active duty either in the Massachusetts Militia or Continental Army. They had an obligation to join the militia as well as war duty. See Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War (Boston, 1900). These blue books are the place to start, advised the military historian. The Colonial microfilmed reels of Soldiers & Sailors in the Revolutionary War, 1890, in their library have 120,000 names, also in CD-Rom. He stressed these are original documents (primary records).

The militia minutemen were younger, better trained amateurs who had experience in the French & Indian Wars and trained their men. While the British were trained for volley fire, the Americans had better combat experience than the British. He suggested that if your ancestor is not in the archives, to try the local historical society. Not all militia soldiers organized records.

From 1792-1840 all males, with some exceptions, aged 18-45 served in the Massachusetts Militia. State records do not list enlisted men. However, all officers are listed in the Archives of the Massachusetts National Guard and Military Museum and Archives.

War of 1812: Massachusetts men had very limited service in this war. See Records of The Massachusetts Volunteer Militia Called Out By The Governor of Massachusetts To Suppress A Threatened Invasion During the War of 1812-1814 (Boston, 1913). The state didn't want war with Britain because of trade with the Continent and with India. It played no part until 1814 when the British fleet came into Boston Harbor. Nineteen-hundred men were called up for wartime services and records were published.

Mexican War: Very limited service. Contact National Guard Military Museum and Archives. Only about 1,000 from Massachusetts served.

Massachusetts needed a volunteer army as it was down to 6,000 from 50,000. The elite militia units for towns were called up for riot duty and camps. Records available. No discharge records until midway through WWII. State records are free.

Civil War-1861: Massachusetts militia units are first to be called up (5,000 militiamen) since they are best equipped and trained so they helped save the Capitol. Known as state militia troops, they wore uniforms with the Miles Standish symbol. Printed record in Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War (Norwood, 1931). Service record at Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives and National Archives, Washington, D.C. Pension records are at National Archives.

Spanish-American War Era 1898-1902: Massachusetts National Guard Museum and Archives. Data cards. Very small regular army, 70% National Guard troops sent to Cuba, Philippines and Puerto Rico. Framingham was the training center. Eleven thousand from Massachusetts.

Mexican Border Campaign 1916: Massachusetts National Guard Museum & Archives. Data cards.

World War I (1917-1919) Massachusetts National Guard Museum & Archives. Military service card, (testimonial card indicates postwar address). Also town rosters of men and women in military service. New Federal military act to recruit military (200,000 men and women in Massachusetts.) Discharged in 1919 with $50. Draft registration cards through

Massachusetts Volunteer Militia/National Guard: 1840-1992. Muster rolls, enlistment records, service records (after 1945). Massachusetts. National Guard Museum & Archives.

World War II, Korean and Vietnam Wars: Massachusetts paid a $200 state bonus. Veteran required to furnish copy of DD Form 214. These are maintained by Office of the Adjutant General, Military Records Branch, 508-233-7780. These records are covered by the Privacy Act. Muster rolls in and out preserved in binders in Archives. Five-hundred thousand from Massachusetts in WWII. Servicemen received two papers: honorable discharge and military separation - what he did, medals, wounded, etc.

Each service has its own documents, Army being the best. Veteran's Office closed for records - have to call office, veteran or next of kin. 1912 to present service record in national file. However, 1973 fire destroyed most records of WWII, Air Corp, and Korean. Only WWI muster records left. Massachusetts required a copy of record to provide benefits so it's the only state with records.

Disability Records - up to 1960. Start with National Archives.

For military information prior to 1912: Use NATF Form 86, mail to National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., SW., Washington, DC. 20408. For pensions use NATF Form 85. Each record costs $35.

For military information after 1912: Use SF Form 180. Mail to National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.

Questions: Contact Massachusetts National Guard Museum & Archives at
44 Salisbury Street, Worcester, MA 01609.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM.
Telephone: 508-797-0334

See the Presentation Notes Index for summaries of other presentations given at the Society's monthly meetings.