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Missouri's Union Provost Marshal Papers: 1861 - 1866

Missouri Provost Marshal Database

The Missouri State Archives database index project began in 2000, with the goal of creating a finding aid for the Missouri portion of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) War Department Collection of Confederate Records (Record Group 109.14.4 Miscellaneous Records). In addition, through the cooperation of the Julius K. Hunter & Friends African American Research Collection at the St. Louis County Library, the Archives is happy to provide access to the African American recruitment lists from Missouri for the years 1863-1865, part of the NARA Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1780’s-1917 (Record Group 94). These records were generated by the provost marshal before being forwarded to the Colored Troops Division of the Adjutant General’s Office in Washington. This represents a virtually untapped manuscript collection detailing the national experience in the trans-Mississippi West. Completed in 2010, the database contains over 72,000 entries relating to Missouri, some 18,000 these relate to St. Louis.

Using the Database

The database can be searched by name, county, and subject. Place names and dates were not readily identifiable for a small percentage of the county, city, and date fields. The results that are returned from the search are:

  • Name (be alert to alternate spellings of proper names)
  • Subject (subjective main topic phrase assigned by indexer)
  • County (name of Missouri county)
  • City (name of Missouri town/city)
  • Date reel number (State Archives microfilm reel number)

Results for the United States Colored Troops enlistment will include:

  • Name (both slave and master if a slave)
  • County of residence
  • Recruiting station
  • Reel number (State Archives microfilm reel number)
  • Page number
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The records for Union Provost Marshals’ File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians (microfilm reel numbers F1580-F1662) and Recruitment Lists of Volunteers for the United States Colored Troops for the State of Missouri (microfilm reel numbers F1892-F1897) are available online. To request copies of records from Union Provost Marshals’ File of Papers Relating to Individual Citizens (all other reel numbers in the database); please email the citation for the record you want to the Missouri State Archives at [email protected]. The record will be located, the number of pages counted, and you will be notified by email of the cost of the copies. Upon receipt of a check, the copies will be made and mailed to you.

More information:

Records of the Provost Marshal

Although they were created by the Union Army, these documents were associated with Confederate records in the War Department because they relate, in part, to Confederate citizens and sympathizers. The records are split into two series, the first, Microcopy 345, is entitled Union Provost Marshals’ File of Papers Relating to Individual Citizens. The second series, Microcopy 416, is referenced as, Union Provost Marshals’ File of Papers Relating to Two or More Civilians.

The collection details how the provost marshal affected the lives of citizens who came into contact with the Union Army. The provost marshal records offer a unique look at a state divided and the war society that resulted. In addition to a resource for military research, the provost marshal papers provide information about the role of women during the war, its effect on slavery, and the difficulties experienced by war refugees.

The documents include correspondence, provost marshal court papers, orders, passes, paroles, oaths of allegiance to the United States, transportation permits, and claims for compensation for property used or destroyed by military forces. Citizens could be arrested simply on suspicion; charges could be initiated by anyone, civilian or military. Statements by accusers or witnesses were taken down as evidence.

Records of the Adjutant General’s Office

The records of this series, Microcopy 1894, are formally entitled Descriptive Recruitment Lists of Volunteers for the United States Colored Troops for the State of Missouri, 1863-1865. Consisting exclusively of bound volumes, these records document the recruitment of African Americans for the United States Colored Troops (USCT) under General Order 135, November 14, 1863. This order authorized the provost marshals throughout Missouri to recruit slaves and free blacks and to compensate loyal slave owners up to $300 for each slave they allowed to enlist.

These records provide the name of the recruit, and of the master if applicable, the county of residence, a physical description of the recruit, state and county of birth, occupation, and details of the enlistment, including when, where, by whom and the period.

History of the Provost Marshal

The Provost Marshal's Office
The Provost Marshal's Office,
Harper's Weekly, April 12, 1866, p. 244

On July 18, 1861, Union General Irvin McDowell issued General Order No. 18, defining the authority of the provost marshal in the Army of Northeast Virginia, as the troops moved southward on campaign. In 1862, General George B. McClellan assumed command of the newly formed Division of the Potomac, which included the departments of Northeast Virginia and Washington. He issued the first orders describing the duties of provost marshals within a field army during the Civil War. For the duration of the war, each division, brigade, and corps of the Union Army included a provost marshal. Guards were assigned to the provost marshal to assist in carrying out assigned functions, chief of which was preservation of order.

In September 1862, the federal Adjutant General's office issued General Order No. 140, appointing special provost marshals for each state. The special provost marshal had many responsibilities, which included investigating charges or acts of treason and arresting deserters, spies, and persons deemed disloyal. A reorganization of the War Department in 1863 eliminated the position of special provost marshal, but appointed an assistant provost marshal general (APMG) for each state, a provost marshal for each congressional district and a deputy provost marshal for each county. The duties remained much the same. In addition, the provost marshal assigned to the district was responsible for maintaining troop discipline, assuming custody of prisoners and deserters, administering punishment, and suppressing any depredations and disturbances caused by Army troops or individual soldiers.

These provost marshals were assigned regardless of the level of active warfare within a state or district. In districts with active fighting, the provost marshal's primary duty was to limit marauding against citizens, prevent stragglers on long marches, and generally suppress gambling or other vices not conducive to good order and discipline. However, in many districts, the war's fighting was somewhat removed and the area did not see battles. In these areas, the provost marshal's duties were more magisterial. The provost marshal had the power to administer and enforce the law when it came to regulating public places; conduct searches, seizures, and arrests; issue passes to citizens for movement in and out of Union lines; and record and investigate citizen complaints. It was not uncommon for the law to be suspended in many cases and for the provost marshal, mostly independent of any real supervision, to dispense with the rules of civil procedure.

For the complete federal description of the collection, see the National Archives Microfilm Publications, Pamphlet Accompanying Microcopy No. 345 and No. 416.