South Dakota Military Records
U.S. Military Records provides more information on federal military records and search strategies.
Many military records are found at the National Archives, the Family History Library, and other federal and state archives. For South Dakota, the following sources are also very helpful:
Fort Bennett in North Dakota: Textual records of this fort, 1870-1891, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
Fort Dakota --1865-1869
Fort Hale -- (Lower Brulé Indian Reservation) (1870 - 1884), near Reliance
Originally named Post at Lower Brulé Indian Agency or Fort Lower Brulé, located 15 miles south, then moved to the current site in 1870, opposite Crow Creek; Renamed in 1878. The exact site, northeast of town, is now under water.
The remains of soldiers buried at Fort Hale were relocated to Fort McPherson National Cemetery on July 30, 1891.
Fort Hartford --
Fort Kiowa -- (1822 - 1825), Fort Lookout
A Bernard Pratte and Co. fur trade post originally called Fort Lookout (1). It was a 140-foot square palisade with a blockhouse and watch tower.
Fort Meade -- (Veterans Administration)
(Fort Meade Cavalry Museum)
(South Dakota Military Academy - South Dakota Army National Guard)
(1878 - 1944), Fort Meade
Built to defend the gold-mining camps of the Black Hills against the Lakota, and to restore peace, if necessary, on the Indian reservations to the east. Originally called Camp Ruhlen and located on the western side of Bear Butte. Later moved to its present location and renamed Camp Sturgis, and later renamed again. The primary post for actions in the "Ghost Dance War" of 1890 which culminated in the Wounded Knee Massacre; retained because of its location on the railroad and with good routes to reservations when most forts in South Dakota were closed in the 1890's. Used for training and as a POW camp in WWII. The Veterans Administration acquired the site in 1944 to use as a hospital, and a large permanent, modern hospital was built north of the main part of the post, preserving the historic portions of the post, including construction from the WWI and WWII era. Virtually all of the 1880's Officers' quarters and barracks remain in their original setting. The lone survivor of the Battle of Little Bighorn, a horse named Comanche, was retired here. The Old Fort Meade Museum is located here. In the 1980's, the South Dakota Army National Guard established its leadership institute, later named the South Dakota Military Academy, on the old post. At the south end of the original military reservation (now a BLM site) is located the Black Hills National Cemetery, just off I-90; the old post cemetery, now closed for burials, is the Fort Meade National Cemetery.
(information provided by Nathan A. Barton, CE, PE, DEE, member of South Dakota State Historical Society and Council on America's Military Past)
Textual records of this fort, 1878-1917, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
Fort Manuel (1812 - 1813), near Kenel
A St. Louis Missouri Fur Co. trading post, also known as Arikara Post (1). Sakakawea (or Sacagawea) died here in 1812. Her monument is near Mobridge. The post was abandoned after attacks by Indians and the deaths of 15 of the traders.
Old Fort Pierre -- (1831 - 1857), A Bernard Pratt and Co. fur trade post located on the west-side of the Missouri River about three miles above the mouth of the Bad (Teton) River, originally called Fort Pierre Chouteau or Fort Chouteau, and built to replace Fort Tecumseh. It was renamed in 1833. The military purchased the fort in 1855 and renamed it Fort Bennett (1). The fort no longer exists. Some materials were salvaged for the construction of
Fort Randall -- (1856 - 1892), near Pickstown
This was the state's first permanent white settlement and was located on the southern side of the dam. Only the chapel was spared from the damming of the river, which was restored in 1950 from original plans. This was the longest serving post on the Missouri River and was built to replace Fort Pierre (1). It became General Sully's base of operations against the Sioux in 1863 - 1865. During 1870 - 1872 the post was rebuilt at the present site, 1/4 mile from the original location and just downstream.
Textual records of this fort, 1856-1892, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
Fort Robinson -- Nebraska - The post began in 1874 as a temporary cantonment during the turmoil of the frontier Indian Wars. Through the years Fort Robinson was continually expanded and became one of the largest military installations on the northern Plains. The post survived the frontier period and was use by the U.S. Army after World War II.
Fort Sisseton -- Textual records of this fort, 1864-1889, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
Fort Sully -- Textual records of this fort, 1863-1894, including registers, reports, and correspondence, are in the National Archives and are described in Records of United States Army, Continental Commands, 1821-1920, under the section entitled Records of Posts, 1820-1940 (Record Group 393.7).
Fort Thompson - (Crow Creek Indian Reservation)
(1864 - 1867, 1870 - 1871), Fort Thompson
A Federal 300-by-400 foot stockade located at the mouth of Soldier Creek, originally named Post at Crow Creek Indian Agency and became a subpost of Fort Sully (2) in 1870. The government turned the fort over to the Crow Creek Agency in 1871. It was dismantled in 1878.
Fort Totten -- in North Dakota
Encyclopedia of Indian Wars Western Battles and Skirmishes, 1850-1890. By Gregory F. Michno. Mountain Press publishing Co. Missoula, Montana C. 2003 ISBN 0-87842-468-7
Civil War (1861-1865)
The Family History Library has the index to service records of Union volunteers from the Dakota Territory (Family History Library film 881616) and the federal index to pension applications. The actual service and pension records are available only at the National Archives. The library also has a copy of the special census taken in 1890 of Union veterans of the Civil War. An index to the 1890 returns has been published.
Compiled Military Service Records
The Compiled Service Records ($) (Footnote.com) for soldiers who served in organizations from the Dakota Territory are available online. In the future, these records will be made available at no charge through the National Archives web site. The service records are also available at no charge at National Archives research rooms. The compiled service records consist of an envelope containing card abstracts taken from muster rolls, returns, pay vouchers, and other records. Service records may provide rank, unit, date of enlistment, length of service, age, place of birth, and date of death. For more information see Union Service and Pension Records.
Civil War Pension Index Cards
An Index to Pension Applications of veterans who served in the US Army between 1861-1917 is available on FamilySearch. Each card gives the soldier’s name, application and certificate numbers, state of enlistment, and might include rank and death information. The majority of the records are of Civil War veterans, but the collection also includes records for veterans of the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Insurrection, the Indian Wars, and World War I. For more information see Union Service and Pension Records.
The library has enlistment registers for soldiers who served in the regular army from 1798 to 1914 (Family History Library films 350307—). Many of these soldiers served in the western states, including South Dakota, during the Indian Wars. The enlistment registers provide the soldier's rank, unit, commanders, physical description, occupation, and birthplace. The records are arranged by year and alphabetically by surname.
The library has an index of soldiers who applied for pensions between 1892 and 1926, for service in the Indian Wars from 1817 to 1898 (Family History Library films 821610-21). The pension records are available only at the National Archives.
Spanish-American War (1898)
A roster of the officers and enlisted men of the First Infantry Regiment, South Dakota Volunteers is in Doane Robinson, History of South Dakota, Two volumes (B.F. Bowen & Co., 1904; Family History Library book 978.3 H2r v. 1; film 1000583).
World War I (1917-1918)
For a published roster of soldiers who died in the war, see W. M. Haulsee, F.G. Howe, A. C. Doyle, Soldiers of the Great War, Three Volumes. (Washington, D.C.: Soldiers Record Publishing Association, 1920; Family History Library book 973 M23s v. 3; fiche 6051244).
World War I draft registration cards for men ages 18 to 45 may list address, birth date, birthplace, race, nationality, citizenship, and next of kin. Not all registrants served in the war. For registration cards for South Dakota, see:
United States Selective Service System, South Dakota, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. National Archives Microfilm Publications, M1509. Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1987-1988. (On Family History Library films beginning with 1877785.)
To find an individual's draft card, it helps to know his name and residence at the time of registration. The cards are arranged alphabetically by county, within the county by draft board, and then alphabetically by surname within each draft board.
Most counties had only one board; large cities had several. A map showing the boundaries of individual draft boards is available for most large cities. Finding an ancestor's street address in a city directory will help you in using the draft board map. There is an alphabetical list of cities that are on the map. For a copy of this map see:
United States Selective Service System. List of World War One Draft Board Maps. Washington, D.C.: National Archives. (Family History Library film 1498803.)
South Dakota Military Veterans Cemeteries and other Military Records -
- Information about burials at Fort McPherson in Kansas was taken from an old flyer published by the Department of Veteran's Affairs. A list is available at http://www.geocities.com/aolsen_2000/MaxwellFtMcPherson.htm?200814
- South Dakota Research Outline. Salt Lake City, Utah: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Family History Department, 1998, 2001.
- NOTE: All of the information from the original research outline has been imported into the FamilySearch Wiki and is being updated as time permits.