National Archives | RG 110

RG 110 - Provost Marshal Records

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 Glossary Terms


The Provost Marshal General's Bureau was created by an act of Congress approved March 3, 1863, and Col. James B. Fry was appointed Provost Marshal General of the United states on March 17, 1863, a position he held until the Bureau was abolished in 1866. The act assigned to the Provost Marshal General the responsibility for the enrollment of the national forces for the draft and for the detection and arrest of deserters. It also provided for a provost marshal and a board of enrollment to be established in each congressional district. In May 1863, the duties of the Bureau were expanded to include the superintendence of the volunteer recruiting service.

Under the direction of the Provost Marshal General enrollment districts were created based on the number of congressional districts, and for each district a provost marshal was assigned and a board of enrollment'was formed. An acting assistant provost marshal general was appointed for each State to centralize the activities of districts and to act as intermediary between the Provost Marshal General's Office and State agencies. When the responsibility for recruiting was assigned to the Bureau, the acting assistant provost marshal generals also became superintendents of the volunteer recruiting service.

The activities connected with enrolling, drafting, recruiting, enlisting volunteers, and reporting and arresting deserters were carried out by the State and district office~. The functions of supervising the central office branches and field offices, creating policy and regulations, standardizing quotas, tabulating credits, keeping accounts, and disbursing funds were centralized in the Provost Marshal General's Office in Washington, D.C.

The Office was divided into several branches. The Enrollment Branch supervised the operations of the district boards of enrollment, established quotas, and credited enlistments. The Branch also kept enrollment and draft records submitted by the districts. The Deserters' Branch supervised the activities that related to recording, detecting, and arresting deserters. The Medical Branch advised and directed the surseonSof boards of enrollment and issued regulations for examining enrolled men, drafted men, and recruits. It also compiled medical statistics and other medical reports and served as a depository for medical records submitted by the districts. The Veterans Reserve Corps Branch, formerly the Invalid Corps Branch, had charge of the organization and control of the Veterans Reserve Corps, originally organized as the Invalid Corps in April 1863. The corps was composed of reenlisted veterans, disabled during earl ter serv tce , but fit for limited or special service with the Army. The Disbursing Branch ha~ charge of the examination and paJ~ent of accounts of the Provost Marshal General's Bureau, except those relating to collecting and organizing recruits. The Branch was divided into four divisions. At first each division handled the accounts for a specific geographic area, but in July 1864 the Branch was reorganized. The First and Second Divisions became responsible for the payment of aa.Lar-Les of employees; the Third and Fourth Divisions handled remaining accounts.

When the responsibility for conducting the volunteer recruiting service was transferred from the Adjutant General's Office to the Bureau in May 1863, the responsibility of handling the funds appropriated for collecting, drilling, and organizing volunteers was also transferred to the Bureau. A separate branch was set up to control the fund and also part of the fund for the payment of bounty. In practice, this Branch became a second disbursing branch, headed by an assistant adjutant general.

In compliance with the Adjutant General's Office General Order No. 66, dated August 20, 1866, the Bureau and Office of the Provost Marshal General were discontinued and most of the records were transferred to the Adjutant General's Office, where the Enrollment Division was organized to handle many remaining activities of the Bureau. Records created in the Enrollment Division, which was discontinued in 1889, are included with the records of the Provost Marshal General's Office. Records of the Medical Branch were transferred to the Office of the Surgeon General. Along with many records of the Disbursing Branch, the activities and records of the Branch in charge of the Collecting, Drilling, and Organizing Volunteers Fund were transferred to the Disbursing Division of the Adjutant General's Office. Records relating to the Collecting, Drilling, and Organizing Volunteers Fund that were created in the Disbursing Division until 1889 are included with those of the Provost Marshal General's Office branch in charge of the fund.

The records described in this inventory are in Record Group 110, Records of The Provost Marshal General's Bureau (Civil War). They cover the period 1862-89 and amount to 1;582 cubic feet. The inventory is in several parts. The records described in Part I are those of the Provost Marshal General's Office in Washington, D.C., and its successor office, the Enrollment Division of the Adjutant General's Office. Included are records of most of the branches of the Provost ,V,arshal General's Office: Enrollment Branch, Deserters' Branch, Disbursing Branch, Veteran Reserve Corps Branch, and the Branch for disbursing the Collecting, Drilling, and Organizing Volunteers Fund. Although the Mustering and Disbursing Office in Washington, D.C., may not have been a part of the Provost ~Brshal General's Bureau, its records are closely related to those of the Disbursing Branch and have been included in this inventory. Other parts of the inventory will describe the records of State and district provost marshal offices. _A separate introduction will be prepared for each part.

Also in Record Group 110 are Reports and Decisions of the Provost Marshal General, 1863-66, which have been reproduced as Microcopy No. 621.

Other records in the National Archives relating to the Provost Marshal General's Bureau are in Record Group 94, Records of The Adjutant General's Office; Record Group 98, Records of United States Army Commands; and Record Group 112, Records of the Office of The Surgeon General (Army).

List Showing Order in Which Records for States and Territories Were Filed in The Provost Marshal General's Office

New Hampshire 
Rhode Island 
New York 
New Jersey 
Delaware and Maryland 
District of Columbia 
West Virginia 
Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and Dakota 
California and Nevada 
Oregon and Washington 


Part I | Part II | Part III

 Glossary Terms

National Archives | RG 110

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