The Judge Advocate General's Department was established by an act of Congress of July 5, 1884, which consolidated the Bureau of Military Justice, with the Judge Advocate General as its head, and the corps of judge advocates of the Army. Although this act marked the formal establishment of the present department( which is headed by the Office of the Judge Advocate General), there had been a judge advocate of the Continental Army as early as 1775, and provision had been made by law for a judge advocate within the Army in 1797. The number and status of judge advocates varied during the next 50 years. In 1849 provision was made for the appointment of a Judge Advocate of the Army; and this officer was designated as the Judge Advocate General by an act of July 17, 1862, which provided also that all records of courts martial and of military commissions be forwarded to him. Prior to that date those records were kept in the Office of the Secretary of War until 1835 and after that in the Office of the Adjutant General. The act further provided that each army in the field should have a jduge advocate.
In 1864 the Judge Advocate General was placed at the head of the newly created Bureau of Military Justice, the function of which was to administer justice in the Army. The act of 1884 that changed the status of the Bureau by providing for the Judge Advocate General's Department did not change its power and duties, and today the Judge Advocate General is still the chief legal adviser of the War Department and the Army and is in charge of the system of military justice. The functions of his Office include the furnishing of advice on the legal phases of the business, property, and financial operations under the Secretary of War and on legal questions concerning the administration, control, discipline, and civil relations of the personnel of the Army. On March 9, 1942, the Judge Advocate General was brought under the direct command of the Commanding General, Services of Supply, except for his functions in regard to court martial and certain legal matters concerning which he reports directly to the Secretary of War.
The records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General in the National Archives that are included in this record group and described in this preliminary checklist consist of the central correspondence files, 1842-1912; records relating to the administration of military justice, including general court-martial case files, 1808-1938, and the provision of the court-martial manual, 1918-28; records of certain investigations undertaken by the Office, 1864-1927; records relating to personnel, 1877-1928; and certain international claims files involving Mexico and the Netherlands, 1914-40. Also included are the records of the Assistant Judge Advocate General, 1864-67, and of the Acting Judge Advocate General in Europe, 1918-19.
Records created or inherited by units within the Office of the Judge Advocate General include those of the Military Reservation Division, 1808-1942, relating to military reservations no longer in the possession of the War Department; those of the Civil Affairs Section and the Litigation Division, 1821-42, relating principally to cases tried in the United States Court of Claims; minutes of meetings and correspondence of the War Transactions Board, 1923-26; and records of the Insular Affairs Section, 1915-39, consisting of correspondence,legal opinions, and case files relating to matters involving the War Department and residents of insular possessions of the United States, notably the Philippines and Puerto Rico.
The patent records described in this checklist were created in the Central Patent Section of the Judge Advocate General's Department, its predecessor agencies, and patent commissions on which members of the Section served. Among the commissions whose records are represented in this record group are the Commission on the Adjustment of Foreign Claims, 1922-24, and the Commission for the Adjustment of British Claims, 1932-33. Also included are the records dealing with the investigatory activities of the Section in the settlement of German-Austrian claims, 1928-33. Other records included are those of such predecessors and ancillary patent boards as the Interdepartmental Patents Board, 1922-26; the Munitions Patent Board, 1918-21; the Patent Section of the Purchase Branch of the Purchase, Storage, and Traffic Division, War Department General Staff, 1919-21; and the Patents Branch of the Procurement Division, Office of the Chief of Ordnance, 1918-19.
The records covered by this preliminary checklist amount to 41563 cubic feet and were transferred to the National Archives as Accessions 928 (pt.), 1409, 1438, 1457, 1923, 1924, and 2031. Other records for the same period are in the Office of the Judge Advocate General and in the War Department Records Branch, The Adjutant General's Office.