Civil War Biographies: Introduction

Since 2002, hundreds of volunteers have worked in Green-Wood’s Civil War Project and have identified over 5,000 people interred at Green-Wood who played a role in the Civil War. Volunteers identified these individuals, located their graves, wrote their biographies, did follow-up research on them, and rewrote those biographies. We now share these biographies with you. They are fully searchable.

In August of 2002, The Green-Wood Historic Fund restored and rededicated New York City’s Civil War Soldiers Monument on Green-Wood’s Battle Hill. After the ceremonies, I thanked the uniformed re-enactors who had attended the rededication. They, in response, thanked me for the honor of participating. It soon struck me: perhaps there was something more we could do at Green-Wood to honor those who had sacrificed so much during the Civil War.

So, a month later, in September, 2002, we launched The Green-Wood Historic Fund’s Civil War Project. Our goal was to identify those who had served, to tell their story, and to honor them. When we began, we naively thought, based on numbers from those who had searched The Green-Wood Cemetery over the years, that there were 500 or so Civil War veterans interred there. Were we wrong! In the ensuing years, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, we have searched through The New York Times and the Brooklyn Daily Eagle online for articles identifying Civil War veterans, checked 162,000 names of men who mustered into regiments and companies raised primarily in Brooklyn or New York City against the Cemetery’s online database, reviewed index cards at the New York State Military Museum for each veteran for whom a government-issued gravestone was ordered about a century ago, consulted pension records at the National Archives, regimental histories, the Cemetery’s Burial Registry (comparing ages of soldiers and those interred, looking for men who died in soldier homes, in battle, or from disease in Southern states during the Civil War), and examined cemetery gravestones, Callahan’s list of Naval officers, online databases, as well as many other resources. Descendants and researchers have contacted us from all across the United States and around the world with information. After all this research, we are now putting all of our work online—a biographical dictionary of more than 5,000 Civil War veterans as well as civilians who played a role in the Civil War.

But, our task is far from finished. Our Civil War Project, after going on for more than three times as long as the Civil War itself—is still a work in progress. We are sure that we have missed many veterans. The Brooklyn Historical Society has in its collections the memorial book of the Henry M. Lee Post #21 of Grand Army of the Republic, which has a full page for each veteran/member’s biography and place of burial.  Thirty-four men memorialized in that book are at Green-Wood; we had found 11 of them before finding that book. That is a “success rate” of 31%. Relying on these numbers, and knowing that we had just over 3,000 men identified at that time, it would seem that there are about 9,300 veterans in total at Green-Wood. So, given these numbers, there are still thousands to be found.

Civil War historian Roger Hunt, in his book, Colonels in Blue: Union Army Colonels of the Civil War, New York, identified 306 colonels who served in New York State regiments during the Civil War. Approximately 50 of them were found by Roger to be at Green-Wood. That is about 16% of all New York colonels. Given that approximately 360,000 men served in the Civil War from New York State, 16% of that number is 57,600 or so. Clearly that number is too high—The Green-Wood Cemetery, given its status as the place to be buried, probably attracted a disproportionate number of colonels as compared to privates.

At the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, during the course of this project I went through index cards at the New York State Military Museum for each of the veterans in New York State for whom government-issued gravestones were ordered about 100 years ago. There were approximately 12,000 index cards, of which 151 were for men at The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, which works out to .6% of all of the cards. Given that 360,000 men from New York State fought in the Civil War, .6% of that is 2,160, some indication that we may be getting close to finding most of the Civil War veterans who lie at Green-Wood.

This biographical dictionary, which we continue to regularly update, has now grown to about 5,200 individuals—from Civil War generals to privates to nurses, members of the Sanitary Commission, and even a woman who went off to war with her husband—all of whom are interred at Green-Wood. It was first published as a CD on Memorial Day, 2007, and contained approximately 3,000 biographies. Second and third editions grew, respectively, to 4,300, then 4,600. Over the years, we have enhanced many of these biographies with further research as well as portraits of these people and photographs of their gravestones.

We will continue on with this project; our work is not yet done. I look forward to hearing from anyone who has information about any veteran we have missed or has additional information and/or images pertaining to those we have found. Please contact me at

Enjoy these biographies. They are the fruit of thousands and thousands of hours of volunteer work. Susan Rudin, our amazing editor, has written biography after biography. Terry Svensen located and photographed every grave. Sue Ramsey, an exceptional genealogist, has done years of follow-up research, finding more and more about these men and women.

Those who sacrificed so much deserve to be remembered. We honor and remember them here, sharing the stories of their lives with you.

Jeffrey I. Richman
The Green-Wood Cemetery Historian