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Using the Soldiers Inquiry Files
1. If a file contains USSC form letters, look for the address on the printed letterhead to identify the office location. Then look for a handwritten application number at the top. (See "The Application Process" for further detail.) Remember - New York did not use numbers, and the Washington office did not use numbers at the very beginning and very end of its work. On printed Hospital Directory forms sent to Washington from Philadelphia and Louisville bearing two numbers (for one individual), the higher number belongs to the Washington office. If there is a number on a New York form, that is a Washington office number.
Files containing only correspondence usually have application numbers on them as well, and may have docketing on the verso. The notation "L.B." (letter book) on documents processed in Washington will lead to the letterbook for that time period and page. The notation "ans" and date may bear results in the letterbooks, but keep in mind that the USSC also used telegrams to respond, so a check of the letterbooks may not have results.
2. With numbers, dates and office locations in hand, you can now trace the documents back to the records of the central or local office.
First, review "Hospital Directory Offices and their Records" in the Historical Note. Then, for application records of the New York and Washington office, refer to the series description and container list for Series III, Miscellaneous Records, 1862-1866, Subseries B. Volumes, 1862-1865. This will help you correlate the application numbers to specific volumes under the appropriate office. The volumes can be requested for paging by container number. The application registers contain summaries of the final status of each inquiry by application number and/or date.
Unfortunately, for the Louisville Hospital Directory, no registers or journals of applications, or Hospital Directory correspondence volumes are listed or found to date. However, the Louisville Hospital Directory series contains records from Western Department branch offices, particularly Chattanooga, responding to Hospital Directory inquiries about soldiers in their vicinity. Refer to the revised description of the Louisville Hospital Directory in the Finding Aid for the USSC records, particularly Series II. Miscellaneous Volumes, 1862-1865.
Some researchers will be greatly rewarded in their search; others will find sparse documentation, or inconclusive or negative results. In a sense this reflects the experience of the original applicants and the nature of the war, which left so many unidentified dead.