Following the conculsion of the Civil War the US Federal Government took possession of most of the Confederate Government's records, both civil and military. Additionally, once relations between the former rebel states and the federal government normalized, many states sent copies of their records to the National Archives. During the 1920s and 30s, the National Archives created individual complied service records by extracting appropriate data from the many different sources available. As a result, the National Archives possesses the most complete and organized record inventory of Confederate military service records in existance anywhere.
These records are available to the public by submitting a NATF Form 80 by mail. To obtain copies of the form by snail mail send a request to:
Military Service Branch (NNMS)
National Archives and Records Service
8th and Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20408
You may also request NATF Form 80s by Email. Please visit the 33rd Ala Vol Inf (Form 80) to learn about it.
Once you have the form, fill it out following the instructions and mail it in. You should receive a response in about 8 to 10 weeks. If you asked to bill a credit card, the response will include most, if not all, of the information on file at the archives. If you elected to pay by check, the archives will simply notify you that they found some records on the person you inquired about. Then you must remit your payment and wait another 8 to 10 weeks to receive the information. I recommend you use your credit card -- why wait?
Be aware that there are some drawbacks to searching for your ancestor through the National Archives. First, it's slow. They have a limited staff to respond to numerous inquires. Second, they will look for exactly what you tell them to look for. A simple misspelling, for example, may cause them to overlook your ancestor. However, having said that, I have used the National Archives with great success.
Another method, and the one I prefer, is to utilize your local LDS Family History Center. You can locate the nearest one to you by looking in the yellow pages under the LDS Church. These genealogical reserach centers are open to the public regardless of religious affiliation and are extremely helpful. While the odds of your local center having the information you need are low, they have access to the records in the main FHL in SLC, UT. The FHL has a complete copy of the National Archives's Confederate complied service records. Of the 20 or so ancestors I have found records on, I found all but three using this resource. The only real draw back is that you must invest the time to do the research. On the other hand, the research itself can be fun and informative. For example, I found an ancestor I didn't even know about by reviewing the muster rolls of the 23rd Ala.
On-Line directory of LDS Find LDS Family History Centers
Most southern states have purchased copies of their respective complied service records from the National Archives and will make them available to individual reserachers who visit their facilities. Some states will respond to inquires by mail. Additionally, at the end of the nineteenth century, most southern states offered their Confederate veterans a pension. These pension records are normally available from the state archives, through sometimes the records are still at the county courthouse level. Please be aware that the continual money crunch faced by most state governments means that most state archives will not do the research for you. You'll have to take the time to go there and do it yourself.
In order to assist descendents of Confederate Veterans in locating vital information about their family's heritage, the Sons of Confederate Veterans offers the services of the SCV Genealogical Network. A State Genealogist has been appointed for each Confederate State and Territory. These genealogists are available to find military records for potential SCV members as well as current members. The cost is $5.00 per search payable in advance. In return, the genealogist will search the military records held in his State. You must provide the name and, if possible, other information such as county of residence, age, etc. In other words, provide as much information as possible to help identify the soldier. The genealogist is not required to copy records, but will provide a brief synopsis of the military records and the address where the copies of the originals can be obtained.
"Tracing Your Civil War Ancestor", Bertram Hawthorne Groene, Ballantine Books, NY, NY, 1973.