Using Army Post Returns for Family History

My great-grandfather, Henry Canfield, fought with volunteer Michigan Cavalry throughout the Civil War. As the war ended, he reenlisted and according to family lore, went west, dying at Camp Douglas in Salt Lake City in March of 1866. Over the last 30 years, I’ve done a lot of research on Henry, and have pulled together a fair amount of material on the man. The posting of the US Military Post returns has placed records in my hands that I saw at the National Archives in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1982. At the time, I made note of some of the information, did not see it all, and wished many times over the years that I’d spent more time and gotten copies of documents. I now have those documents and more…

In searching the Returns from Military Posts, 1806-1916 collection at, I found documents relating to Henry Canfield in post returns of Fort Collins, Colorado, as well as Camp Douglas, Utah. The returns noting 1st Lieutenant Henry Canfield were dated from July 9, 1865 through March of 1866.

I located 17 documents in the Military Post database all listing Henry Canfield. The earlier returns, from Fort Collins, Colorado, dealt with his service keeping stage routes open, then being on court martial duty in Denver, and by January of 1866 (in Camp Douglas returns), being sick, and dying in March of 1866. The example below lists 1st Lieut. Henry Canfield with the 7th Michigan Cavalry as absent on detached service commanding Company B at Coopers Creek, Dakota Territory. Note that I found the documents using a variety of spellings for Henry’s name – Canfield, Caufield, Camfield, and Harry as well as Henry. I also browsed the images.

The following is from the website: About U.S., Returns from Military Posts, 1806-1916 This database contains returns from U.S. military posts from the early 1800’s to 1916, with a few returns extending through 1917. Army Regulations stipulated that every post was to submit a return to the Adjutant General, usually at monthly intervals.

These returns showed:

  • The units stationed at each post
  • The strength of each unit
  • Names and duties of the officers
  • Number of officers present and absent
  • Listing of official communications received
  • Record of events

For more information, see an in-depth review at

Until next week… Leland K. Meitzler


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