I’ve been through thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of the cards which make up the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) for my guys. I’ve never seen a card like this one (transcription below).

It is from the CMSR jacket for Benjamin Franklin Taylor. He rose from Private to Colonel of the 2nd Maryland Infantry, USA from 1861 to 1865. The original CMSRs are at the National Archives. I got this digital copy online from fold3.

There are two possibilities here.

One: some wag (or the subject himself) entered this phony information in the original Regimental Descriptive Book for the 2nd Maryland, and the War Department clerk who created this card simply wrote down what he saw.

Two: the War Department clerk created the fictions himself.

I have not found a digital copy of 2nd Maryland’s Regimental Descriptive Book from the Maryland Archives, the National Archives, or fold3, so I can’t yet verify which is the case. I would not be surprised to learn it has not been digitized – the wisdom is that the fragile paper Descriptive Books have been literally transcribed on cards in the CMSRs, so no one really needs to see them.

Given that at least some of the the information on the card is correct, it’s plausible that this card is a true transcription from the Descriptive Book record. But it seems unlikely that the maintainers of the Descriptive Book – the regimental Adjutants (and there were at least 4 during the war) – would have let such obviously bad information stand.

But it’s equally hard for me to imagine the War Department clerk would insert green skin and blue hair, given the seriousness of his task. And no, screwer is not a legitimate 19th Century occupation. Could it have been momentary giddiness? Boredom? It’s also hard to believe a supervisory clerk didn’t catch it.

In either case, this is one heck of a CMSR card!

Drury Webb, the name at the bottom of the card, was Drury Edgar Webb (1864-1934) from Knox County, TN. According to the Official Register of the United States (for 1891, 1895, 1915) he was a clerk in the Record and Pension Division, US War Department in Washington, DC by 1891. He was in the Office of Auditor of the Post Office by 1895 and to at least 1915, and still a clerk in Government service in Washington at the US Census of 1920, then age 55.

Also, there were 13 Webbs from the Knoxville area in the 2nd (East) Tennessee Infantry (US) during the Civil War, one of them Samuel Webb (1833-1881), Drury’s father; in case you were wondering in which direction his sympathies may have leaned.

Incidentally, a collection of Drury’s c. 1910 photographs of Knoxville are in the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knoxville County, TN Public Library [finding aid]



T | 2 | Md.
Benj. F. Taylor
Co. B., 2 Reg’t Maryland Inf.

Appears on
Regimental Descriptive Book
of the regiment named above.


Age …. years; height …. feet …. inches.
Complexion green
Eyes grey ; hair blue
Where born On the Ocean, North pole
Occupation screwer

When Sept. 30, 186…
Where Baltimore
By Whom Capt. Brunner; term 3 y’rs.
Remarks …

Drury Webb


National Archives sources:

The Regimental Descriptive Book: NARA Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Regimental and Company Books of Civil War Volunteer Union Organizations, 1861–1867 (“Regimental Record Books”), Regimental and Company Books of the 2nd Maryland Infantry Regiment (NAID: 6340761) [finding aid].

CMSRs: NARA Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Volunteer Organizations During the American Civil War, 1890–1912 (“Civil War CMSRs”), [Maryland] Taylor, Benjamin F – Age 23, Year: 1863 – Second Infantry, Af-Wi (NAID: 39425927) [finding aid]

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