Contrary to popular belief, many Confederate veterans did receive pensions. They were provided not by the U.S. Federal government but by the individual southern states. Although Confederate pension files typically contain fewer documents than Union ones, they are nonetheless very useful for family researchers.
The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865 and the average soldier was 18-45 years old. So if you have a white, male ancestor who was born between roughly 1816 and 1847 and lived in the United States in the early 1860s, then he probably played some part in the Civil War.
While there are some wonderful free web sites (notably FamilySearch.org) from which you can access many online records, Ancestry.com and Fold3.com offer a wide variety of records that are not available anywhere else. In fact, if you go to the National Archives in Washington D.C. to access the original microfilms for those records, you’ll be directed to