Dwindling enlistments after crushing losses at Fredericksburg and around Richmond forced the US Congress to offer men $300 bounty for three-years’ service, later extended to conscripts who agreed to longer terms. Altogether, the Northern government paid some $300 million in bounties during the war, with State and local governments paying about an equal amount – totaling $600 millions to find men to fight to maintain a territorial union. Below, Colonel Lafayette Baker describes the common bounty-jumping schemes.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Bounties For Northern Soldiers
“The great demand for [Northern] recruits during the war, the large bounties offered for them, and the manifold facilities for fraudulent transactions, presented temptations of great power, even to reputable citizens, to evade the plain letter of the law, and traffic in substitutes, or, by bribery and deception, personally to keep out of the hands of the recruiting officer.
I had been told that soldiers would receive the bounty, re-enlist the same day, be sent to the Island, and repeat the process the day following. I was greatly amused while listening to the exploits of [bounty-jumpers]…One related, that in a certain period he left New York, and having enlisted in Albany, Troy, Utica, Buffalo, and Chicago, returned via Elmira, at which place he likewise enlisted.
Another had enlisted at every rendezvous from New York to Portland, Maine; while a third boasted of amounts he had received, and mentioned those paid to recruiting officers, surgeons, brokers and detective.”
(The Blue and the Gray, Henry Steele Commager, editor, Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1950, pp. 728-732)