The generous enlistment bounties given Northern soldiers gave rise to the opinion that they were motivated by money and not concern for the black man. The average German immigrant was not an abolitionist, but greatly feared freed blacks flooding northward to compete with them for employment. German revolutionaries like August Willich below continued their European social-democratic crusade with Lincoln’s armies and viewed the aristocratic planters of the South with the same contempt as they did the Prussian aristocrats back home. After the war, Willich returned to Berlin and possibly due to his new familiarity with American monarchy, offered his veteran military services to Wilhelm I, King of Prussia.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
German Soldiers and High Bounties
“Besides the hardships, [letter writer] Z commented on “the various orders regarding re-enlistment.” Enlistments for soldiers who joined the army for three years in 1861 would soon be expiring, so the army offered incentives to encourage these men to reenlist for the duration of the war. Soldiers were offered a cash bounty of $400 (payable in installments), a thirty-day furlough, free transportation home, and the privilege of calling themselves “veteran volunteers.” Soldiers in regiments in which at least 75 percent of the eligible men reenlisted were able to remain with their original unit, and Veteran Volunteer was added to the regiment’s designation.
Interestingly, Colonel [Frank] Erdelmeyer wrote to Governor Morton [of Indiana] on January 9, 1864, and informed him that “three-fourths of the 32nd Regt. have reenlisted [in] the service as Veteran Vols.,” but informed him, “if the regiment would have to remain in our present position and in these pitiful and miserable circumstances in which we have been for the last three months, until the end of February or March without being re-mustered (which can only be done at Chattanooga), the men would then sooner wait five months longer and likely refuse to reenlist, as the main impulse is, to be relieved for a few days from the hardships of a Winter Campaign and not from the high Bounty.”
General [August] Willich was severely wounded in the right arm and side by a Rebel sharpshooter on May 15 . . . One soldier recalled, “he was suffering severe pain, but he loved “his poys” as he called them, and as they crowded about him he exhorted in broken English to do their duty as well without him as if he were present.”
(August Willich’s Gallant Dutchmen, Civil War Letters from the 32nd Indiana Infantry, Joseph R. Reinhart, Kent State Press, 2006, pp. 167-171)