There was only one “flush of patriotic enthusiasm” in the North after the war began, and Gen. Halleck advised Lincoln in early 1862 that enlistments had virtually ceased and few new volunteers were to be had. A new system of procuring troops was needed, and conscription was contemplated. States, cities and counties feared losing local men to the threatened draft, and therefore raised exorbitant amounts to buy substitutes and anyone who would take the money to fill Lincoln’s troop quotas. As the war wore on, higher bounties had to be offered to attract men.
Ohio’s Governor William Dennison reminded his constituents in mid-May 1861 that the federal government “offers a bounty of one hundred dollars to all who may enlist, payable at the close of service, or to the soldier’s family, if he should not survive.” Dennison was a Whig and Republican like Lincoln, with the latter rewarding him with the cabinet post of Postmaster General.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Ohio Bounties Stimulate Enlistments
“An act of May 1, 1861, exempted from execution the property of any soldier in the militia of Ohio mustered into the service of the United States during the time he was in service, and fro two months thereafter. In February, 1862, the general assembly sought to protect citizen-soldiers charged with criminal offenses by providing that judges should postpone their trials until they were discharged. Still later, in March 1864, certain relief was given to debtors in the armed services who might have judgement rendered against them without defense . . .
After the first flush of patriotic enthusiasm had passed, one of the strong inducements to enlistment was a financial one – a bounty, and, at a later date, the advance of the first month’s pay. During the Civil War, bounties came from three sources – the federal government, local government units, and private subscription. (In Ohio there was no bounty offered directly from State funds.)
Indeed, as the provost marshal wrote, the federal bounty paled into “comparative insignificance” when compared to “the exorbitant bounties paid in advance by local authorities.” These, he believed, were the most mischievous in encouraging desertion, bounty-jumping and other evils connected with the system.
So great was the stigma of the draft that local authorities were highly competitive in the amounts offered to volunteers. Furthermore, they paid all the sum in advance. The primary objective of these payments, as [Provost Marshal] General [James B.] Fry put it, came to be “to obtain men to fill quotas.”
Localities began by offering moderate bounties. In 1862 the average local bounty in Ohio was estimated at $25; in 1863 in advanced to $100; in 1864 it bounded to $400; and in 1865 the average bounty was $500, although in some localities it was as high as $800.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners levied a tax of two mills in 1863 to take care of local bounty payments. The next year (1864), however, the city of Cincinnati began to borrow in order to offer city bounty payments, and during the year 1,811 volunteers were paid bounties of $100 each.
After the war the adjutant general of Ohio estimated that $54,457,575 had been paid in local bounties throughout the State, of which amount cities and counties paid about $14,000,000 and private subscribers, $40,457,575.”
(Relief for Soldiers’ Families in Ohio During the Civil War, Joseph E. Holliday; Ohio History, July 1962, Volume 71, Number 2, James H. Rodabaugh, editor, excerpts, pp. 98-100)