Bounties, Military

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BOUNTIES, MILITARY, a method of stimulating military enlistments with inducements of land or money. For Indian and French campaigns, colonies offered cash inducements for both enlistments and supplies. During the Revolution, the states and Congress often bid against one another for recruits. Sums mounted and bounty jumping and reenlisting were prevalent.

With the peace, bounties shrank to $6 in 1791 for Indian campaigns, but climbed after the Whiskey Rebellion to $16 and 160 acres. During the War of 1812 offers increased to $124 and 320 acres. Though abolished in 1833, the Mexican-American War revived bounties in 1847. Civil War bounties repeated revolutionary history, with the exception of land grants—although servicemen did enjoy a favored position under the Homestead Act. Since July 1861, Congress had allowed a $100 bounty for three-year men. The passage of the Militia Draft Act in July 1862 provided $25 for nine-month and $50 for twelve-month volunteers. In March 1863, Congress legalized $100 bounties for conscripts and substitutes and supplemented the monthly pay of three-and five-year enlistees.

A worse system prevailed for state bounties. To avoid the disgrace of resorting to a draft, communities filled their quotas by offering bounties. Richer districts thus enticed volunteers from poorer localities, easily filling their quotas and leaving low-bounty regions depleted of manpower and overtaxed by the federal draft. Bounty jumpers and dishonest bounty brokers greatly aggravated the problem.

In four years, the federal government paid more than $300 million in bounties, and the states and localities paid roughly $1 billion. Bounties disappeared after Appomattox, and recruiting bounties were expressly forbidden by the Selective Service Act of 1917.


Murdock, Eugene Converse. Patriotism Limited. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1967.

Oberly, James Warren. Sixty Million Acres: American Veterans and the Public Lands Before the Civil War. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1990.

Shannon, Fred A. The Organization and Administration of the Union Army. Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark, 1928.


Fred A.Shannon/c. w.

See alsoConscription and Recruitment .