Gratuities to soldiers and sailors constitute an intermediate class of public appropriations which aroused considerable discussion at the time of the Civil War.   These gratuities took the form of bounties to encourage enlistments.   Such bounties were very common in the Civil War, where each town had to raise a fixed quota either by enlistment or by draft. There was a definite public purpose in relieving other citizens from the draft and in aiding in the defense of the nation.  

“After the Eight New Hampshire had been raised and mustered into service in 1861, all the recruiting offices in New Hampshire were closed under the assumption that no more men would be needed from the state.  In May 1862 Governor Nathaniel Springer Berry received an order from the War Department in Washington asking for one more three-year regiment.  Labor in the state was dwindling, and it was becoming more profitable to stay at home and enjoy the increase in wages than go off to war.  In addition it was difficult to attract recruits with a bounty of only ten dollars.  This was changed, and the bounty was doubled for individuals enlisting before July 1, 1862.

The ranks of the new regiment where thin when new recuits came into camp in Concord at the end of June.  To further entice new recruits, the state bounty was increased to fifty dollars and sixty more for anyone joining a regiment already in the field.  The men already enlisted in the Ninth New Hampshire received an additional bounty of thirty dollars.

With McClellan’s failure to take Richmond, and a call from Abraham Lincoln for three hundred thousand more troops “to bring this unnecessary and injurious civil war to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion.”  For New Hampshire, a state of barely 310,000 people, the prospect of raising more regiments was a discouraging one.  Governor Berry was faced with the nearly impossible task of providing Washington with five more regiments.  Recruiters had scoured the state offering higher bounties in order to raise the Ninth New Hampshire Regiment.  Now this effort would have to be redoubled to fill the new quota. “

Men of Granite: New Hampshire’s soldiers in the Civil War,  by Duane E. Shaffer, pg 75, University of South Carolina Press


The First Draft –

An act for “enrolling and calling out the National Forces” was signed into law on March 3, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln. This, the first effective draft by the federal government, called for all men between the ages of 18 and 45 to be enrolled into local militia units and be available to be called into national service. The draft law exempted men in some occupations, such as telegraph operators, railroad engineers, judges, and certain other government employees. Men with mental disabilities or with certain types of dependents were also exempted. Physical disabilities that would exempt a man included imperfect vision in the right eye, lack of front teeth and molars, and loss of more than one finger of the right hand or more than two fingers of the left hand.

The actual drafting of the men was the responsibility of the states, which usually used a lottery system. When the government issued a call for more troops, each state would be given a quota to fill based on its population. The number of volunteers would be subtracted from the quota and the difference would be drafted.  If a draftee, volunteered before the final muster, he avoided the negative social stigma of compulsory service and was eligible to collect a bounty of $100 from the federal government plus additional bounties from the state and local communities.  In total, the bounties could exceed $500, which was about the average yearly wage in those days.  States considered it a matter of pride to fill their quotas without having to resort to the draft.

A draftee could gain an exemption by paying a fee of $300 or by hiring a substitute. The obvious inequity of this provision prompted the cry of “rich man’s war, but poor man’s fight.”  The bounty system also made possible the enrichment of a large number of unscrupulous persons called “bounty jumpers.”  These men would enlist to collect their bounty, then desert and enlist somewhere else and collect another bounty.

State Payments for Bounties and Bounty Hunters

NH Gov Joseph Gilmore had been an anti-slavery Whig in his politics, but by 1858 he had become a part of the new Republican Party. He was elected to the State Senate (1858), and was reelected and made president of the Senate (1859). He won the governorship in 1863, and was reelected in 1864.

As governor, Gilmore arranged for the state to borrow $1.5 million-an immense sum, used to pay bounties for soldiers and “bounty hunters” who helped sign up New Hampshire men for the Civil War. Under Gilmore’s leadership the state exceeded its mandated quotas of soldiers. He retired in poor health and died in 1867.


WAR DEBT – State of New Hampshire

The State war Debt went from $30,000 in 1861 to $1,825,000 in 1863.  By the end of the war, that figure had risen to $13,000,000 or about one-tenth of New Hampshire’s  total assessed value.  What accounted for most of this expense was the exorbitant bounties paid out by many of the towns in their losing efforts to fill their quotas after 1863.   The first ever income tax was levied against residents of New Hampshire, but it was still not enough to stave off the staggering  inflation that hit the state.  By the end of the war flour was $20 per barrel, kerosene $1.50 a gallon (the same as in 2003), cornmeal was $4.25 a bag, and a pair of men’s boots was $8.00 – astronomical sums—- Men of granite: New Hampshire’s soldiers in the Civil War By Duane E. Shaffer, pg  311.


WAR DEBT – Town of Newmarket

The Newmarket Town reports during and immediately following the war years indicate a staggering indebtedness.  On March 6, 1860 the Town’s outstanding debt totaled $3,206. 

That figured jumped by the end of fiscal year 1862 to $19,913 when an additional $10,000 was paid out in bounties to 54 volunteers at an average of $200 each.  Businesses and personal loans filed in behalf of the Town war debt ranged from a high of $2,000 from the Newmarket Savings Bank to $50 loans from private citizens such as Olive Ham and John Robinson.  A line item indicated that the state was expected to re-imburse the Town $2,287; however, that was a long time in coming.

Notes due with accumulated interest calculated to March 1st, 1863 was $47,830.83. That was  due to the bounties paid out.  At the end of the 1863 Fiscal year,  Town selectmen announced “there has been furnished the Army and Navy during the political year, sixty-two men, nearly all of them for three years, at an average cost to the Town of Newmarket  of about two hundred and eighty dollars ($280) for each man, and our quota has been filled, which was the highest quota set by the State.”

That number had jumped on August 20th, 1864 near the end of the war, 21 volunteers and substitutes enlisted requiring a bounty payout, as per assignments on file, for that one day totaling $11,600.00. (an average $520 each).

Private citizens lent the Town Treasury notes to pay down this debt.  Many were family members of men away at War, or as in the case of Deborah (Ham) Gould, the widow of Army Private Joseph Gould who was Killed in Action at Fort Harrison, Virginia.   Lists of family names appear in the Town reports as having given notes for future payment: the Bracketts, Chapmans, Frenches, Hams, Kenistons, Stackpoles, Taskers, Tuttles, and Watsons – were just a few of the families who donated, these were families with men sent to the front.

The amount of notes against the Town including interest to March 1, 1868 was $45,500; by 1873 it was $44,400; and by 1874 the outstanding debt remained at $37,400.



“Out of a shipment of 625 recruits intended for a distinguished NH regiment, 137 deserted en route and another 118 managed to do the same within a week of their arrival.  – 36 to the rear, 82 into the Confederate lines – leaving the residue of 370, who were either the most patriotic or else the least resourceful of the lot.  Across the way, on the south bank of the Rapidan River, rebel pickets put up a placard: “Headquarters, 5th New Hampshire Volunteers.  Recruits Wanted”    In much the same vein, they sent over a mock-formal message inquiring when they could expect to receive the regimental colors.”

Outsized bounties had created a new breed of soldier: the bounty jumper.  “Thieves, pick-pockets, and vagabonds would enlist,” a later observer remarked, “take whatever bounty was paid in cash, desert when opportunity offered, change their names, go to another district or state, reenlist, collect another bounty, desert again, and go on playing the same trick until they were caught.”   One nimble New Yorkers confessed to having made 32 such jumps before he wound up in the Albany penitentiary, while another New England veteran recorded that no less than half the recruits in his regiment received in one large draft had so quickly forgotten their assumed names, on the trip down to the Rappahannock, that they could not answer roll call when they got there.

—The Civil War: Red River to Appomattoc, 1st edition, 1974 by Shelby Foote


The growing dislike of military service and the greater rewards at home for labor and business ability were constantly making it more difficult to get a sufficient number of the proper kind of men. Congress, the President and the War Department did fairly well, on the whole — as well perhaps as could be expected in a democracy where every man had an opinion and a vote and at a time when the coming presidential election in the autumn might not be lost sight of; but the results fell far short of what would have been obtained had the Prussian system been possible. Nevertheless the conscription went on with “few, if any, disturbances of the peace,” “the people having learned to look upon the draft as a military necessity.”

The following were the calls, one of -which was made before the Act of February 24:

Feb. 1, 1864 200,000

March 14, 1864 200,000

July 18, 1864 500,000

Dec. 19, 1864 300,000

 The government, the States, the counties and other political divisions were munificent in their offers of bounties, of which a salient example is seen in the advertisement of the New York County Volunteer committee: “30,000 volunteers wanted. The following are the pecuniary inducements offered: County bounty, cash down $300; State bounty, $75; United States bounty to new recruits $302; additional to veteran soldiers $100,” making totals respectively of $677 and $777  for service which would not exceed three years, was likely to be less, and turned out to be an active duty of little more than one year; in addition there was the private soldier’s pay of $16 per month with clothing and rations. The bounty in New York County was more than that generally paid throughout the country, although in some districts it was even higher.

The system was bad, for it fostered a class of substitute brokers whose business was to get recruits, and whose aim was to earn their brokerage without any regard to the physical or moral quality of the men they supplied. It brought into existence the crime of bounty jumping.

The vast area of the country, the feverish anxiety in each town and municipal ward to fill its quota, together with a certain lack of administrative system, made it difficult to detect the bounty-jumpers. The mischief promoted by substitute brokers and bounty jumping was seen at its worst in the large cities of the East where it brought into the ranks a number of criminals, bullies and vagrants; and as these came to be guarded as prisoners, many of them 302 reached the front.

Yet not a large proportion of the 1864 recruits were social outcasts. In the country districts, villages and smaller cities, the efforts of able business men, who engaged voluntarily in the work of filling the respective quotas, were brought to bear, with the result that attention was paid to the character of the men offering to serve; yet the recruits were on the whole inferior physically, morally and intellectually to those who had enlisted in 1861 and 1862 and were very largely mercenaries, although a considerable part of them were sturdy Canadians and brawny immigrants from Europe, tempted by the high wage offered for military service. “

——history of the civil war By James Ford Rhodes, pg 229


AFTER THE WARThirteen years of State Debt

In 1871 the State assumes the war debts of the towns, payable after 1892


By James 0. Lyford   (From an address given before the New Hampshire Legislature, February 4, 1919)

It is fifty-three years since the close of the Civil War. I shall divide these years into two arbitrary periods of twenty-seven and twenty-six years each. The first is the debt-paying period, in which the whole thought of the people was centered on discharging the obligations incurred by the Civil War. The second period, from 1892 to 1918, is the period of state development. The periods are arbitrary because the work of state development began in a small way before 1892, and the war debts were not all paid until thirteen years later.

At the close of the Civil War the state debt was, in round numbers, $4,000,000, and the town debts of New Hampshire aggregated nearly $7,000,000 more. One million of the state debt was for bounties advanced by the state for the United States, which the federal government paid soon after. The state debt with this deduction was $3,000,000, and the annual interest charge was $250,000, some of the state’s obligations bearing for a year or two 8 per cent interest.

The people of New Hampshire were confronted with a state debt nearly three times our present state debt, with a property valuation of only one fourth of what our valuation is today. It is not surprising, therefore, that the whole thought of the people for a quarter of a century following the Civil War was centered upon the discharge of their public debts, state and town, and that they could give but little attention, to anything else.

The state prison and the state hospital,—the latter founded largely by private philanthropy, were our principal state institutions. An industrial school at Manchester and a normal school at Plymouth were started in this period; and the agricultural college was a struggling annex of Dartmouth. The salary of the governor was $1,000, of the state treasurer $600, that of the chief justice was $2,000, and of his associates $1,800 each.

During a quarter of a century following the Civil War, the only building of importance erected by the state was a new state prison. The new state prison was the only public building of its era in the United States that was completed within the appropriation,—a fact that was favorably commented upon by the newspapers of the country. This is further evidence of the economy and watchfulness of our people at that time.

The Legislature met in those days annually on the first Wednesday of June; and if it did not finally adjourn by the Fourth of July it was charged with extravagance and with wasting the people’s money.

It was almost impossible during this period of debt payment to create a new state agency or to increase a state salary.

In 1871, the Legislature voted to assume the war debts of the towns, and $2,200,000 was added to the state burden, bonds being issued for that amount, payable after 1892 in annual installments. This added an annual interest charge of $132,000. The payment of the principal of these bonds did not fall until the second period, which we are to consider; but twenty years of interest payments were made within the first period.

In the twenty-seven years following the close of the Civil War, New Hampshire paid the entire principal of its original war debt of $3,000,000 and at least an equal amount in interest charges on the same until it was finally discharged; and in addition twenty years’ interest on $2,200,000, the war debts of the towns which she assumed, amounting to $2,640,000, an aggregate payment of debt and interest during these twenty-seven years of $8,640,000.

In view of this task imposed upon them, the Legislatures from 1865 to 1892 were probably justified in deferring to their successors the problems of state development, education and philanthropy.

In the next period from 1892-1918, the thought of the people was turned to questions similar to those confronting  us today:  the care of youth, the public health, the wards of the state, and the promotion of the general welfare of our people.  Here, again, I make a division of the twenty-six years to be considered into two equal periods of thirteen years each, because there was still left for the state to pay in bonded debt $2,200,000, that it had assumed of the war debts of the towns. This debt was paid in annual installments from 1892-1905. In 1905, the state debt reached its lowest mark in our history since before the Civil War. It was then $393,700. This represented obligations created by the state other than war debts. The state tax in 1905 reached its lowest figures in our history since before the Civil War. It was only $300,000.

All Published

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