How do you entice people to join up to fight a war that has suddenly become a blood bath and everyone knows it?
That became a question for both the Union and Confederate Armies and their governments. One of the solutions was to pay an additional bounty or enlistment bonus to the new recruits who were willing to take on a three year enlistment in the Union Army and a one year enlistment in the Confederate Army.
Richard Clow’s Letter home on Feb, 5, 1865 states what he thinks he heard from the recruiter.
“I am a soldier once more…. The bounty we were to receive was $125 cash and $425 next Tuesday/ $200 next payment and our $16 per month or, if not, we could have $1220 and take it by installments making it so that if we were discharged before our time was up we would lose a good part of it…So I thought I would make sure of it. I am in for three years….”
On Feb. 11th, 1865 Richard Writes again, this time with a bit different amount,
“I send this money being part of the $20 which I received of my (bounty?) one hundred 80 more coming. You will keep a look out for some money. I do not know whether it will go by express or by mail, by mail I think the paymaster is to send it. I gave into his charge…..”
On Feb. 15, 1865 writing in response to a letter from home Richard says:
“You need not feel alarmed about my bounty for I am looking out to make all I can. If they will cheat me what will they do to those poor ignorant ….?”
SO WHAT HAPPENED? It appears Richard got the wrong info. or was cheated out of a lot of bounty. How do you interpret what he wrote home?
How does this philosophy work today? Would a $100.00 bonus tempt you? $1,000.00? $10,000.00? How does a bonus have to compare to the living wage and average annual salary of non-skilled and/or skilled workers in order to get them to enlist?
Do we still have “Bounty Jumpers” today who try to take the money and run? What is the penalty now versus what happened in the 1860’s?
What happened to the bounty that began at $100.00 during the first year of the Civil War by the time we get to 1864 and 1865?
What does our military pay today for an enlistment or reenlistment bounty to retain key members of the armed forces? Is this a logical use of money when one considers training costs for a new replacement?
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