Citizens' Bounty Fund Committee records
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
During the summer of 1862, President Abraham Lincoln called for another 300,000 Union troops, after the Army of the Potomac failed to take Richmond, Virginia. The War Department gave each state a quota to fill, but recruitment was slow.
Concerned about a possible draft, Philadelphia Mayor Alexander Henry (1823-1883) led a public meeting on July 24, 1862 to discuss how best to increase enlistment. Meeting attendees decided to create a bounty fund so that volunteers could be paid for enlisting, a tactic that other cities were using. The attendees at the meeting donated $40,000 to create the bounty fund, and two days later, Philadelphia City Council voted to allocate $500,000 to the fund. A large number of private citizens met at Independence Hall to donate another $160,000 to the fund.
The Citizens' Bounty Fund was administered by a committee of private individuals from the city's elite, with Mayor Henry serving as chair of the committee and Thomas Webster serving as vice chair. Lorin Blodget (1823-1901) served as secretary, and Singleton A. Mercer served as treasurer. Dispersing agents included Michael V. Baker (died circa 1866), George Whitney (1819-1885) and Mercer.
Philadelphia City Council approved giving $50 bounties to "each volunteer for new regiments for three years or the war." City Council also approved paying $6 to volunteers for existing regiments, in addition to the $25 bounty offered by the United States, plus another $50 when the new enlisted man joined the regiment. Captains organizing their own companies qualified for $5 per man to help repay their expenses.
Philadelphia filled its enlistment quota without needing to turn to a draft, but the Citizens' Bounty Fund Committee concluded in early 1863 that the bounty system was a waste of money (see Box 3, Folder 3). Worse, they concluded that the bounties encouraged desertion. A committee resolution indicates the committee planned to turn over the remaining bounty fund assets to a "Soldiers' Claim Association of Philadelphia," which would provide aid to soldiers and their families.
This collection contains the records of the Citizens' Bounty Fund Committee, including administrative papers and enlistment and bounty records of men who qualified for bounties under the system. The records are divided into two series: Series I contains the administrative records of the committee; Series II consists of the enlistment forms, muster records, and other tracking of bounties and premiums paid by the committee.
Series I contains resolutions, committee reports, minutes, and assorted financial records, including statements, settled checks, cash books, donation notebooks, subscription lists, and a small number of bills and receipts. This series also includes committee correspondence, much of which relates to bounty claims, and a letter book from dispersing agent Michael V. Baker.
Series II contains enlistment forms, enlistment affidavits, muster forms, muster rolls, bounty certificates, and lists and statements of bounties and premiums paid.
Both series are arranged chronologically, with volumes arranged by size within each series.
This collection is arranged into two series:
Series I. Administration, 1861-1887, 3 linear feet
Series II. Bounties, premiums, 1862-1864, 6.8 linear feet
The majority of the collection was a gift of the Lorin Blodget estate, 1911. A small number of papers were moved from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania Collection of Civil War Papers (Collection 1546).
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Dana Dorman
- Finding Aid Date
- The Digital Center for Americana pilot project was funded by the Barra Foundation and several individual donors.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
This series contains the administrative records of the committee. The minutes of the committee are present, as are a variety of reports and resolutions concerning its work. A newspaper from 1887 (Box 3, Folder 6) includes a history of the committee written by Lorin Blodget. Other administrative records include extracts regarding Col. Ernennein's Regiment, newspaper clippings of bounty fund statements, as well as newspaper clippings of other committee and military matters.
This series also includes committee correspondence, which primarily relates to bounty claims, enlistments, and donations of tents and other supplies, as well a small amount of subscription-related correspondence in Box 5. Other correspondence relating to applications for bounties can be found in Series II.
The bulk of this series is financial records, including statements, cash books, a receipt book, settled checks, bonds, donation notebooks, subscription lists, and a small number of bills and receipts.
This series also includes eleven bound volumes, including cash books, a letter book from dispersing agent Michael V. Baker, minutes books, and a check book.Physical Description
3.0 Linear feet
This series contains volunteer enlistment forms, enlistment affidavits, muster forms, muster rolls, bounty certificates, bounty certificate books, and lists and statements of bounties and premiums paid.
The volunteer enlistment forms include an array of personal information about the volunteers, including name, place of birth, occupation, eye and hair color, complexion, height, and signature. The forms also record the regiment he will join, the date of enlistment, and the names of the recruiting officer, bounty fund dispersing agent, and witness.
The enlistment affidavits include only the enlistee's name, signature, date of affidavit and signature of the city alderman who witnessed the affidavit.
Bounty certificate books include records of bounties paid, akin to a checkbook, where volunteers were given a portion of the form for mustering. These books include details of the volunteer's name, what branch or regiment he enlisted in, eye and hair color, complexion, height, date of enlistment, and signature. Occasional muster forms remain attached to the certificate books.
The muster forms are also present in the collection, as well as muster forms for a $25 bounty. Both muster forms include minimal personal information, listing the volunteer's name, company he is enlisting in, and dates and signatures of the various officials involved in paying and witnessing payment of the bounty. Muster rolls are organized by regiment where possible.
This series includes a smaller number of applications for bounty, which consists primarily of correspondence.
There are also records of bounty certificates paid, organized by date, with each regiment listed on a separate sheet. Lists of bounties and premiums paid by alphabetical listing, by date, and by regiment are also included at the end of the series.
There are also two bound volumes, an alphabetical bounty book and an alphabetical premium book.Physical Description
6.8 Linear feet