USCT Bounty Claims and the Information They Contain
Above: Announcement of Additional Military Bounties,
Charleston Daily News, 12 Nov 1866 1
USCT Bounty Claims
Bounties were monetary or material incentives paid for enlisting in the military, or rewards for service in the military. Soldiers, veterans or their survivors may have collected bounties for service in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) or the United States Navy in the Civil War. During its operation from 1865-1872, the Freedmen’s Bureau acted as the agent for the payment of bounties to USCT veterans in South Carolina. 2
In order to collect a bounty, soldiers, veterans or their heirs filed an application known as a bounty claim. Among the records in the new FamilySearch collection South Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Records, 1865-1872 are several types of documents related to the payment of bounties. Registers of bounty claims filed, the bounty claims themselves and registers of bounties paid may hold valuable information concerning your ancestor’s residence prior to 1870 and their service in the military.
Did Your Civil War-Era Ancestor Serve in the Military?
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System hosted by the National Park Service is a free searchable database of the names of those who served in Union or Confederate forces during the Civil War. Here you can search to see if your ancestor served in the United States Colored Troops (USCT) or the US Navy during the war. Search forms for soldiers and sailors are separate, so be sure to search both for your ancestor’s name.
The Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System website also offers information on the histories of Union and Confederate regiments and links to related information about significant battles, prisoner of war records and cemetery records. 3
If your ancestor served in the USCT or US Navy during the Civil War, there may be bounty claim records in the new FamilySearch collection that will further your research.
Bounty Claims and Related Documents
To view bounty claims and related documents within the new FamilySearch collection South Carolina Freedmen’s Bureau Records, 1865-1872, browse to “Claim Division” records.
The bulk of records concerning bounty claims appear there, however correspondence concerning bounty claims is scattered throughout the new collection, and some registers of bounty claims may have been filed in miscellaneous records.
Let’s look at a few examples of documents related to bounty claims.
Register of Bounty Claims, Reel 23
Reel 23 of the Claim Division records contains four registers of bounty claims. This is a good place to start looking for records for your ancestor. The registers overlap in dates and are similar in content, however each may contain unique information so it is best to browse through all four volumes. Of these, volume four is the most comprehensive as it notes the disposition of claims (allowed or not allowed). For each entry in volume four, there may be a bounty claim preserved on reel 24 of the collection. 4
Bounty Claims, Reel 24
Below is the bounty claim of Israel Singleton, who served in the US Navy during the Civil War (please click on images to view larger). 5
A bounty claim may contain the following information:
- Branch of the military the veteran served in
- When, where and for how long a term of service he enlisted
- Rank held
- Duty stations
- Date of discharge
- Date of the bounty claim
- Testimony of two witnesses as to identity of the claimant, including how long they had been acquainted with the claimant, and the nature of their acquaintance
- Post office location for return correspondence
- Signatures of claimant, Notary and witnesses
Here we learn that Israel Singleton enlisted in the United States Navy 9 Dec 1862, for a term of three years. During his service as a Landsman he served on two vessels, the Restless and the Vermont.
Witnesses to his identity were Sandy Black and James Gilliard. They had known Israel Singleton for seven years.
Occasionally an introductory letter or narrative accompanied a bounty claim. In Israel Singleton’s claim, an accompanying letter reveals a remarkable story of his service. The letter states that Israel Singleton served in both the United States Navy and the United States Colored Troops. After he was discharged from the Navy on July 31, 1864, he enlisted in the United States Colored Troops.
I Found A Military Bounty Claim for My Ancestor. Now What?
If you find a bounty claim for your ancestor, other Civil War service records available on FamilySearch, Fold3 and Ancestry.com await your further research:
- 1890 Veterans Schedules on FamilySearch: Census schedules listing veterans and widows of veterans
- Civil War Service Records for United States Colored Troops on Fold3: These records may document the soldier’s name, rank, details about his service, birthplace, place of enlistment, discharge date and place and often a physical description.
- Civil War and Later Veterans Pension Index on Fold3 and Ancestry.com: index cards for pension applications of veterans who served in the U.S. Army between 1861 and 1900. You can search by name, or browse by regiment number.
- Civil War “Widows’ Pensions” on Fold3: approved pension applications of widows and other dependents of Civil War veterans
- Freedmen’s Bank Records on FamilySearch and Ancestry.com: Many USCT veterans opened accounts at The Freedmen’s Savings and Trust (Freedmen’s Bank) when they received bounty payments. The USCT company and regiment are often listed, as well as the names of a veteran’s parents, spouse, children and siblings. Freedmen’s Bank records may also include information on the depositor’s birthplace, residence, occupation and employer.
References Cited “Discharged Soldiers: $100 Bounty.” Classified Advertisement, Newspaper Advertisement, The Charleston Daily News, 12 Nov, 1866, Page 4. Chronicling America, Database Online at the Library of Congress, http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, Accessed 11 Jan 2014.  Descriptive Pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA microfilm publication M1910, 106 rolls). Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, 2005.  Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System, Database Online at the National Park Service, http://www.nps.gov/civilwar/soldiers-and-sailors-database.htm, Accessed 12 Jan 2014.  Descriptive Pamphlet for Records of the Field Offices for the State of South Carolina, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, 1865–1872 (NARA microfilm publication M1910, 106 rolls). Washington, D.C., National Archives and Records Administration, 2005.  “South Carolina, Freedmen’s Bureau Records, 1865-1872,” images, FamilySearch
(https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-36668-14620-6?cc=2127881&wc=M9HH-DX9:80296183 : Accessed 13 Jan 2014), Claim Division > Roll 24, Registered Bounty Claims, Aug 1866-Oct 1870 > Image 171 of 178, Bounty Claim of Israel Singleton.