Families of America (SFA)©
Military Bounty Land|
Granting military bounty land in the United States to encourage enlistments or reward previous service began in colonial times, but its legislative heyday was 1788-1855, though claims were still dribbling into the federal government in the 1960s. Genealogists find bounty-land records especially attractive because they serve the dual role of locating persons in time and place and of proving military service. Applications sometimes contain a wealth of information, especially when heirs claimed lands.
Colonial legislatures gave land for military service, such as in
the Narragansett campaign of King Philip's War, 1675-76, but these
were mostly private acts passed to reward meritorious service to
the colony. In 1701, Virginia passed an act promising 200 acres
free ofquitrents for twenty years to those who would make armed
settlements on the Indian frontier. The Crown's Proclamation of
1763 ordered the colonies to give bounty land for service in the
French and Indian War to "reduced" (indigent) officers and to British
Army privates mustered out in the colonies who intended to remain there.
This did not include militia units. In 1776, Congress
promised Hessian deserters fifty acres but had few takers. Also
in 1776, the Congress promised bounty land to soldiers of the con-
tinental line, with privates and noncommissioned officers to get 100
acres, captains 300 acres, and other ranks various amounts. States
that likewise promised, or afterwards gave, bounty lands were
Massachusetts (with Maine), New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland,
Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia.
North Carolina was the most generous with its 640 acres (a square mile)
to a private in the continental line. Maryland gave the
smallest amount with fifty acres to a private, but Maryland also
had very little western land to give.
Map 7-4 and Table 7-1
show the locations of the military reserves and the acreage for each rank
for each state and the federal government. Massachusetts grants
were in Maine, but in no specific reserve; privates who got a
100-acre warrant from the federal government were not eligible
for the state's. Soldiers of the continental line in other states could
take both the federal and their state land bounties. (See the state
summaries at the end of this chapter for brief references to bounty-land records.
Congress was slow to redeem its promise of land for its soldiers. In 1788, it directed that bounty-land warrants should start being issued to those applying. But the U.S. Military District in Ohio, the only federal lands where federal Revolutionary warrants could be used until 1830, did not open until 1796 — a full fifteen years after Yorktown. A planned second federal reserve at the south end of Illinois was not created; instead, the district in Ohio was enlarged. The Ohio Company and John Cleves Symmes in 1787 and 1788 had purchased millions of Ohio acres on credit from Congress and were permitted to pay one-seventh of the price in federal bounty- land warrants. Therefore, land offices of the two speculations ac- cepted some federal warrants, the earliest locales where they could be used. Congress also created three military reserves for veterans of the War of 1812, but there were no federal reserves after these three in Illinois, Arkansas, and Missouri. Warrants usable in the Virginia and United States military districts in Ohio were made redeemable by scrip acts in 1830 and 1832 respectively, in any GLO land offices in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. In 1842, all federal bounty-land warrants were made good for purchases at any GLO land office.
The 1788 act stipulated that warrants were assignable, meaning the soldier could sell his warrant and not wait to take the land. This created an instant market in bounty warrants and allowed land speculators to accumulate large quantities of warrants and land. Paul Gates shows that fewer than one soldier (or his heirs) in ten got land by using his warrant under any federal bounty-land act. Since few soldiers actually used their warrants to patent land, patents and land-entry case files are much less valuable than the warrants and the warrant applications in locating a soldier's military service.
Most soldiers sold their rights, using the back of the warrant to assign it to the buyer, who might in turn assign the warrant to another buyer. Sometimes the assignment left the buyer's name blank, to be filled in by the last purchaser. The warrant certificates issued to Mexican War veterans were folios, with the insides and back unprinted so they could be used for assignments.
The warrant market was big business, especially when war- rants were no longer restricted to military reserve lands. Major brokerage firms dealt extensively in warrants, buying in the Eastern states and selling to Western land brokers and settlers. Financial newspapers in the boom years of the 1850s frequently carried price quotations. The government set a price ceiling from 1820 by charg- ing a flat $1.25 per acre for most of its lands. The average market price peaked at about $1.20 an acre in 1854-55 for 160-acre war- rants, just before the market was flooded by the act of 1855.16 More warrants were used in Iowa than any other state, and it is estimated that half of Iowa was purchased with bounty-land warrants.
The federal government gave no bounty land for service after 1855, but Union veterans received special homestead rights: in 1870, the right to claim 160 acres within railroad grant areas (other homesteaders got only 80) and in 1872, the right to deduct their length of war service from the five-year residency needed to prove a homestead.
To get a federal bounty-land warrant it was necessary, under
any act from 1788 to 1855, for the soldier or heirs to apply. The
warrant applications are in Record Group 15 in the Military Ser-
vice Records section in the downtown Washington building of the
National Archives. The surrendered warrants (those used to obtain land)
are in land-entry case files of the patentees in Record
Group 49 in the Washington National Records Center, Suitland,
Maryland. The case file categories are briefly described in Harry
P. Yoshpe and Philip P. Brower, Preliminary Inventory of the Land-Entry
Papers of the General Land Office (Washington, D.C.: National Archives, 1949), pp. 7-9,
called Inventory No. 22 for short.
The following summary of the various warrant acts comes from Inventory No. 22, to which explanatory remarks are added. The number of warrants issued gives the researcher an idea of how many soldiers or their heirs applied under each act. Reference citations are to the respective acts of Congress. Citation 2 Stat. 236 means volume 2 of U.S. Statutes at Large, p. 236. M-804 means National Archives microfilm publication M-804.
Initially these assignable warrants were redeemable only for land in the U.S. Military District in Ohio. Soldiers of the continental line from any state received 100 acres (privates and NCOs), 150 (ensigns), 200 (lieutenants), 300 (captains), 400 (majors), 450 (lieutenant colonels), 500 (colonels), 850 (brigadier generals), and 1,100 (major generals). The initial minimum grants in the district were for quarter townships of the five-mile dimensions, that is, five miles to a side or 16,000 acres, thereby requiring warrantees to band together through an agent to reach 4,000 acres or sell out to get some value from their warrants. By 1800, lots down to 100 acres were available. In 1832, all entries in the district were ended, and those still holding warrants were allowed to trade them for scrip negotiable at GLO land offices in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. From 1842, such scrip was accepted at any GLO land office.
Many warrant application files for the 1788 act are destroyed. Where the warrantee's name is known, a substitute card was made with the note "no papers." These cards and the surviving application files are interfiled with the surviving Revolutionary pension files, all filmed on M804, "Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files," in 2,670 rolls. This series is indexed for pensions and warrantees in National Genealogical Society, Index of Revolutionary War Pension Applications in the National Archives (Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1976).
Congress, to aid soldiers who had not met the deadline of the 1788 act, passed a time extension in 1803 amended 1806. The warrants of these acts are numbered in one sequence. Nearly all surrendered warrants from numbers 1-6912 of the 1788 act were destroyed. Surviving surrendered warrants of the 1788,1803, and 1806 acts are filed in land entry case files and are filmed on M829, "U.S. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Warrants Used in the U.S. Military District of Ohio and Related Papers (Acts of 1788, 1803, 1806)" in sixteen rolls. Since patents were rarely placed in the case files, the U.S. Military District land entry case files usually contain just the surrendered warrant. The files are filmed sequentially and missing warrants were either lost, misplaced, or never surrendered for land. The few surrendered for scrip under the 1832 and later acts are in that series, but cross referenced on M829. On Roll 1 of M829 are two ledgers indexed in Smith's Federal Land Series, vol. 2, once used to record the issuance of warrants. Roll 1 of M829 also has indexes to the ledgers done and/or filmed by the National Archives. The pamphlet accompanying M829 describes these records and is available upon request from the National Archives.
The acts of 1811-12 promised 160 acres to privates and NCO's who enlisted in regiments raised by Congress and who served for five years, unless discharged sooner or killed. The 1814 act doubled the acreage for those who enlisted after 10 December 1814. Officers were given no bounty lands until the acts of 1850-55. The warrants were not legally assignable except by inheritance, and the GLO retained the warrant certificates, issuing the veteran a certificate of notification. These warrants were redeemable only in military reserves in Illinois, Arkansas, and Missouri until the act of 1842 made them redeemable at any GLO land office. The warrants became legally assignable in 1852.
These War of 1812 warrants, preserved mostly in bound volumes, are filmed on M848, "War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants 1815-1858," in fourteen rolls. Patentees in the Arkansas and Missouri reserves are indexed on Roll 1, plus Illinois patentees with C and D surnames. The Illinois State Library's computer index to all federal patents in Illinois should include the military reserve. Since War of 1812 warrants were not legally assignable until 1852, the patent indexes should serve as indexes to prior warrantees, though Gates shows (pp. 263-70) that the land speculators got large parts of the reserves, presumably by having the patents processed in the names of the warrantees. This means many veterans patented land they probably never saw. The pamphlet accompanying M848 describes these records and is available upon request from the National Archives. Aside from these filmed warrants, there should also be unfilmed warrant application files and land entry case files in Record Groups 15 and 49 respectively.
The land available for patenting in the Virginia and U. S. military districts ran out long before all the outstanding warrants were redeemed, so Congress issued scrip for the remaining warrants. At first good only in GLO land offices in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the scrip, printed in acreage denominations, was good at any GLO land office from 1842.
Congress, in the Mexican War, authorized ten regiments and offered privates and NCO's (but not officers) 160 acres for serving one year or more and 40 acres for serving less than a year. Alternately, the veteran could apply for $100 or $25 in scrip at 6 percent interest, acceptable for any payment due to the U.S. government. (This dollar scrip was different from the acreage scrip listed in entry 4 above.) There were no military districts created for Mexican War bounty land, the warrants being redeemable at any GLO land office. They were assignable. As usual, few warrantees or their heirs actually patented land using their warrants. The surrendered warrants are in the land entry case files of the patentees. The best finding aid to Mexican War warrantees is their warrant application files.
The acts of 1850-55 were not to encourage enlistments but to reward former service. The act of 1850 extended bounty land to officers and enlisted men who had not previously received land and who had served in any war since 1790, including the Indian wars. Nine months' service brought 160 acres, four months' service 80 acres, and one month's service 40 acres. Since there was initial confusion over whether the act made warrants assignable, the GLO commissioner later ruled that it did not. The act of 1852 explicitly made them assignable and extended the 1850 act to militiamen who served after 1812.
The 1855 act extended bounty land privileges even further by making 160 acres the minimum entitlement and reducing service to fourteen days or even less. Those who traveled 1,200 miles in service were eligible even if they served less time. A veteran or his heirs who had previously received fewer than 160 acres could apply for the balance. Eligibility was extended to chaplains, wagon masters, militia rangers, and volunteers of certain campaigns such as Kings Mountain, the Nickojack Campaign in Tennessee, and the Cook County volunteers in the Black Hawk War. An act of 14 May 1856 extended the 1855 benefits to naval veterans and any Revolutionary service.
Using these figures as given by Inventory No. 22 and omitting scrip because it redeemed already issued warrants, the warrant totals issued by these categories of acts are:
Considering that 77.6 percent of these bounty-land warrants are in the miscellaneous categories of the 1850-55 acts and that each warrant should have an application file with the veteran's documentation of service or kin documenting their relationship to him, how do genealogists locate what they need?
National Archives Trust Fund (NATF) Form 80 should be used
to request pre World War I pension and military service records
and pre 1856 bounty-land warrant application files. It costs $5
prepaid [in 1983] for each category ($15 for all three) and is a bargain.
If the requester has:
A special problem is fraudulent warrant applications, especially where heirs claim a soldier's rights. Mrs. Ellen Reed and her two children received bounty-land warrant #61,656 in 1849 for the Mexican War service of Richard Reed, private, Company D, First U.S. Artillery Regiment. Two months later, Richard's mother applied as his next-of-kin and showed that, on his supposed marriage day in Mississippi, he was fishing on the Kennebec in Maine. Ellen's warrant was cancelled and a new one issued to the mother.  This problem of potential fraud is large enough to be a major contaminant. Gates notes 59,190 warrants for which caveats against delivery had been filed by 1856, thus suspending further action on patenting.18 Why waste research time worrying about such obscure points? Double and triple proofs and forays into collateral lines may seem like expensive overkill; but experienced researchers know that solutions often come from unpredictable quarters.
For example, bounty-land eligibility for service in the War of 1812 was first limited to able-bodied enlisted men age eighteen to forty-five. Mrs. Abigail O'Flyng's husband and three sons had served, two sons had been killed, yet none of these four was eligible for bounty land. Her husband had been over forty-five, one son was under eighteen, and the two dead sons had been promoted to officers just before they died. The Abigail O'Flyng Act of 1816 ended the age restrictions and allowed enlisted men promoted to officers to receive land. Also, by private act of Congress, her husband received 480 acres, the youngest son 160 acres, and the heirs of the dead sons their half pay for five years.
This case tests a genealogist's expertise. Does he/she understand the scope and intent of the record group searched? Nearly all government records federal, state, and local are created as a result of statutes which should be read. Would a check of bounty land applications filed have "proved" that none of the four O'Flyng men served in the war? Have offbeat records such as private acts of Congress been searched? Has the researcher screened other records many years later in which some legal actions resurface?
This last question is not rhetorical. Colonel Robert Porterfield was killed in the Revolution. His son Robert received from Congress a warrant for "about 6,000 acres." But the land was in Kentucky and from superior conflicting claims was lost. In 1860, Congress authorized scrip for Robert's heirs, to whom 153 warrants for forty acres each were issued. In 1900, twenty-one of these warrants were still outstanding and unlocated for land given on Revolutionary War service.
For background on bounty lands, see
The first military reserve was created south of Green River
in Kentucky and subsequently expanded west of the Tennessee.
There were no bounty lands within present-day Virginia or West
Virginia. In 1784, Virginia ceded its claim to the area north of the
Ohio River, reserving the four million acres between the Scioto
and Little Miami rivers for redemption of its bounty land warrants.
This Virginia Military District in Ohio was federal land whose first title
land grants were reserved solely for the Virginia warrants of
veterans of the continental line. A series of ever more liberal acts
broadened where warrants could be used and by whom until in 1852
Congress agreed that all Virginia Revolutionary warrants could be
exchanged for scrip accepted at any GLO land office. Large numbers
of these assignable warrants were sold; an estimated one-quarter
of the Virginia Military District was acquired by twenty-five men.
Thus, there should be four major repositories today for Virginia
bounty land records. There are, however, actually six. The land
offices of Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio are described in the state
summaries at the end of this chapter. The microfilmed federal
patents are in the BLM Eastern States Office in Alexandria, Virginia.
The surrendered warrants are in Record Group 49 at the
Washington National Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. The
sixth major collection is the Illinois Historical Survey Collection in
the University of Illinois Library, Urbana-Champaign, which has
the papers of Richard Clough Anderson, surveyor of the Virginia
Military District in Ohio. Clifford Neal Smith has brought this collection
to the attention of a wide audience by his indexes in the
Federal Land Series, especially volume 4, which is devoted to the
district. He estimates that "about 64 percent of Virginia's obligations
to its. veterans were satisfied by the land grants in the Virginia
Military District of Ohio.
Since the British government made a commendable effort to
compensate Loyalist losses, the Loyalists had to list their lost property
to claim that compensation. One of the best sources is Alexander Fraser, ed.,
United Empire Loyalists Inquiry into the Losses
and Services in Consequence of Their Loyalty. Evidence in the Canadian Claims, 2vols.
(Toronto: The King's Printer, 1905),
The official files of Loyalist claims are in the Public Record Office in London,
partly summarized in Peter Wilson Coldham,
American Loyalist Claims: Abstracted from the Public Record Office, Audit Series 13,
Bundles 1-35 & 37 (Washington, D.C.: National Genealogical Society, 1980).
One land record of potential help in identifying children is the land given in Canada and Nova Scotia to Loyalists under royal instructions of 1783, which promised 100 acres to heads of Loyalist families and fifty acres each to their children and to single men.
End of this Chapter!
|These records are dedicated to one of my best friends, my Uncle: George K. ANNAN, 1915-1996, age 81yrs Compiled and self Published in Jun. 28, 1986 by Paul R. Sarrett, Jr. George, grew up in rual area of Yorktown, Page Co., Iowa. He was a large land owner, and Farmer, and was Commissioner on the Page County Soil Conservation District for over 30 years; Director of the Iowa Association of Soil Conservation District Commissioners; Served on the State Soil Conservation Committee; Member of the Lions Club of Clarinda, Iowa; Was a 4-H leader for many years; Helped organize the Lincoln Leaders Boys 4-H Club. Received many awards as a commissioner, Outstanding Commissioner for Region VII in 1960; Watershed Achievement Award in 1979; Emmett ZOLLARS Award in 1974; Page Co., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Award in 1976; just to name a few.|
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