Paying Deserters


Nov 2, 2018
West Michigan
As is well-known, as the Spring of 1865 progressed the number of Confederate deserters increased steadily. What I hadn't known is that there were processes to pay deserters a bounty if they came into Union lines. It appears that the bounty would increase if they brought a weapon and/or horse. From the correspondence below, the notice was widely disseminated using a number of methods. It was put in newspapers (presumably, the Northern newspapers that would then be traded/smuggled into Confederate lines) but also shot over to the Confederates with bows and arrows in addition to being floated over on kites.

Ord, who at this time I was believe was commanding the Army of the James, sent orders to circulate the notice as widely as possible:
Circulating Order.png

However, it seems that it required a certain skill set:

Gibbon Requests More Orders.png

Once concern was that the deserters be paid as quickly as possible, so they word would spread:

Request for funds.png

Such were the numbers that Grand had to request more money directly from Stanton as the local quartermaster didn't have enough:

Grant Requests Funds.png

Fortunately, such funds were available:

Stanton Sends Funds.png

Reading through other correspondence around that time, reports mention numerous deserters, bringing with them information and status of units. Frequently in their reports generals mention deserters saying, in effect, there was just not a lot of fight left but that they were expecting an attack.

This is hardly earth-shattering news, I just figured I couldn't possibly be the only one who didn't know the Union was offering, via kites and bows and arrows, to pay Confederate deserters. Cheers, all!


Jul 25, 2020
That anecdote was from "Giants in Their Tall Black Hats," by Kent Gramm and D. Scott Hartwig, page 56.

(I'm new, and I don't know the rules of quoting sources yet)

Gibbon gave out crisp new uniforms to his "Black Hat Brigade," including new hats, white gloves, and the hated white leggings. On visiting Wisconsin after the war, for a Veteran's reunion, Gibbon asked again about the incident, wondering who the prankster had been. He left wondering still.