Civil War Pay

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Civil War Soldier Pay and Money

Civil War Monthly Pay and Civil War Currency

Soldier's Pay In The American Civil War

 

Union privates were paid $13 per month until after the final raise of 20 June '64, when they received $16. In the infantry and artillery, officer pay was as follows at the start of the war: colonels, $212; lieutenant colonels, $181; majors, $169; captains, $115.50; first lieutenants, $105.50; and second lieutenants, $105.50. Other line and staff officers drew an average of about $15 per month more. Pay for one (brigadier general), two (major general), and three star generals (lieutenant general) was $315, $457, and $758, respectively.

 

The Confederate pay structure was modeled after that of the US Army. Privates continued to be paid at the prewar rate of $11 per month until June '64, when the pay of all enlisted men was raised $7 per month. Confederate officer's pay was a few dollars lower than that of their Union counterparts. A Southern brigadier general for example, drew $301 instead of $315 per month; Confederate colonels of the infantry received $195, and those of artillery, engineers, and cavalry received $210. While the inflation of Confederate Money reduced the actual value of a Southerner's military pay, this was somewhat counterbalanced by the fact that promotion policies in the South were more liberal.

 

As for the pay of noncommissioned officers, when Southern privates were making $11 per month, corporals were making $13, "buck" sergeants $17, first sergeants $20, and engineer sergeants were drawing $34. About the same ratio existed in the Northern army between the pay of privates and noncommissioned officers.

 

Soldiers were supposed to be paid every two months in the field, but they were fortunate if they got their pay at four-month intervals (in the Union Army) and authentic instances are recorded where they went six and eight months. Payment in the Confederate Army was even slower and less regular.

Civil War Currency

Just as the Revolutionary War prompted the Continental Congress to issue paper currency, the financing of the Civil War provided the catalyst for the continuing evolution of U.S. currency. In 1861, the U.S. Treasury issued its first paper currency since the Continentals--Demand notes. They were printed in $5, $10, and $20 denominations, redeemable in coin on demand. Demand notes were also called "greenbacks" because their reverse sides were printed in green ink. Although Demand notes were no longer printed after 1862, they're still valid today, redeemable in current cash at face value. Demand notes were replaced by Legal Tender notes, which were issued in denominations ranging from $1 to $10,000. To save metals during the Civil War, Legal Tender notes were originally backed by faith in the government, rather than gold or silver. In 1879, the U.S. Treasury began redeeming Legal Tender notes for coin. They were issued until 1966 and are still redeemable today at face value. Lack of confidence in paper money resulting from the Free Banking Era and the Civil War inspired the creation of Interest-bearing notes, issued from 1861 through 1865. The interest paid on these notes provided the incentive for citizens to hold the currency and also helped to finance the final years of the Civil War.

Between 1861 and 1865, the Confederacy issued currency backed by cotton to millions of southerners, gambling that a Confederate victory would ensure the currency's value. Meanwhile, enterprising Northerners printed Confederate money and circulated it in the South. This led to one of the greatest inflationary periods in America, particularly in the South. By the War's end, Confederate notes were almost worthless and many people bartered or used black market Union issues as a medium of exchange. Widespread hoarding of coins and the need to divert metals toward the war effort created a shortage of coins during the Civil War. Paper tickets, stamps, and bills were frequently substituted, but the scarcity was so great that Congress authorized the issuance of "paper coins" as a temporary "fractional currency." From 1862 to 1876, the federal government issued more than $368,000,000 in fractional currency in three- to fifty-cent denominations. Called "shinplasters," these paper coins were much smaller in size than our existing currency. After the Civil War, fractional currency was no longer needed and Congress stopped issuing fractional currency in 1876.

Sources: The Civil War Dictionary, by Mark M. Boatner; San Francisco Federal Reserve.

(Related reading below.)

Recommended Reading: Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life. Description: Most histories of the Civil War focus on battles and top brass. Hardtack and Coffee is one of the few to give a vivid, detailed picture of what ordinary soldiers endured every day—in camp, on the march, at the edge of a booming, smoking hell. John D. Billings of Massachusetts enlisted in the Army of the Potomac and survived the hellish conditions as a “common foot soldier” of the American Civil War. "Billings describes an insightful account of the conflict – the experiences of every day life as a common foot-soldier – and a view of the war that is sure to score with every buff." Continued below...

The authenticity of his book is heightened by the many drawings that a comrade, Charles W. Reed, made while in the field. This is the story of how the Civil War soldier was recruited, provisioned, and disciplined. Described here are the types of men found in any outfit; their not very uniform uniforms; crowded tents and makeshift shelters; difficulties in keeping clean, warm, and dry; their pleasure in a cup of coffee; food rations, dominated by salt pork and the versatile cracker or hardtack; their brave pastimes in the face of death; punishments for various offenses; treatment in sick bay; firearms and signals and modes of transportation. Comprehensive and anecdotal, Hardtack and Coffee is striking for the pulse of life that runs through it.

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Editor's Choice: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns. Review: The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns is the most successful public-television miniseries in American history. The 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images (photographs, paintings, maps, prints), anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. Continued below...
The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. "Hailed as a film masterpiece and landmark in historical storytelling." "[S]hould be a requirement for every student."
 

Recommended Reading: The Fighting Men of the Civil War, by William C. Davis (Author), Russ A. Pritchard (Author). Description: "A must for any Civil War library!" The sweeping histories of the War Between the States often overlook the men in whose blood that history was written. This account goes a long way toward redressing the balance in favor of the men in the ranks. The reader follows the soldiers from enlistment and training to campaigning. Attention is also given to oft-forgotten groups such as the sailors and black troops. Continued below...

No effort has been spared to include rare war era photographs and color photos of rare artifacts. Engagingly written by William C. Davis, the author of more than thirty books on the American Civil War. Award winning author and historian James M. McPherson states: "The most readable, authoritative, and beautifully designed illustrated history of the American Civil War."

 

Recommended Reading: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War, by Edwin C. Bearss (Author), James McPherson (Introduction). Description: Bearss, a former chief historian of the National Parks Service and internationally recognized American Civil War historian, chronicles 14 crucial battles, including Fort Sumter, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Sherman's march through the Carolinas, and Appomattox--the battles ranging between 1861 and 1865; included is an introductory chapter describing John Brown's raid in October 1859. Bearss describes the terrain, tactics, strategies, personalities, the soldiers and the commanders. (He personalizes the generals and politicians, sergeants and privates.) Continued below...

The text is augmented by 80 black-and-white photographs and 19 maps. It is like touring the battlefields without leaving home. A must for every one of America's countless Civil War buffs, this major work will stand as an important reference and enduring legacy of a great historian for generations to come. "This stout volume covers not only the pivotal American Civil War battles, but also the bloodiest and costliest battles." Also available in hardcover: Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War.
 

Recommended Reading: This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. Publishers Weekly: Battle is the dramatic centerpiece of Civil War history; this penetrating study looks instead at the somber aftermath. Historian Faust (Mothers of Invention) notes that the Civil War introduced America to death on an unprecedented scale and of an unnatural kind—grisly, random and often ending in an unmarked grave far from home. Continued below...

She surveys the many ways the Civil War generation coped with the trauma: the concept of the Good Death—conscious, composed and at peace with God; the rise of the embalming industry; the sad attempts of the bereaved to get confirmation of a soldier's death, sometimes years after war's end; the swelling national movement to recover soldiers' remains and give them decent burials; the intellectual quest to find meaning—or its absence—in the war's carnage. In the process, she contends, the nation invented the modern culture of reverence for military death and used the fallen to elaborate its new concern for individual rights. Faust exhumes a wealth of material—condolence letters, funeral sermons, ads for mourning dresses, poems and stories from Civil War–era writers—to flesh out her lucid account. The result is an insightful, often moving portrait of a people torn by grief. 

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