My great-great-grandfather Ezekiel Johnson collected a bounty for turning himself into the federal government in 1864. Actually, so did a lot of other folks earn such bounties.
Zeke Johnson was held as a slave in Clay County, Missouri, fro the day he was born in 1847 until one day in May, 1864, when he was 17 years old. That day he “left” his master. How exactly he got away is not known. But two months later in July, 1864, he enlisted in Company D, 18th Regiment, U.S. Colored Troops.
During the Civil War, two acts of Congress—one passed in 1864 (13 Stat. 11) and one in 1866 (14 Stat. 321)—allowed loyal slave owners whose slaves enlisted or were drafted into the U.S. military to file a claim against the Federal government for loss of the slave’s services. The law allowed for up to $300 compensation for slaves who enlisted, and up $100 for slaves who were drafted.
The Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 freed the slaves in the states which were in rebellion, but in border-states which were loyal to the Union—slavery continued to be legal. The law authorizing the formation of the USCT stated that no man was to fight as a slave, so for slaves in the border-states, enlistment meant freedom. If owners would not give permission to enlist, then slaves had to run away in order to join the army. In some cases, flight from slavery led to enlistment in the state where the slave resided, but other times it led to enlistment in a neighboring state. If a slave’s former owner found out where and when he joined—and the owner was loyal to the Union—then he or she could file a slave compensation claim.
St Louis County Library, What was a Slave Compensation Claim?
The compensation generally was $300 per slave. But since Grandpa Zeke ran away, he, not the slave owner, was entitled to his own bounty! See Colored Men and Their Relation to the Military Service and Black Missourians in the Civil War
The document below shows that Zeke was still owed $100 of his bounty when he was discharged. I don’t know if he ever got it.
To see another document about this story, go to my page on GenealogyWise.com!
July 14, 2009 Tuesday at 8:44 pm