The business of war is profitable, that’s what they say. That could be true for those companies manufacturing guns, vehicles, and all those other necessary war supplies. As for the soldiers, you’ve probably seen the meme about marrying them just because of their Tricare. Who would’ve thought that during the American Civil War, it was the men who profited off the war? Known as bounty jumpers, they would enlist, receive the money, and the desert only to reenlist elsewhere and receive another payment. Here’s how they exploited the system and got away with it.

The Bounty Jumpers

In the American Civil War era, the system was not as organized and solid yet, and not everything was tracked yet either through personal records or CCTVs. One of its flaws was that it was okay to pay someone to enlist in your place, and this was permitted both on the Union and Confederate sides. The logic being was that allowing these men to pay others to enlist in the place would result in more soldiers enlisting.

The Civil War in America- claiming exemption from the draught (i.e., draft) in New York. (Miscellaneous Items in High Demand, PPOC, Library of Congress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Conscription Act of 1863, sponsored by Senator Henry Wilson, “provided an exemption for those who could pay a $300 fee,” and many people criticized it, arguing that it punished the poor and interfered with the states’ rights. The maximum fees differed depending on the area: in the Northern area was where the $300 allowed, roughly $9000 in today’s money. Other areas in the south offered a bit lower fees from $50 up to $100.

Thus, bounty jumpers started to hop out. They would enlist themselves for other people, take the bounty, desert, and then enlist elsewhere. They were a bigger problem for the Union than for the Confederates. New York City was among the popular to-go place for anyone seeking someone to serve in their place. At one time, they estimated up to 3,000 professional bounty jumpers were operating in the city.