Signing Bonus – 1864

Private Tigle Milburn, “D” Company, 30th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry

During the American Civil War cash bounties were offered as an incentive for volunteer enlistment into the army in much the same way signing bonuses are offered to modern sports figures. The volunteer boom which followed the beginning of the war had long since passed and the ongoing and increasing carnage made finding willing recruits a questionable proposition.

The draft was introduced in 1863 by federal authorities and proved so unpopular that massive and very deadly riots resulted in a place like New York City. Bonuses had been offered since the beginning of the war and had initially been awarded at the time of enlistment. This led to a problem. Men would enlist, collect their bonus, promptly desert, then proceed to the next enlistment office and repeat the process. Some became a going concern.

It should be noted that when the draft was implemented, African Americans were specifically exempted from its provisions. Of the approximately 180,000 who served in the Union Army (another 20,000 served in the navy) all were volunteers.

Tigle Milburn

Above: Private Tigle Milburn’s $50.00 bounty application issued by the State of Maryland. Although not filled out completely, the document contains enough information to form the basis for further research into his wartime service and life after the war. 10 1/4 inches by 19 inches (25.5cm x 40.5cm) November 5, 1866. Source: Collection of Edward T. Garcia/soldiersifthequeen.com

To remedy the problem it was decided to award the bonuses after the completion of the agreed-upon term of service. It was under this type of agreement that 38-year-old Tigle Milburn enlisted in “D” Company, 30th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry on March 31, 1864, at Baltimore, Maryland for a term of three years. The bounty offered by the state on Maryland was $50.00.

Dated November 5, 1866, Milburn’s post-war bounty claim list some particulars of his service and makes his formal claim to the $50.00 bounty promised him at the time of his enlistment by the state of Maryland. It also appoints George W. Fish to act as his attorney in the matter. Unfortunately, Minburn’s bounty application fails to note as to whether his request was honored or not.

Tigle Milburn Detail 1

Above: A detail of the upper portion of Private Milburn’s bounty application.

With the information on this document and copies of Milburn’s compiled service records found in the National Archives, Washington D.C. a brief outline of his life and service history is possible.

Tigle Milburn was born about 1826 in Dorchester County, Maryland. At the time of his enlistment, he stated that he was “born free” and although his parent’s names have not been found one might assume that they must have been free also for at least some portion of their lives.

Tigle Milburn Detail 2

Above: The signature block of Milburn’s bounty application. The fact that Milburn was not able to read or write is indicated by him have made his mark, an “X” between the first and last name of the signature. 

Milburn would have seen action with his regiment around Petersburg and at the infamous Battle of the Crater as well as other mostly forgotten actions such as Weldon Railroad, Poplar Grove Church, Boydton Plank Road, and Hatcher’s Run. His last battle was probably at Fort Fisher, North Carolina from December 7 to December 27, 1864.

The Crater

Above: A sketch of the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg by Alfred Waud. c. 1864. Source: Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division.

In January 1865 Tigle Milburn was taken sick and confined to Wilmington Hospital until July 1865 by which time the war had come to an end. No mention is given in his service records as to the nature of Milburn’s illness.

After returning to duty Milburn took part in various occupation duties with his regiment in North Carolina until the unit was mustered out of service on December 10, 1865, at Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

African American Soldier

Above: Although no known photographic representations of Tigle Milburn exist, this 1/6th plate tintype of an unidentified African American Union Army private gives an excellent impression of how he would have been uniformed and equipped. c. 1864 Source: Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Library of Congress.

With the war’s end Milburn settled at Deal Island, Maryland and in the U.S. Census for 1880 he was listed as married with his wife’s name being Elizabeth. The couple had been married since before the war and had five children: John (born about 1858), Francis (born about 1860), Julia (born about 1862), Oscar (born about 1864) and Alice (born about 1866). By 1870 Milburn and his three sons had taken to the sea and were all listed in the census as sailors by trade. The 1890 census shows them to have been specifically employed as oystermen. Milburn died sometime around 1901 with his widow, Elizabeth filing for his pension on May 25 of that year. In these later documents, his name is given as Teagle Milbourne or Milbourn.

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