Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Remembering Some of America's First Soldiers

When the United States of America was a very young country, there wasn't a lot of gold in the treasury to pay for a standing army. Still, there were wars to be fought such as the War of 1812, the Mexican War and of course the American Revolution.

One way the government could pay its soldiers was to offer bounty land grants for their service. Discharged soldiers applied for a warrant, and if the warrant was granted they could apply for a land patent which made them owners of a portion of the land in the public domain.

Certain swaths of land were set aside for war land grants. Sometimes the soldiers actually took possession of their land, but often they sold their grants to speculators and took a smaller amount of ready cash rather than move their families to an unknown territory.

A large chunk of western Illinois was set aside for soldiers who served in the War of 1812. Each soldier was eligible to receive 160 acres of land. Where that 160 acres was located was determined by lottery.

Many of the soldiers chose not to travel out to Illinois, which wasn't even a state yet when the bounty land was being granted. Instead speculators bought out a lot of the claims and amassed large holdings. Pioneers from the east often ignored the speculators' claims, however and simply settled down where they wished, "squatting" until they were kicked out or could legally stake a claim.

The United States government felt they had the right to grant these lands because no one of European extraction was currently claiming them, but the native people of course felt very differently. This same area was home to several Native American tribes who already were using the land for farming and hunting and didn't see why they should have to give it up.

Black Hawk took a stand in 1832, but he didn't get the backing he hoped for and was defeated by U.S. troops. The Native Americans were relocated west of the Mississippi and European settlers continued to arrive in droves to stake their homesteads.

Abraham Lincoln's only military service was during the Black Hawk War until he became Commander in Chief of the Union Army during the Civil War.

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