1853 PAY IN SPECIE136, 10/10/2010
1853 PAY IN SPECIE
Did you know…
in 1853, the Army assigned only four Paymasters to pay all Federal troops stationed in Texas; at the this time, approximately one-third of the entire Army? The Paymasters given this daunting and unenviable task were Majors Jeremiah Y. Dashiell, George C. Hutter, Henry Hill and Albert S. Johnston.Since America had no paper money, and the population had a general distrust in banks and paper currency, Paymasters paid Soldiers in specie (gold, silver and copper coins). Every pay cycle, the four Paymasters loaded their payroll ($45,000 monthly total for the four Paymasters) into wagons and headed out on the trail. Their average pay circuit was 550 miles long and took them each 5 – 7 weeks to complete. Because of the great distances and the logistical difficulties of transporting large sums of money, these Paymasters could not comply with the Congressional mandate to pay Soldiers monthly. Payday was often every other month and occasionally, less frequently than that.
Annually, a heavily laden wagon train from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the nearest Army cash reserve, brought coins to Texas to help the Paymasters with their monthly payrolls. The wagon train brought roughly $500,000 and generally consisted of 8 – 10 wagons, teamsters and 20-armed guards; it made the 1200-mile journey in about 1-month.
NOTE: All four Texas Paymasters joined the Confederacy in 1861.
NOTE: Congressional law in 1853 limited the regular Army to 10,248 Soldiers.
Here are a few examples of coins a Paymaster could have used to pay Soldiers in the mid-1850s. At the time, the US minted 13 different denomination (coins), ranging from ½ cent to $20.00. The $20.00 “Double Eagle” is the largest coin denominated and circulated by the United States.
If you have questions about this trivial piece of information, if you would like to pass along a little known fact about the Finance Corps, or if you would like to contact the Museum Curator, call Mr. Henry Howe at (803) 751-3771 (DSN 734-3771) or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org