Bounty Land Warrants
The federal government provided bounty land for those who served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and Indian wars between 1775 and 1855. It was first offered as an incentive to serve in the military and later as a reward for service.
Bounty land could have been claimed by veterans or their heirs. The federal government reserved tracts of land in the public domain for this purpose. Initially (1812 - 1842) bounty land warrants were issued only for the three military land reserves which had been established in Illinois, Arkansas and Missouri (see map below). With the passage of federal legislation in 1842, federal bounty-land warrants could be used to purchase acreage in any public domain lands (except Texas and Hawaii) that lay west of the Mississippi River, north of the Ohio River and west of Pennsylvania and in the selected states of Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.
Process for obtaining Military bounty land
A veteran requested bounty land by filing an application at a local courthouse. The application papers and other supporting documents were placed in bounty land files kept by a federal or state agency. These documents contain information similar to the pension files and include the veteran’s age and place of residence at the time of the application. If the application was approved, the individual was given either a warrant to receive land or scrip which could be exchanged for a warrant. Later laws allowed for the sale or exchange of warrants. Only a few soldiers actually received title to the bounty land or settled on it; most veterans sold or exchanged their warrants.
National Archives, Bounty Land Warrant Application Files
Bounty land warrant application files relate to claims based on wartime service between 1775 and March 3, 1855. If your ancestor served in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, early Indian Wars, or the Mexican War, a search of these records may be worthwhile. Bounty land records often contain documents similar to those in pension files, with lots of genealogical information. Many of the bounty land application files relating to Revolutionary War and War of 1812 service have been combined with the pension files.
Copies of Bounty Land Warrant Applications for Federal military service before 1856 can now be ordered online, as well as through NATF Form 85. Select "Order Reproductions" and then select "Military Service and Pension Records".
Categories of War of 1812 pension/bounty land files available using NATF Form 85:
- A complete Federal pre-Civil War military pension application based on Federal military service before 1861 (includes the Pension Documents Packet.)
- A pension document packet that contains reproductions of eight documents containing genealogical information about the pension applicant, to the extent these documents are present in the file.
- A complete military bounty land application file based on service 1775-1855 (includes only rejected Revolutionary War applications).
Some bounty land warrants for the War of 1812 have been microfilmed. They are available at the Family History Library and are described in this set of Wiki pages for those wars. For more information about bounty land records, the following sources will be helpful:
- Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Archives. Rev. ed. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Record Administration, 1985. (FHL 973 A3usn 1985.) See chapter 8.
- Hone, E. Wade. Land and Property Research in the United States. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1997. (FHL book 973 R27h.) See chapter 9, pages 115–26.
Bounty Land Warrants by Conflict
War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815-1858
Veterans were offered a total of 6 million acres of bounty land in Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, and later, Missouri. Starting in 1842 bounty land warrants were also awarded outside these assigned districts. Warrants for the acts of 1812, 1814, and 1842 (excluding the general bounty land acts of 1850, 1852, and 1855) are reproduced in the following:
- War of 1812 Military Bounty Land Warrants, 1815-1858. (NARA M848) The records usually contain the veteran’s name, rank, company, and regiment; the date the warrant was issued; and the date the warrant was exchanged for a specific parcel of land. The warrants are arranged numerically by warrant number and then chronologically.
- U.S. War Bounty Land Warrants, 1789-1858 (Ancestry) ($) (note: also includes U.S. Revolutionary War Bounty Land Warrants from NARA M829)
- War of 1812, military bounty land warrants, 1815-1858 (The National Archives, Washington, D.C.) FHL Film 15 Microfilm reels
- War of 1812 pensioners living in Arkansas during the 1880's : abstracted from the executive documents, (Cullman, Alabama, Gregath 198?) pages 33 FHL 976.7 M2
- Name index to Pay Rolls of Militia Entitled to Land Bounty Under the Act of Congress of Sept. 28, 1850 and its supplement, Muster Rolls of the Virginia Militia in the War of 1812. Approximately 40,000 names are indexed.
The following sources are also helpful:
- Christensen, Katheren, compiler. Arkansas Military Bounty Grants,War of 1812. Hot Springs, Arkansas: Arkansas Ancestors, 1971. (FHL book 976.7 R2c) (Worldcat) Contains the name of the veteran, date, and warrant number.
- Dunaway, Maxine, compiler. Missouri Military Land Warrants, War of 1812. Springfield, Missouri: Maxine Dunaway, 1985. (FHL book 977.8 R2d) (Worldcat) Lists the name of purchaser, section, township, range, warrant number, patent date, book, and page.
- Military Land Warrants in Missouri, 1819: An Alphabetical Index of Missouri Patentees. 1858. Reprint, not published, 1988. (FHL book 977.8 R2ml) (Worldcat) Lists the date, name of patentee, land warrant number, regiment, and land description.
- Rose, Christine. Military Bounty Land 1776 - 1855. (San Jose, California: Cr Publications, c2011). FHL Book 973 M27
- War of 1812 Bounty Lands in Illinois. Thomson, Illinois: Heritage House, 1977. (FHL book 977.3 R2w; film 1035624 item 7; fiche 6051272) A reprint of Lands in Illinois to Soldiers of Late War. (26th Congress, 1st Session, 1840. House Doc. 262.) These records are arranged by date and include number of warrant, name of patentee, rank, description of the tract, and to whom delivered.
Ordering Records from the National Archives