Revolutionary War Military District
Following the Revolutionary War, the newly formed republic needed a system to compensate soldiers for their services. King George III of England had used a bounty land system to pay soldiers in the French & Indian War. As monies in national coffers could not meet the demand for cash payments to veterans, the states decided to use the same bounty land system for Revolutionary War veterans. Each state determined a land allotment based on the soldier’s rank and term of service. Each state paid her own veterans—usually with land in the western territory. Generally those states without available land did not participate in a bounty land warrant program for veterans.
To research states and military districts, we recommend "Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants Awarded By State Governments," by Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck, published by Genealogical Publishing Company, ISBN 0-8063-1511-3.
||Virginia Land Law & The Location of the Military District
Before June 1, 1792, Kentucky was a part of Virginia. A Resolution to the Virginia General Assembly dated December 19, 1778, proposed the location of the Military District as follows: "That it is the opinion of this committee, that a certain tract of country to be bounded by the Green river and a southeast course from the head thereof to the Cumberland mountains, with the said mountains to the Carolina line, with the Carolina line to the Cherokee or Tennessee river, with the said river to the Ohio river, and with the Ohio river to the said Green river, ought to be reserved for supplying the officers and soldiers in the Virginia line with the respective proportions of land which have been or may be assigned to them by the general assembly, saving and reserving the land granted to Richard Henderson and company, and their legal rights to such persons as have heretofore actually located lands and settled thereon within the bounds aforesaid." The Virginia Land Law of May 3, 1779, confirmed the location proposed in the resolution.
After separating from Virginia, the Kentucky General Assembly opened the military district to settlers meeting age and residency requirements. Although the Act of December 21, 1795 was amended several times, the premise was the same—military claims needed to be filed or they would be void. The 1795 law stated lands not claimed by the military before January 1796, faced forfeiture to settlers filing under the South of Green River Series of patents.
In 1818, lands west of the Tennessee River were purchased from the Chickasaw Indians. A number of Revolutionary War veterans had settled on the lands prior to the sale. On December 20, 1820, the Kentucky General Assembly approved an Act for surveying the military claims west of the Tennessee River. It reads in part: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly….That the surveyor of the lands set apart for the satisfaction of the legal bounties of the officers and soldiers of the Virginia line or state establishment be, and he is hereby authorized and required by himself or his deputies, to secure chain carriers and markers, and to survey without delay, all entries made in his office, prior to the first day of May, 1792, on warrants for military services aforesaid; and shall make out a full and fair connection of the surveys so made, showing where & how they interfere with the townships and sections of the land as laid off by William T. Henderson…..That the surveys made in pursuance of this act, shall contain the quantity of land specified in such entry, and no more…..If the person or persons entitled to any plat & certificate of survey directed to be made by this act, shall not take the same out of the surveyor’s office, and cause the same to be filed with the register of the land office, on or before the first day of January, 1823, the right of such person ..shall be considered lapsed and forfeited to the state." Records with the Secretary of State’s Land Office indicate 242 patents were issued to Revolutionary War veterans in the West of Tennessee River area (the Jackson Purchase).
Not all Virginia veterans had used their Warrants before 1792. Where would the veterans locate if they couldn’t use Kentucky? Virginia had reserved land in Ohio as part of a cession compromise with Congress. A portion of that area was deemed the Virginia Military District.
||Ohio's Major Land Surveys
The district lands are found in 23 counties from the Ohio River northward, between the Scioto and Little Miami Rivers, as far as 141 miles inland. Warrants used in the Kentucky Military District end with #4627. If research indicates a veteran received a higher number, it was most surely used in Ohio. We have also found earlier numbers might have been used in both states. If the "Authorized" field in our Revolutionary War Warrants Database is blank, we suggest you contact the Ohio Historical Society, 1982 Velma Avenue, Columbus, OH 43211 to research warrant usage. By Acts of Congress dated May 30, 1830, and August 31, 1852, Virginia military warrants could be exchanged for land scrip. Land scrip could be used to acquire any public lands open for entry at private sale, according to research on the Western Reserve. For further information, visit this website: http://www.rootsweb.com Click on the Ohio GenWeb Project then "Ohio Lands".
||How Much Land Did the Soldiers Receive?
Each state decided the veteran’s land allotment. Legislation by the Virginia General Assembly & research by Bockstruck indicates Virginia paid the following bounties for service in the Revolutionary War:
Sailor who served his 3 yr enlistment or to the end of the war -- 100 acres
Soldier who served his 3 yr enlistment or to the end of the war -- 100 acres
Noncommissioned officer who enlisted & served his 3 yr enlistment -- 200 acres
Sailor who served throughout the war -- 400 acres
Soldier who served throughout the war -- 400 acres
Noncommissioned officer who served throughout the war -- 400 acres
Subaltern-Cornet -- 2000 to 2666 acres
Subaltern-Ensign -- 2000 to 2666 acres
Subaltern-Lieutenant -- 2000 to 2666 acres
Surgeon’s Mate -- 2666 to 8000 acres
Surgeon -- 2666 to 8000 acres
Chaplain -- 2666 to 8000 acres
Captain -- 3000 to 4666 acres
Major -- 4000 to 5333 acres
Lt. Colonel -- 4500 to 6666 acres
Colonel -- 5000 to 8888 acres
Brigadier General -- 10,000 acres +
Major General -- 15,000 to 17,500 acres
And where any officer, soldier, or sailor shall have fallen or died in the service, his heirs or legal representatives shall be entitled to, and receive the same quantity of land as would have been due to such officer, soldier or sailor respectively, had he been living.
You can research the number of warrants issued to each rank. Remember, this table does not indicate the number of different individuals who received warrants; some veterans received several warrants.
||Results of Database Research
Creation of the Revolutionary War Warrants Database has enabled Land Office staff to determine the following information:
- 4748 military warrants were issued by Virginia for the Kentucky Military District. James Askew received Military Warrant #1 on August 8, 1782. Henry Bedinger received Military Warrant #4627 on October 29, 1793. Three numbers were skipped and there were 121 duplicate numbers issued.
- Warrants were assignable, meaning they could be sold or transferred—particularly if the veteran preferred cash to a Military District relocation. For that reason some veterans chose to accept their bounty land in small denominations. For example, a veteran allowed 4,000 acres might accept the payment in one warrant; another veteran may chose four warrants of 1,000 acres each. This fact makes it difficult to determine how many different veterans received bounty land warrants—one veteran could receive several.
- Some veterans chose to serve longer than their three year enlistment. Although they had received a previous warrant, they were given a second warrant for additional service time.
- The largest tract (15,000 acres) was issued to Major General Baron Friederick Wilhelm Von Steuben for his service at Valley Forge. The smallest tracts were for 100 acres.
- The Military District was reserved for veterans of the Virginia Continental Line (national troops) and the Virginia State Line (equivalent of the National Guard). We have determined 3247 Military Warrants were issued to Continental Line veterans and 1444 Military Warrants were issued to veterans of the State Line. One warrant was issued for service at Valley Forge, one warrant for the Director of the Virginia State Hospital, unit of service was unknown for 52 warrants, and 3 numbers were skipped.
Branches of service, based on information from the warrants, are as follows:
21 Identified by Regiment
4 Crockett’s Regiment
1 Valley Forge
8 Light Dragoons
4 Garrison Regiment
1 Continental Hospital
2 Illinois Regiment
2 Maj. Neilson's Cavalry
Soldiers from Kentucky who served with General George Rogers Clark did NOT receive bounty land warrants for the Kentucky Military District. Their warrants had to be used in Indiana. Contact the Clark County Surveyor’s Office in Jeffersonville, IN, for further information.
||Military Land Office
On July 20, 1784, the Land Office for the Virginia Military District was opened near Louisville. (ref: Collins’ HISTORY OF KENTUCKY) Colonel Richard Clough Anderson was the Principal Surveyor for veterans serving in the Virginia Continental Line. Major William Croghan & General George Rogers Clark were appointed Principal Surveyors for veterans serving in the Virginia State Line (or Militia). Due to the size of the Military District, a number of deputies assisted the Principal Surveyors.
Each Principal Surveyor kept a separate Entry Book. The first Entry filed by Major Croghan was on August 2, 1784. It reads in part: "John Montgomery, William Croghan, Mayo Carrington, and John Rogers, Trustees for laying off a Town on the River Mississippi, enter 4,000 acres of land on the Iron Banks." The first Entry filed by Col. Anderson was on July 20, 1784. It reads in part: "William Brown enters 1200 acres part of a Military Warrant #712 beginning at the confluence of the Ohio & Cumberland River." Anderson concludes his book after 2224 entries by stating "I do certify that this book contains copies of all the entries that are in my book of entries that were made on the southeast of the Ohio River in the state of Kentucky. Given under my hand this second day of November, 1798." (ANDERSON’S MILITARY ENTRIES, Kentucky Land Office) Croghan concludes his book as follows: "I do certify that the foregoing 1,468 copies of Entries are truly copied from the original books of entries in my possession. Signed May 14, 1798, by W. Croghan, Surveyor of Virginia Military State Lands." (MILITARY ENTRIES, VOL. II, Kentucky Land Office)
In 1879 the Kentucky General Assembly abolished the office of surveyor of military lands. The "present incumbent of that office" was ordered to send all books, papers and documents pertaining to his office to the Register of the Land Office "by the safest and cheapest mode of conveyance". (ref: ACTS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, 1879, Chapter 105, Article IV.)