Excessive Civil War fine

My 5 times great grandfather was fined $2,000 for being a Rebel Spy during the Civil War.  Was this an excessive amount for an Eastern Kentucky farmer?

  • That sounds like a matter for interpretation.  

  • Hi Bernard,

    Have you explored any of the Provost Marshal Records?  I saw your previous post where you mentioned your ancestor's name Jesse Wicker.  I am assuming you have these records - found in the U.S., Union Provost Marshals' Papers, 1861-1867 on Ancestry showing his "Parole of Honor" & "Oath of Allegience * as these documrnts are labeled. [Many local libraries have free access to Ancestry]

    I do not have any expertise in Provost Marshal records but I did some research on another History Hub question several months ago & one of the items I posted in my reply was a similar Oath for a man in TN but with a "penal sum" of $200.  - I have no idea of his offense

    This is a link to that discussion


    - You can see in some of the information I posted re: the Gallatin TN area where Mr Templeton lived, the General in charge of the area  was described as "His tyranny was always present. He was known all around Gallatin for executing suspected rebel spies without a trial."

    - If that was true, it makes me doubt there was any standardization of the fines or bond that were posted for various offences by Confederate citizens in various states or areas of the country.  I do not know if they were decided by the General governing that area or the Provost Marshal.  I suspect it was similar to punishment handed out in Union courts-martial trials.  Having read many Union courts-martial trials, I can tell you the sentence imposed for certain offenses varied greatly depending on what officers  made up the court,when & where it occurred, whether the sentence was approved by the commanding General, etc.  For instance whether a soldier was charged with AWOL or desertion was up to the odfficer preferring the charges.  Was the soldier a trouble maker or generally a good soldier?  Sentences for being AWOL vs desertion varied with sentences ranging from loss of pay, to hard labor to death. 

    I assume the "penal sum" charged to Mr Templeton &  the bond Jesse paid  were just as subjective, but don't know for sure.

    - Was your ancestor a "trouble maker" or was he falsely accused?  How did you know he was in prison?

    - Perhaps you should re-post your question asking if there would be any additional documents in the Archive records relating to these  2 documents I  attached above that would give more details on his offenses & imprisonment.  Any records from the prison he was in?

    - How did this bond Jesse & Mr Templeton had to post actually work?  Did they post a portion of the $2000 (like a bail bondsman today) or did he have to come up with the full amount?  Was the sum just subjective to who was imposing it or were there guidelines established by the government re: certain offenses?  Was the amount based at all on status (a wealthy plantation owner vs. a simple farmer)?

    It would be interesting to learn more -hopefully someone with some expertise in Confederate oaths or Provost Marshal records would have the answers!


  • Thanks so much for your reply.  I have seen some of the information you have provided, but not all.  I just know what was provided for his stay in McLean Military Prison in Cincinnati.  It is just a list of several prisoners and their dates there.  As far as I know, he was a simple country farmer.  I’m extremely interested in if there is any information about who his parents were or beyond hope, a picture of him.  Thank you for your help and information.