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Military Bounty Lands (1812)

Military Bounty Lands are lands that were given to eligible veterans for their service in the War of 1812. This process was established by three different acts passed by Congress on December 24, 1811; January, 11, 1812; and May 6, 1812. Under these acts, Congress established that noncommissioned officers and soldiers serving for five years, or their heirs, would be entitled to three month's pay and 160 acres of public land as compensation for their military service. These acts were later amended in 1814 changing the amount of land to 320 acres. Lands claimed under this act were often referred to as Double Bounty Warrants. As a result, six million acres of public land were reserved to meet these demands by setting aside two million acres each in the Territories of Michigan, Illinois and Louisiana (now present day Arkansas) “between the river St. Francis and the river Arkansas.” Interestingly, in 1816 Congress removed Michigan from the process because of initial surveyors’ reports claiming the lands were unsuitable. These reports caused the Missouri Territory to be added by setting aside 500,000 acres of their public lands and dropping Illinois’ total availability to 1.5 million acres keeping the total at six million acres. Legislation was passed in 1842 opening up the process for public lands in the other states. Under the terms, land was not granted outright to veterans. Instead, it was a multi-step process beginning with a bounty land warrant. Veterans had to first apply for a warrant and if it was granted, they would receive notification that a numbered warrant had been issued in their name and was on file in the General Land Office. It was then up to the individual to use the warrant to apply for a patent which would establish ownership of the land. This legislation also established that “no claim for military land bounties shall be assignable or transferrable in any manner whatsoever until a patent has been granted.” It was not uncommon for war veterans to never actually claim their land. Either a warrant was issued and never patented, or they would go through the steps to get their patents and then sell them to land speculators.


These records are separated by Township & Range with name, legal description, warrant number and date of patent. If a patent was issued, further information may be obtained by contacting the National Archives in Washington D.C.