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Worthless Paydays

War is expensive. In addition to munitions and equipment, soldiers need to be paid for their services–and it was no different during the Civil War. Storyteller Peter Bonner recounts tales of Civil War paydays. Because wages were so low, no weapons were allowed out of fear someone would kill the paymaster. Confederate soldiers were paid an average of $12 a month, or about $.39 a day. While the government issued clothing, it was soon worn out and had to be replaced at the soldier’s expense. In addition, there were payroll deductions for losing pieces of equipment, being absent, or gambling debts. Firm believers in the philosophy of states rights, each Southern state printed its own money that soon lost its value. After the war ended, Confederate veterans would joke about worthless paydays, but while on active duty it was not a joke.

Teacher tip: Ask students to dig deeper and be able to explain why Confederate money became worthless. Discuss military service and who should be responsible for providing for soldiers’ basic needs.