Civil War battlefields were not known for supplying all the comforts
of home. But civilian merchants, known as sutlers, followed many Civil
War regiments and offered nonmilitary-issued goods and food to soldiers.
A paper sutler token issued in 1861 by one such sutler will be
offered at auction March 29 to 30 by Holabird Western Americana
Collections in Reno, Nev.
Soldiers while on the battlefield often need provisions beyond their
regulation issued military gear. The solution during the Civil War was
for civilian suppliers to contract with the Union Army to sell those
nonmilitary items to regiments while far away from their homes and towns.
In 1861 James B. Swain of New York was given authority to raise a
volunteer regiment and he named it after his friend Thomas A. Scott,
assistant secretary of war. The 11th New York Cavalry Regiment, known
as Scott’s 900, eventually contracted with J.R. Bostwick to serve as
its “sutler” or supplier of nonmilitary items.
Bostwick supplied “gloves, blacking, polishing stuffs, thread,
needles, pipes, tobacco and cigars” and sometimes food, according to a
booklet published in 1897, The Story of a Cavalry Regiment:
"Scott's 900" Eleventh New York Cavalry, by Thomas
This 5-cent paper scrip note indicates it was good for FIVE CENTS IN
TRADE and signed by Bostwick along with the word SUTLER. Bostwick
issued paper scrip in 5-, 10-, 25- and 50-cent denominations, often to
extend credit to a soldier or as a way to give change when soldiers
made purchases. A note at the bottom of the scrip note indicates it
was printed by A. Hoen & Co. in Baltimore. The portrait may well
have been a likeness of Bostwick.
These small pieces of paper offer collectors a hands-on glimpse into
history. Just imagine who might have used this item and what they
purchased with it?
For more information about this item and other lots in the auction,
visit the auction website at www.FHWAC.com or telephone the firm at 775-825-1624.