A “good for” paper sutler 5-cent token issued during the Civil War
sold for $290 at auction March 30, 2014, by Holabird Western Americana
Collections in Reno, Nev.
The token was issued in 1861 by J.R. Bostwick, who was the sutler,
or private supplier, of nonmilitary items to soldiers in the 11th New
York Cavalry, a unit known as “Scott’s 900” after its namesake Thomas
A. Scott, assistant secretary of war.
This 5-cent paper scrip note indicates it was good for FIVE CENTS IN
TRADE. It was signed by Bostwick as "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.
Civil War battlefields were not known for supplying all the comforts
of home and soldiers in the field often needed 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 the soldiers were far away from their homes and towns.
These civilian merchants, known as sutlers, followed many Civil War
regiments, offering necessary goods and food to soldiers.
In 1861 James B. Swain of New York was given authority to raise a
volunteer regiment. He named it after his friend Thomas A. Scott,
assistant secretary of war.
Bostwick supplied “gloves, blacking, polishing stuffs, thread,
needles, pipes, tobacco and cigars” and sometimes food, to that
regiment, according to a booklet published in 1897, The Story of a
Cavalry Regiment: "Scott's 900" Eleventh New York
Cavalry, by Thomas West Smith.
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.