Solomon S. Kenney
September 18, 1861
Even at the age of 21, Solomon S. Kenney, of South Paris, wanted assurances.
He was willing to volunteer for the military, but he wanted to know the terms by which he and others like him would be paid their enlistment incentive money, the bounty, that Maine was offering. For them, the $100 bounty was a lot of money.
The average earnings of a farm laborer in New England in 1860 were $12.98 per month. Thus, the $100 bounty was equal to approximately two-thirds of a year’s pay.
Kenney wrote to Governor Israel Washburn,"pro multis," (on behalf of many) in September of 1861.
Kenney was considering signing up for the 1st Maine, whose ranks needed to be re-filled, and he knew that the regiment would be mustered out before his two-year enlistment would expire. He wanted to know that if the 1st Maine Regiment ceased to exist before his contract was up, would he and others like him still receive the bounty money?
Although he was not alone in asking about the terms of pay and service, Kenney was one of a few who used the Latin phrase "pro multis" in addressing the Governor.
Kenney’s perspective that the war could last for years would prove insightful. Many people believed it would be over quickly.
For Kenney, it was. Two weeks after writing to Gov. Washburn, Kenney enlisted and was assigned to Company G of the 10th Maine Infantry. He entered the service in May, 1861, and was killed a year later on May 25, 1862, during the Union Army’s retreat from Winchester, Maryland.
Questions for further thought/research:
- $100 was a lot of money in 1861, but for what other reasons might someone have joined the Union army?
- What is the role of the adjutant general?
- Does it make sense that Kenney addressed his letter to Adjutant General Hodsdon?
- Where did Kenney learn Latin?
- What are some differences between subjects taught in school then and now?