Friday, March 30, 2012

Smart Centipede Presents: I Bet You Didn't Know

On today's installment of "I Bet You Didn't Know," we explore something you MAY have known, just not in the depth that you think you do.

Did you know that I.O.U. is an acronym? You did? What did you think it stood for? Well, you're probably wrong.

Here it is, the untold origin of the I.O.U.:
Instrument Of Union, dated 1863
In four days in late 1862, The Army of the Confederate States of America scored a major victory over the Union Army at Fredericksburg, VA, having successfully defended the city from invasion by the North. Had the Union taken the city, they would have had a relatively easy run into Richmond, the Confederate Capital City. But the Union Army was delayed in getting pontoon bridges to cross the Rappahannock River, allowing Confederate Lieutenant General Stonewall Jackson time to amass his troops and deal the Union one of it's most humbling defeats in the Civil War.

The battle taxed the Union in that they lost 12,653 men, but also the prolonged four day assault cost them a great deal of their supplies, much of which had to be abandoned in the retreat. Although the North maintained a clear advantage over the South in terms of industrialization, meaning they had a ready supply of ammunition and weapons, their logistic shortcoming was that industrialization did not allow for things that cannot be manufactured, like horses, feed, and food. Wagons and saddles were also in shorter supply, as those were not being mass produced as quickly.

Faced with a shortage of vital logistical supplies, the Union Army began requisitioning the supplies it needed from local farmers and townsfolk. At the insistence of President Abraham Lincoln, rather than just commandeering the supplies needed, the Generals of the Union Army began to issue requisition requests for local farmers, declaring that the supplies being requested were "vital instruments of the Northern Union, necessary to reunite the shattered nation." Thus, when a farmer voluntarily surrendered supplies, the value of said supplies was tallied and listed on a note declaring them "Instruments Of The Union." The already willing Northerners were further assuaged by the promise of payment, and the resulting increase in volunteer goods was vital to the later success of the Union Army. So great was the influx of goods that many of the later Instrument Of The Union letters were being handwritten hastily, and the word "the" was often left off the title.

Following the war, the farmers and townspeople that had willingly surrendered goods for the Union Army's use began bringing their "Instrument Of Union" letters to the government to receive payment. The farmer would be duly compensated for their goods, receiving cash for their "I.O.U." letter.

Hence, the practice of giving someone an I.O.U. for the promise of later payment.

I bet you didn't know that!