Bouvier (1856) “An obligation or bond is a deed whereby the obligor, obliges himself, his heirs, executors and administrators, to pay a certain sum of money to another at a day appointed.”
Bonds are familiar legal instruments today. Their most familiar form is the bail bond, promising that an individual will appear in court or on penalty of forfeiting cash or property. This example from Fayette County does just that, with the accused William F. White and his co-signer C. T. Worley promising to forfeit $500 if White failed to appear in the Fayette Circuit Court.
The war caused innumerable problems with bail bonds as young men rushed to join the armies on both sides and consequently missed their court dates. The General Assembly eventually passed a law exempting the sureties of Union volunteers from forfeiture if their principals missed court because of military orders. Those who had signed on to bonds for Confederate volunteers were not so lucky. Some individual remissions were granted, but Kentucky courts did not look on treasonous rebellion against the government as a legitimate excuse for missing a court date.
Bail bonds were not the only form that bonds could take, however. Certain offices required bonds to be issued on the officeholder, too. Sheriffs, for example, who collected court fees and county taxes were bonded in the amount of $5,000. Militia officers who received weapons from the state to arm their men also signed official bonds for the value of the weapons.