Military History Monday: Hundred Days Men

GovJohnBroughBy 1864 it was becoming increasingly more difficult to conscript enough able-bodied men to fight for either the North or South.  Before the war began in early April of 1861, the United States Army had around 16,400 officers and men.  On April 9, 1861 a call was made for the District of Columbia to muster ten companies of militia.  There was some resistance as evidenced by one company of 100 men: two officers, one sergeant, one corporal, one musician and ten privates refused to muster.

Less than a week later, President Lincoln called for 75,000 militiamen to serve three months.  By May he was calling for 500,000 to serve three years.  In 1862 there were calls for 300,000 to serve three years and later that year another 300,000 to serve for nine months.  As the war continued unabated, calls for more enlistments were issued.  Some would re-enlist after their term of service had expired.  Even with a large numbers of troop already assembled, Lincoln made a special plea in 1863 and 1864, first to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

In 1864 Ohio Governor John Brough proposed that the state militia be organized for federal service for a period of one hundred days.  These troops would serve the short-term assignment as guards, laborers and reserve soldiers, or however most needed.  He took his proposal a step further when he pressed the governors of Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois to join him.

The governors met on April 21 and offered the services of 85,000 men for one hundred days.  Governor Brough promised 30,000 from his state alone.  The federal government accepted their proposal and the volunteers would be organized according to War Department rules and regulations.  The troops would be armed and equipped within twenty days of their acceptance and paid as other army volunteers.  No bounties were to be paid to these troops.  By this point in the war, “bounty-jumpers” were becoming an unfortunate and costly by-product of the war effort.  Large amounts would be paid, only to see some enlistees “skip the country” with their government bounty in hand.

Some who served as Hundred Days Men were younger than eighteen and some  much older.  For instance, former Illinois governor John Wood was sixty-five and commanded the 137th Illinois.  Some “hundred-dazers,” as they were called, had little regard for rules and regulations.  Some were undisciplined and the rawest of raw recruits.  Other states or territories organized their own 100-day regiments.  One such regiment participated in the Sand Creek Massacre in November of 1864, led by Major John M. Chivington who had previously led a successful campaign against Confederate forces at Glorieta Pass.  You can read more about the massacre here.

Governor Brough’s goal of 85,000 fell short, however, when only 81,000 were raised.  Some examples of service rendered by the Hundred Days Men:

  • The Iowa 45th Regiment was organized at Keokuk on May 25, 1864, deployed first to St. Louis and then on to Memphis, Tennessee where they guarded the camp and well as points along the Memphis & Charleston Railroad.  The regiment mustered out on September 16, 1864 at Keokuk.  A total of twenty-two fatalities were reported: three killed in action and nineteen by disease.
  • The Ohio 144th Infantry was organized at Columbus, Ohio as an 834-man National Guard unit on May 11, 1864.  Companies served in various posts in Maryland, Delaware and Fort Dix, New Jersey.  Companies B, G and I fought in the Battle of Monocracy on July 9 and some advanced to Winchester, Virginia and on to Snicker’s Gap before being ordered to return to Washington.  The regiment mustered out on August 31, 1864 at Camp Chase in Columbus.  A total of sixty-three fatalities were reported: fifty-three from sickness or disease and ten were killed in action.
  • The Wisconsin 40th Regiment was organized at Madison, Wisconsin on June 14, 1864.  First deployed to Memphis, Tennessee and attached to Post and Defenses of Memphis, District of West Tennessee. Duties included garrison, railroad guard and picket duty and defense during an attack on Memphis on August 21. The regiment was mustered out on September 16, 1864.  Nineteen total fatalities reported: one officer killed and eighteen enlisted men died of disease.

Following their service, “hundred-dazers” received an official certificate of thanks signed by War Secretary Edwin Stanton and President Abraham Lincoln (printed signatures).

100DayCertificateIn honor of their service, P.N. Wickerham composed a song entitled The Hundred Days Men, dedicated to the minute men of Ohio:

HundredDaysMenSongBe sure and stop by tomorrow for Tombstone Tuesday to read about one of Ohio’s “hundred-dazers.”

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.



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