Monday, July 29, 2013

The Hundred-Days Men of the Civil War - Military Monday

My great-grandfather, Ellis Bickerstaff, served in the Civil War from May 2 to September 2, 1864, in the 157th Ohio Company D.  I wondered at his short service and decided to learn more.  It turns out that he was one of the Hundred-days Men. 

Ohio Governor John Brough
As the Civil War continued to rage during the early months of 1864, there was no clear victory for either side.  And yet victory seemed within reach of the Northern armies:  there had been some encouraging successes.  With this view, Ohio governor John Brough (pronounced Bruff) proposed to President Abraham Lincoln that regiments be formed with men who would serve for 100 days.  Short-term enlistments were not uncommon at the beginning of the war and during special emergencies.  Men enlisted for three months might be just what the Union needed to overcome the last hurdles to victory.

Brough proposed that members of the state militia, which had recently become known as the National Guard, would guard Northern bridges, railroads, and forts, thereby relieving the trained soldiers from those duties and allowing them to fight at the front and finish the war in 100 days' time.  Brough visited Pres. Lincoln in Washington, D.C., and offered 30,000 or 40,000 Ohio men.  He also proposed that the states of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin join him and offer men for 100 days of service.  Jointly, those states committed to send 85,000 men:  Ohio, 30,000; Indiana and Illinois each 20,000; Iowa 10,000; and Wisconsin 5,000.    

Ohio had already sent 10 percent of its entire population to the war.  The men who enlisted for these 100 days were
  • boys too young to serve at the beginning of the war
  • men who had previously paid others to serve in their places
  • men who had already served and come home, either injured or because their time commitment had ended; and 
  • older men 

The call came on April 25.  Men were to report for active duty on May 2, prepared to serve for 100 days.  Nearly 36,000 Ohio men reported ready for duty but only about 25,000 of them served.  They came from all walks of life:  farmers, business men, tradesmen, factory workers, etc.

For my farmer grandfather May was an awful time to leave.  Spring and summer are a farmer's busiest time.  He was undoubtedly in the throes of spring planting on either his own or his father's farm.  He left behind a wife, whom he'd married just three years earlier, and one, possibly two, young children.  And yet he answered the call along with several of his brothers.

In the introduction to A Hundred Days to Richmond:  Ohio's "Hundred Days" Men in the Civil War, Jim Leeke wrote, "The Buckeyes knew what might await them.  Few answered the call with blind enthusiasm or innocent patriotism...."  As I've learned more about where my Ellis served, I've wondered if he really knew what would await him.  More on that to follow.

Other posts in this series
Ellis and the 157th Ohio Volunteer Infantry
Fort Delaware Prison and the 157th Regiment OVI in the Civil War
Coming to Terms with History - Musings on Ellis's Service in the Civil War

A Hundred Days To Richmond:  Ohio's "Hundred Days" Men in the Civil War, Jim Leeke, ed.
"Hundred-days men left checkered Civil War legacy"
Hundred Days' Men at Ohio Civil War 150
Hundred Days Men at Wikipedia

The Romance of War, a brief remembrance/journal written by one who served from Beloit, Wisconsin



  1. Wow! I have an ancestor who was also a Hundred Days soldier. I also wondered about the length of service, too. He was in Company B of the 167th Ohio Regiment. His service was from 2 May 1864 to 8 September 1864. He turned 24 during that service.

  2. What an interesting piece of history. My 2G grandfather served in short spurts as well, but I think it was more of his own choosing because he had farming to do. He was often listed as a deserter. And then he enlisted again.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...