The One Hundred Days Men of the 156th Ohio Volunteers
by Gordon Thorsby
Discharge Certificate of Jay McKaig
When the rest of the soldiers who had enlisted for quiet camp duty were finally mustered out, Captain Daniel Brookhart wrote the name of one Jay F. Mckaig on a discharge document and slid document over to Colonel Caleb Marker. The Colonel made his on signature and McKaig's service was complete for the 156th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
Jay Francis. McKaig, born in 1843 and in 1864, he decided to enlist in a regiment of one hundred days men of the 156th Ohio Volunteers. His small story is only a minor one in a larger part of our vast American Civil War.
Shown above is the discharge paper for Jay McKaig, at the time 21, from the 156th Ohio Infantry who enlisted in Co. K as Private on May 2nd,1864 and discharged having served 100 days on Sept 1, 1864.
In Spring, 1864, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant sought reinforcements to try to quickly end the War. Those added resources came from heavy artillery regiments in the Washington City defenses. Northern Governors convinced the Lincoln Administration that the use of “100 days men” could speed the war up 100 days freeing garrison troops for front line duty during the time and still protect states. The states also wanted to prevent another draft callup. To replace the "Heavies" called to the front, the National Guardsmen for called into more active duty. The men expected only to be called upon to protect the state in case of invasion or work in "safe" rear areas. For men in the guard units, the development could not have been good news.
The 156th Ohio was one such regiment. Boys as young as 15 and at least one as old as 54 came from four counties including Mercer County, and consisted of the 34th National Guard regiment, 80th and 81st battalions of National Guard in their new roles. The regiment totaled
1,063 men under the Marker (see signature on the discharge paper.) There was no training except for minimal preparation.
The one hundred days regiment was transferred for guard duty May 20 except for three companies. Jay was in one of companies G, I, and K where they remained and performed maintenance duties around camp Dennison. On June 10th, Jay managed to take advantage of camp duty to get married to a woman named Ocela while serving at the camp. The light duty was short-lived when General John H. Morgan threatened Cincinnati.
The three companies were dispatched immediately to Falmouth, Kentucky where Morgan made the “Last Kentucky Raid.” Morgan’s unit was wiped out in a series of actions that included the Second battle of Cynthiana (Morgan was killed in September). The three companies transferred to Paris, KY, then to Parkersburg, WV where they were reunited with the rest of the regiment. It was timely because Confederate Gen. Jubal Early was threatening Washington and its surrounding area.
The156th arrived at Cumberland, MD on July 31, sixty days through their tour. The next day, August 1st, the 156th fought at the very small town of Folck’s Mill where 3 regiments of one hundred days troops heavily engaged Confederate cavalry troopers under Brig. Gen. Bradley Johnson and Major Gen. John McCausland’s troopers returning from burning Chambersburg, PA. The Southern cavalry was on the way to tear up tracks of the Springfield, WV railroads near Cumberland MD. Folk's Mill was a small action with only 5 casualties to Federal infantry, 25 to the Confederate Cavalry. What was expected for McKaig as light,
boring duty became lively and with a few combat losses.
Nearing completion of their 100 days, they "removed" to Ohio and mustered out. Many in the Guard regiment re-enlisted in other units and went on to serve at the 2nd Battle of Harper’s Ferry, Monocacy, Ft Stevens, Siege of Petersburg and other places.
You may notice the folds in the discharge. Jay Francis McKaig with his discharge, seems to have folded it once, twice, three,four and a fifth time so it could fit in a pocket and depart home to Ocela.
For Jay Francis McKaig, it was not the end. He re-enlisted with the 71st Ohio serving from Feb 18, 1865-Nov 30, 1865. His older brother, William, 24, was with him in the enlistment with the 71st. Any specific reason for the 71st is another unknown. Their enlistment helped to refill the ranks of the 71st where it had been through such battles as Shiloh. The war record of the 71st included guard duty in eastern Tennessee, the Atlanta Campaign, Franklin and Nashville where its record had been a somewhat tarnished one. The regiment also served in Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas for the remainder of McKaig's enlistment. The discharge papers for his full enlistment are not known but he mustered out November 30, 1865, at San Antonio and returned home to Ocela.
After the War, life became difficult where McKaig and his wife had four children, dying at ages 2, <5, 17, and 20. Jay Francis McKaig died Nov. 11, 1909, and is buried in Palmer Cemetery, Mercer County, Ohio.
Record of the War of the Rebellion, Master Edition, Historical Archives, THA New Media LLC.
Historical Data Systems, Inc.
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, 2022.
Find-A-Grave, Bradley Johnson
Note: soldier above is fellow soldier Benjamin Fornshell. No known photo of McKaig.