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May, 1864 – Recruiting 100-Day Men

In the spring of 1864 the Governor of Illinois put out a call for 20,000” three-month men” to take the place of those who had been killed, captured or wounded. On May 14 the Will County Board of Supervisors appropriated $2,750 as a bounty to induce 100 men to enlist. Each would get $27.50 (about $405 today.) The bounty was enough to get some to enlist. It was also enough to attract “bounty jumpers” and other scalawags.

In George Woodruff’s book 15 Years Ago, Will County in the Civil War, he tells of these sorts of people. “A new kind of “scalawag” is developed about these days by the necessities of the country, and the high bounties which are now being offered for recruits, a scalawag, which I think is entitled to be considered the devil’s master-piece I mean the “bounty jumper.” Substitute brokerage is also lively, and many are coining money out of the exigencies of the country.”

“As the terms “bounty jumper,” and “substitute broker” are not to be found in Webster’s unabridged, it may not be amiss to define them for the benefit of those to whom they may not be familiar. A “bounty jumper” was one who enlisted, and was sworn into the service, received his bounties from the government, and town and county, and then embraced the first opportunity to desert, often going to another county or state, and repeating the process.”

“A “substitute broker” was one who procured men to enlist as substitutes for others who were liable to a draft, or to fill out the quotas of towns and districts. He got his substitutes wherever he could, and at as low a figure as possible, and then sold them wherever he could get the highest bounty, or the best price.”

“These substitutes were such slippery fellows that it became necessary to keep them under guard. On one occasion, a lot of them escaped from Joliet, by overpowering the guard. Some were retaken, but were probably never worth the trouble of recapture. One, who had escaped on the cars, and who, it is said, had “jumped the bounty” three times, got alarmed when the train was near Summit, and apprehending probably that he would be arrested at that point, jumped from the train. This proved to be his last jump. Like Sam Patch (a 19th farther than he intended, jumped into eternity.”

One of the newest recruits, a 100 day man, was Ed Conley of Wilmington. In his civilian life he had been a printer’s devil with aspirations of becoming a full blown editor. He wrote home about his first experiences with the 39th “On Saturday morning, at 2:30, we were ordered to “fall in,” with two days’ rations. We marched eight miles, and halted on the R. & P. R. R., eleven miles from Richmond. Firing was already going on, and the 39th proceeded at once to the extreme left of the Union line, under a heavy fire, to support the 5th N. J. battery, which was shelling the rebel earthworks, two miles from Fort Darling.”

“After a stubborn resistance, the rebels were driven back from a thick pine wood to their strongholds. Here an open field of three-fourths of a mile intervened between the two armies. Col. Osborn received a ball in his right elbow, but kept the field for hours, until compelled to leave from loss of blood. (century daredevil), he jumped one time too many, and jumped, a regiment of Will County men, during May of 1864 near Richmond, VA.

“The rebels made two charges after dark, but were repulsed. Night came on, and the rebels returned to their defenses. Sunday there was desultory firing by the sharpshooters, and the time was improved by the 39th earnest. The rebels were in possession of the railroad which ran through the battle-field to Richmond.”

“At daylight the enemy opened with heavy cannonading. A heavy fog shut them from sight until after sunrise. Our right wing was pressed hard by the rebel cavalry that had advanced under cover of the fog, and after repeated charges, broke the Union line at a point where we had no artillery. About 8 a. m., as the right was giving way, two regiments on the right of the 39th fell back in disorder, and the 81st New York was ordered away from our left, leaving the 39th on the extreme left, and compelling them to stretch out and occupy the rifle pits vacated by the N. Y. regiment.”

“At this moment, on came the enemy in heavy columns, but the 39th was ready to receive them. The adjutant ordered the boys to hold their fire until the enemy was within 300 yards, when we delivered a fire that mowed them down, and threw their ranks into confusion. They rallied and advanced a second time, and were treated to the same reception. It was here, that while standing upon the earthworks, cheering on our men, that Adjutant Walker fell, and Major Linton soon followed. At one time the enemy got in our rear, after the command had devolved upon Capt. L. A. Baker, and he was called upon to surrender. The demand was answered by a volley and a cheer. The army finally fell back to our fortifications, and it seems the rebels were not anxious to follow. The 39th was the last regiment to leave the field, and was thought to be captured by the commanding general.”

“The entire loss in the regiment was nearly 200.”There were even worse times ahead for Conley and the 39th entrenching themselves. Monday, the 16th , the bloody work began again in earnest. The rebels were in possession of the railroad which ran through the battle-field to Richmond.”

“At daylight the enemy opened with heavy cannonading. A heavy fog shut them from sight until after sunrise. Our right wing was pressed hard by the rebel cavalry that had advanced under cover of the fog, and after repeated charges, broke the Union line at a point where we had no artillery. About 8 a.m., as the right was giving way, two regiments on the right of the 39th fell back in disorder, and the 81st New York was ordered away from our left, leaving the 39th on the extreme left, and compelling them to stretch out and occupy the rifle pits vacated by the N. Y. regiment.”

“At this moment, on came the enemy in heavy columns, but the 39th was ready to receive them. The adjutant ordered the boys to hold their fire until the enemy was within 300 yards, when we delivered a fire that mowed them down, and threw their ranks into confusion. They rallied and advanced a second time, and were treated to the same reception. It was here, that while standing upon the earthworks, cheering on our men, that Adjutant Walker fell, and Major Linton soon followed. At one time the enemy got in our rear, after the command had devolved upon Capt. L. A. Baker, and he was called upon to surrender. The demand was answered by a volley and a cheer. The army finally fell back to our fortifications, and it seems the rebels were not anxious to follow. The 39th was the last regiment to leave the field, and was thought to be captured by the commanding general.”

“The entire loss in the regiment was nearly 200.”

There were even worse times ahead for Conley and the 39th.

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