John Shaft was born in 1837 in either Canastota, Madison County, New York or Herkimer County, New York, the son of New York natives Jacob V. Sr. (1810-1886) and Margaret Jane (Putnam, 1820-1861).
John’s parents were married in 1836 in Geneva, Ontario County, Ohio, although both were living in New York at the time. They settled first in Canastota, Madison County, New York -- where Jacob had been living -- but soon moved on to Herkimer County, New York where they were living by 1840. By 1848 they had moved westward and were living in Shiawassee County, Michigan; and by 1850 had settled in Woddhull, Shiawassee County where John was attending school with his siblings (including his younger brother Charles would would also enlist in the 3rd Michigan Infantry). By 1860 John was working as a farm laborer with his father and living with his family in Owosso, Shiawassee County. (Jacob Sr. remarried in 1863 to Jane Offen Reed, in Venice, Sandusky County, Ohio.)
John stood 5’6” with blue eyes, brown hair and a light complexion and was a 25-year-old farmer probably living in Owosso’s 2nd Ward, Shiawassee County when he enlisted in Company G on May 13, 1861, probably with his younger brother Charles. According to Frank Siverd of Company G, during the first battle of Bull Run, Virginia, on Sunday, July 21, one of the Shaft boys was taken prisoner (he does not mention which one), along with Joshua Benson and Oscar Van Wormer, all of Company G. They were captured, wrote Siverd, “by four rebel scouts; they discovered the boys, and they showing too much pluck to be marched into the rebel camp, let them go. It is presumed they made pretty good double quick time from that to camp.”
By the late summer of 1862 John was reported sick in a general hospital since May 20. In mid-June of 1862 he was reported to have been left at the hospital near the Chickahominy River, and by late June he was sick in the hospital at White House landing, Virginia, suffering from fever, and he remained absent sick in the hospital from July of 1862 through August.
John allegedly deserted on September 21, 1862, at Upton’s Hill, Virginia, but in fact he had probably been absent in the hospital. He was eventually transferred to the Convalescent Camp near Alexandria, Virginia where he was discharged and returned to duty on February 21, 1863. He returned to the Regiment on March 8, 1863, at Camp Pitcher, Virginia, and was present for duty through the remainder of the year. He reenlisted on December 24, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Owosso’s 2nd Ward and was probably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864 (quite possibly with his brother).
While on furlough he married Mena Reamer, on January 23, 1864, at his father’s home in Sherman Township, Huron County, Ohio. The very same day his brother Charles married their step-sister Sanana Reed in Sherman.
He probably returned with his brother to the Regiment on or about the first of February.
He was wounded in the left arm and right leg in early May, but apparently recovered and was transferred to Company F, 5th Michigan Infantry upon consolidation of the 3rd and 5th Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. John was again wounded, this time by a gunshot to one of his thighs sometime between June 12 and June 22, possibly near White House Landing, Virginia.
John died in as a result of his wounds at the division hospital on June 22 or 23, 1864, near Petersburg, Virginia. He was presumably buried among the unknown soldiers at Petersburg.
His widow -- who was unable to read or write -- was still residing in Sherman, Ohio in July of 1864 when she applied for and received a pension (no. 102,141).
By 1870 John’s father was living in York Station, Sandusky County, Ohio, when he applied for a dependent father’s pension (no. 140,250), and drawing $8.00 per month by 1870.