The Oldest Enlisted Private in the Late War
From the White Hall (Ill.) Register
A paragraph has been going the rounds of the papers and magazines in the countyr, that, James Wilkner, who, in September 1861, at the age of 65 years, enlisted as a private in Company G, First Pennsylvania Volunteers, "was undoubtedly the oldest enlisted private that served in the late war."
Presuming that he is the oldest yet heard of, we have knowledge of one still older than he, in the person of Hiram Holliday, of Greenfield, Greene County, Illinois, who enlisted at Camp Carrollton, in Captain Reddish's Company H,of the Sixty-frst Illinois Volunteers, November 1861 and was mustered into the service in February 1862 at the age considerably ober 66 years. The rolls do not disclose his age, nor does the Adjutant General's report, and also in Volume 5 of that report, page 365, where his name appears, he is credited to Jersey County, but too many persons hereabouts know him to cause any question on that account
The great disaster at Shiloh, that overtook the Sixty-First, in April 1862, only a few weeks after the regiment left Carrollton, is well remembered. There, by order of Genearl Prentice, and with the assistance of Colonel Fry, commanding, this green regiment, who had not perhaps drawn their arms, nor ever in their lives loaded a musket such as they were required to use, were plaed in a very exposed position at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., and, as was anticipated, they were surprised on Saturday morning,April 5, and on Sunday, 6th, all were either killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. A large percent was killed on the ground, as the numerous pension certificates, dated April 6, will attest, of green recruits of Captains Nulton's, Mann's, Orr's, Reddish's, Manning's, and indeed, every company engaged. It was evident "some one had blundered", but it was not for the soldiers to inquire who, as life in those days was held in cheap request, and it a ten or twenty thousand disaster to provoke a newspaper paragraph!
Esquire Holliday was one who, standing his ground, according to orders, was overrun by the assailants and taken prisoner. Many saved themselves promiscuous flight. A memorandum gives the following facts in the case of this, perhaps the oldest, private in the whole army: "Hiram Holliday was taken prisoner at Shiloh, Tenn., April 6, 1865, was first taken to Corinth, Miss., from there to Memphis, Tenn., then to Montgomery, Alabama, from there to Atlanta and finally to Macon, Ga. About the 9th of August he took the chills and fever, accompained with flux. He remained in quarters to the 14th of August, and was visited by Dr. Fiske. He was then removed to the hospital where he fell under the treatment of the sceesh(sp?) doctors. On the 24th of August, at 6 p.m. he died, aged a little over 66 years and 8 months. He was decently buried by the Masons, being a Master-Mason himself, and a head-board erectedwith his name, company and regiment carved upon it. He was atended by three Masons, Wm. B Harvey, T. B. Perry, and Geo. W. Hungate.
Esquire Holliday was at an early day Postmaster at White Hall, Ill., perhaps the first and was the first saddler of White Hall, was also Justice of the Peace, all bakc in the 1830's. He removed to near Manchester and was a farmer, till about twenty-five years ago he came to Greene County and located one mile east of Greenfiled, where his family still resides. He was married three times, first to Miss Lemons, and last to Mrs. Dewitt, sisiter of the McLaughlins, of Scott County. His children and their representatives, eleven in number, reside all the way from Illinois to the Pacific coast and Texas. He was the eldest son of Elder Charles Holliday of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The proofs adduced to procure Mr. Holliday's widow a pension establish his age to have been 66 yearst about the 1st of January, 1862, and his death to have occured August 24, 1862, as above recited.
[Chicago tribune., December 16, 1871, Page 3 - Transcribed by KP]