Historical Sketch of Our Last Civil War Veteran, Theodore Hillman
"Spooner Advocate" - 9 May 1924
Spooner’s one living Veteran of the Civil War, Comrade T. H. Hillman was born in historic old Mecklenburg, Germany in 1847, came to the United States with his parents when about 6 years old, and settled in the Town of Brighton, Kenosha County, Wisconsin. From there, Mr. Hillman enlisted in Co. H of the 65th Illinois Infantry at Camp Douglas, Chicago on the 13th day of April, 1863, when but 15 years of age, to serve three years or during the remainder of the war.
The Regiment stayed in camp here until sometime in September when the boys went from Chicago by train to Cincinnati, Ohio – then marched from there to Knoxville, Tennessee and went into camp the latter part of September. Some time afterward a rebel army under General Longstreet came to Knoxville and surrounded the town. In speaking of this siege and other encounters, Mr. Hillman says: “We dug trenches and defended the place. The rebels tried several times to take the town but we drove them back each time so they laid siege to the place and tried to starve us out. After about two weeks, General Burnside who had command of our Forces sent out an order stating that all the food was gone except what was needed for the women and children, and asked us what we wanted to do, ‘Eat corn, or Surrender.’ The boys sent back word they would eat the last mule in town before they would surrender. So from then on for three weeks we got three cobs of corn to the man for a day’s ration – nothing else. Some tried to soak it and cook it, others toasted it and some ate it raw.
General Sherman came to our rescue with supplies and an army from Chattanooga, joined Sherman’s army forty miles south of there, and were in the Atlanta Campaign all the next summer.
At the battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864, General McPherson, commander of our 17th Corps, was killed, and after, Atlanta fell we went into camp for a week’s rest.
General Sherman now started on his march to the sea, while our corps commander, General Schofield, was ordered north with the 23rd and 4th corps to follow Hood who had been sent by Jeff Davis and his advisors to take Nashville.
We overtook the rebels at Columbia, Tenn.; there was some sharp fighting here, but we succeeded in driving them off and started for Franklin eighteen miles north about 7 P.M.
We got to Franklin a town about the size of Spooner, the next morning with our 1500 wagons, six mules each, besides the supply wagons. Here we formed a line of battle and dug four lines of trenches. The rebels made their first charge about 3 P.M. (all twelve rebel states were represented in this battle.) We repulsed them and they tried this three times – but we stuck to our trenches until after dark, when we left for Nashville eighteen miles farther north and went into camp there the next morning.”
About January 10 we moved out and attacked the Rebels the second day about 3 P.M., breaking their lines so they left for good – in disorder.
From Nashville we went to Cincinnati by boat and from there to Washington, D.C. by rail, where we stayed about a week. From there we went to Fortress Momroe, (now known as Old Pt. Comfort), in box cars – then by boat to Ft. Fisher, N.C. After Ft. Fisher was taken we moved to Raleigh to join forces with General Sherman and from there to Goldsboro, N.C. where we met General Johnson with his rebel army, but a few days after this General Lee surrendered to Grant and four days later General Johnson surrendered his army to Sherman and the war was over.
Everybody wanted to go home and about three weeks later we received orders to go. They put us on top of a train of box cars and we rode from Goldsboro, N.C. to Chicago this way spending over a week on the way. We waited at Camp Douglas about two weeks when one fine morning the captain said ‘Boys we get our discharge and pay today.’”
Mr. Hillman says that the first thing he did was to go to a barber shop, get his hair cut and get cleaned up – next he bought a new suit and when he looked in a mirror at the station he could not recognize himself – however he reached home O.K. and tho he was in some of the worst encounters of the war Mr. Hillman escaped without a scratch.
Mr. Hillman had been a resident of Spooner since 1888, living for a time on the farm where his son Theodore now lives. He also worked for the Omaha beginning as a section foreman and advancing to the position of division road master – his route being between Eau Claire and Duluth.
Late years he has retired from active labors but is none the less interested in all activities that are for the betterment of Spooner and the whole community.
Comrade T. H. Hillman is the only living member in good standing of the Frank Jackels Post No. 65 of the Grand Army of the Republic which was organized in Spooner, August 15, 1903, with eighteen charter members and later forty-three members. He is also an honorary member of the local American Legion and Veteran of Foreign Wars Posts, and takes an active interest in all of their plans and titho the 19th of June will mark his 77th milestone he is as young at heart as any of us and will be 77 years young instead of 77 years old.
Note – The Camp Douglas mentioned by Mr. Hillman was located on what is now 47th Street in the heart of Chicago.
[Source: "Spooner Advocate" - 9 May 1924 - Transcribed by Marla Zwakman]
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