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People Histories

Historical Sketch of Our Last Civil War Veteran,
Theodore Hillman

Donated by Timm Severud

Transcribed from The Spooner Advocate - May 9, 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 when about six years old, and settled in the Town of Brighton, Kenosha County, Wisconsin. From there Mr. Hillman enlisted in Company H of the 65th Illinois Infantry at Camp Douglas, Chicago on April 13, 1863, when but 15 years of age, to serve three years or during the remainder of the war.

The regiment stayed in camp there 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. Sometime after that 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 roasted it and some at it raw.

General Sherman came to our rescue with supplies and an army from Chattanooga and drove the rebels off. Three weeks later our company went by train to 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 the 17th Corp, was killed, and after Atlanta fell we went into camp for a weeks rest.

General Sherman now started on his march to the sea; while our Corp 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, Tennessee, there was some sharp fighting there, but we succeeded in driving them off and started for Franklin eighteen miles north about 7 pm.

We got to Franklin, a town about the size of Spooner, the next morning with 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 pm (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 10th we moved out and attacked the rebels the second day about 3 pm, breaking their lines so they left for good - is disorder.

From Nashville we went to Cincinnati by boat and from there to Washington, D.C. by rail, where we stayed a week. From there we went to Fortress Monroe (now known as Old Point Comfort,) in boxcars - from there to Fort Fisher, North Carolina. After Fort Fisher was taken we moved to Raleigh go join forces with General Sherman, and from there to Goldsboro, North Carolina where we met General Johnson and his rebel army, but a few days after this 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 got our orders to go. They put us on top of a train of boxcars and we rode from Goldsboro to Chicago this way, spending 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 the mirror he could not recognize himself - however he reached home ok and though he was in some of the worst encounters of the war Mr. Hillman escaped without a scratch.

Mr. Hillman has been a resident of Spooner since 1888, living for 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.

Later years he has retired from active labor but is nonetheless 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 Number 65 of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was organized in Spooner on August 15, 1903, with eighteen charter members and later forty-three members. He is also an honorary member of he local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, and takes an active interest in all their plans, until the 19th of June which will mark the 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.


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