Thursday, June 18, 2020

In Search of Hiram

With the entire world closed, it looks like it may be awhile before I can do any traveling. With that in mind, I’m re-posting from my original blog. This section follows me and my son's trip from California to Washington DC for a temporary assignment. 

Return Trip Day 2:

Today was truly interesting.

As I was driving yesterday I saw a sign for the Shiloh National Battlefield Park. Once I got to the hotel, I looked on the map and realized it was only about one hour away.

Now I would guess that the battle of Pittsburg Landing means little to nothing to most people. I however have been fascinated with the battle ever since learning that I am a direct descendant of a man who may have been the oldest participant in the battle.

Hiram Holiday was 78 years old when he volunteered to take the place of his son, John Roger Holiday, in the Union Army. It was a common practice at the time, they really didn’t care who showed up, as long as someone did.

Hiram ended up with the 61st Illinois Volunteers, who were a part of the Army of Tennessee under General Ulysses Grant. The 61st was assigned to General Prentiss’ 6th division. The 6th took a beating on the first day of the battle, eventually defending a piece of ground known as the “Hornets Nest.” When the Confederates couldn’t take the ground by infantry assault, they formed an artillery barrage that was the largest in American history, and lay siege to the area. Over 60 canon concentrated fire on the defenders of the Hornets’ Nest who held out long enough for Grant to establish a defensive position.

In a letter to his wife, Lester B. Fillay, writes of the battle:

“Doubtless you will have read this account of the terrible Battle before this comes to you. I will not relate particulars til I come home I will mention a few items, David Culver is mortally wounded, Capt Haggard was wounded and can’t be found. Also Capt Mann. There were 18 killed, 30 missing and 43 wounded in our regiment. Old Man Holliday is among the missing.”

The Hornets Nest

Hiram was captured, along with General Prentiss; he was taken to Camp Oglethorpe in Georgia, where he died from disease.

I walked around the battlefield, trooped the line along the sunken road, searching for a placard to the 61st. Finally about 1pm I came across one. It was on the far right flank of Prentiss’ line at a place called the Peach Grove.

The Marker in the Peach Grove to the 61st Illinois Infantry

It was almost surreal to walk the fields, knowing Hiram took his last breath as a free man in those very fields. I am so glad I took the detour.

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