Saturday, July 12, 2014

Faces of the Civil War: 45th North Carolina Private James Hill

James H. Hill (right) shown with family members in this circa-1888 tintype.
(Photos courtesy Kim Hill Marley)

Descendants of Civil War soldiers often e-mail me, eager to tell the story about an ancestor. Here’s one sent by blog fan Kim Hill Marley, whose great-great grandfather served in the 45th North Carolina and was wounded in the arm at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

“Not really a heroic war history,” she wrote, “but I'm sure he was a 22-year-old not ready for what he got himself into!”

James H. Hill's gravestone in the Rockingham County (N.C.) 
pasture that he farmed long ago. 
Private James H. Hill was born in Rockingham County, N.C., where he was a farmer. He enlisted on Feb. 12, 1862, deserted six months later and returned to Company A of the 45th North Carolina  sometime before Nov. 1, 1862.  He left his company again and was court-martialed in early January 1863 for being absent without leave. The penalty: 25 days' hard labor with a ball and chain weighing 12 pounds attached to his left leg and seven days' solitary confinement on bread and water.

Besides Gettysburg, the 45th North Carolina  saw action in some of the fiercest battles of the war -- including Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862 and at Cold Harbor in June 1864 before it  surrendered with Lee’s Army at Appomattox. But the war for Hill was largely over by July 1864, when he was retired to the Invalid Corps, perhaps still plagued by his Gettysburg wound.

Hill  survived fierce fighting on July 1 at Gettysburg when his 600-man regiment suffered 63 killed and 156 wounded in fields west of town. Two days later, the regiment fought up Culp's Hill, and a few minutes after it took an abandoned line of breastworks, it opened fire on exposed Union soldiers.

"At that time almost every man of the regiment was firing into them as they passed the opening, certainly killing a great number," an after-battle report by 45th North Carolina Captain J.A. Hopkins noted. "At times it seemed as if whole masses of them would fall.  At one time this continued cross-fire kept up for about   five minutes, in which time we killed more than in all our fighting before and after."

It's unclear when Hill suffered his wound.

 “I picture in my dreams and thoughts that he was wounded at the Culp's Hill battle (at Gettysburg),” Marley wrote, “but will never know. His gravesite is on his old farm pasture. Wish I owned that land but can visit whenever I want at least.”

Hill was 65 when he died 13 days before Christmas in 1905. The United Daughters of the Confederacy placed a marker in his honor near his small, weathered gravestone that includes the inscription "a kind husband and a faithful friend."

The United Daughters of the Confederacy placed this marker for Hill in a farm field near his grave.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Mr. Banks! So nice! I'm proud of my family history and it is interesting to find out what they endured and lived through! ! Loved your input on the brigade and what the 45th Regiment faced at Gettysburg. I appreciate you posting what I pieced together about my Great, great Grandfather Hill.