Monday, November 10, 2014

Antietam: 30th Virginia Private John Wesley Hilldrup

30th Virginia Private John Hilldrup was wounded at the Battle of Antietam.
(Images courtesy Cindy Abbott, a Hilldrup descendant)

A post-war image of John Hilldrup
When the regimental surgeon saw John Wesley Hilldrup's grievous bullet wound in his right side, he decided the 22-year-old private in the 30th Virginia was a lost cause and had him put aside to die. Wounded during an attack near Dunker Church at the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, Hilldrup was left in the hands of Union surgeons after the Rebels retreated across the Potomac River two days later. But like this 11th Connecticut soldier who was terribly wounded at Burnside Bridge at Antietam, Hilldrup miraculously survived, was paroled and eventually made his way back home to Spotsylvania County, Va. He later re-joined his regiment.

"The Lord had work for him to do," according to a post-war account, "and that impression bore him up all through his sufferings. ... he did what he could for the spiritual good of the soldiers of his company by holding prayer and other meetings when opportunity offered." A preacher when he joined Company K of the 30th Virginia ("King George Grays"), Hilldrup also survived nearly three more years of the Civil War, surrendering with the rest of Lee's army at Appomattox Courthouse, Va., on April 9, 1865.

After the war, Hilldrup got married, fathered six children and became a prominent Methodist Episcopal preacher known for a strict interpretation of the Bible. "In re-proving sin he was outspoken and pointed," an account noted, "and in some instances, as his best friends thought, a little too personal." When his old war wound plagued him in his later years, "it created homage in the heart," it was noted, "to see him going, often-times in feebleness extreme, from house to house ..."

When Hilldrup died on June 28, 1895, the bullet that wounded him nearly 32 years earlier still remained embedded in his lung. Two days later, he was buried in Scottsville, Va., on what would have been his 55th birthday. (See his gravestone on Find A Grave here.)

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