North Carolina Unionist John W. Hilton
Once again, Michael Hardy has posted some very good information about another unwilling member of the 58th North Carolina who ended up in the U.S.Navy.
According to the NC Troops (Vol. 15, pg. 411), Hilton’s date and place of enlistment are not recorded (probably in the autumn of 1863). [Possibly mustered in as a private in Company L, 58th North Carolina Troops.] Hilton was captured at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee, November 25, 1863. Sent to Nashville, Tennessee. Transferred to Louisville, Kentucky, where he arrived on December 11, 1863. Transferred to Rock Island, Illinois, where he arrived on or about December 14, 1863. Released at Rock Island on or about February 5, 1864, after taking the Oath of Allegiance and joining the U. S. Navy.
I’ll let Hilton tell you his story (spelling is his):
“In March 1861 and from that time until August 28, 1862, I lived two miles from Thomasville, Davidson County, North Carolina, and during that period my occupation was Wagon and Buggy Manufacturer.
On said August 28, 1862, I was arrested and imprisoned in jail at Lexington, North Carolina, under accusation of entertaining principles and sentiments in favor of the United States government, was refused bail and kept in prison until the 4th day of November, 1862 when I was allowed to give bail and was released upon giving $5000.00 bond, conditional for good and peaceful behavior towards the Confederate Government.
Thereupon, I returned to my home and said business and resumed the same for about twenty days, when on November 25, 1862, after having planned with other union sympathizers to release Federal soldiers imprisoned at Saulsbury, North Carolina, and learning that the plot was discovered and that I was about to be arrested for complicity in it, I fled to avoid capture… to Forsythe County, North Carolina, and there lay in concealment under care of my friend Joseph Nott Singer, until June 1863.
About the last of June, 1863, while attempting to pass through the confederate lines on my way North, I was captured by confederate soldiers near Taylorsville, Tennessee [present day Mountain City, Tennessee].
Six days after, I eluded my guard and laid concealed in various places, principally in Davidson and Forsythe counties, North Carolina, until September 15, 1863, when I started north again, and was recapatured on the 15th day of October, 1863, near Wytheville, Virginia, by confederate soldiers while enroute North, who deprived me of my money, knife, and valuables on my person.
I espaced from them the night that day and by circuitous route and managing to keep concealed during the time, I succeeded in reaching a point near Chattanooga, Tennessee; lair there concealed until after the battle of Lookout Mountain, where soon after, I voluntarily came to the Federal army at Chicamauga Station then in pursuit of Bragg’s army. whereupon I was placed in the custody of the Federal Provost Marshal, and in his custody returned with the Federal forces to Chattanooga, whence as a prisoner was sent to Rock Island… and there kept as such until my enlistment as landsman in the United States Navy on January 20, 1864…”
Hilton wrote the above in August 1891. The Pension Board wanted Hilton to clarify his Confederate service. Hilton appears to be a little more forthcoming in his reply in December 1891. Hilton writes:
“That on or about the last of October 1863, I was endeavoring to pass through the Confederate lines and while doing so was captured in west North Carolina near the Tennessee line by a body of North Carolina State Militia in the Confederate service and carried a prisoner to Raleigh, North Carolina, and while so a prisoner in said Raleigh was compelled by the Confederates authorities to join as a private, captain Eller’s Company L of the 48th North Carolina Regiment of Infantry, which was about the 14th or 15th of November 1863. That I continued as such private in said company L 13 or 14 days (and did not exceed 14) days and was sent back as an invalid to the supply train of General Bragg’s army at Chickamauga Station about the 29th or 30th day of November 1863. I made my escape from the Confederate authorities, sought and found the Federal forces and delived myself to them.”
The Captain that Hilton refers to is Capt. Calvin Eller, Company L, 58th NCT. While Hilton refers to the 48th NCT, the 48th was a Army of Northern Virginia regiment. It is interesting how Hilton changed his story. In the earlier version, he voluntarily went to the Missionary Ridge area, after escaping from Federal soldiers near Wytheville, Virginia. In the later version, he was actually captured, imprisoned, and forced into Confederate service.
After joining the US Navy, he was assigned to the USS Princeton. Hilton was later injured. It appears that he fell from a ladder and broke an ankle and banged his head. He was discharged in May 1865. Hilton later went to California, where he died on January 21, 1898. He is probably buried in Los Angeles.
As in the case of Sluder, I figured that I would do a follow-up work, so…
If Hilton became a landsman in January 1864, I wonder when he was officially assigned to ship’s company for the U.S.S. Princeton. If he signed-on to the Princeton at the same time he became a landsman, he would have seen… nothing much in the way of service. It seems that beginning in 1857, the Princeton was assigned to service in Philadelphia as a receiving ship, and there she remained through the Civil War. She was sold in October 1866.
Nonetheless, a good story about another Unionist. Michael’s finding some good stuff in those widows’ pension files.