Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Great Warrior, A Strong Man

I suppose that we all have people in our ancestry that have fought in wars or that have at least served in the military. I personally served in the U.S. Army and have so many relatives that have served in every branch of the military that I would be afraid to mention them for fear of leaving some out.

Today I read the story of my great-great-great Grandfather, Hillard Garrison Waldrep. He was born January 4, 1842 and he went by the name "Hillary". He was a soldier in The War of Northern Aggression (The Civil War). His story is inspiring and is certainly one of valor, bravery, courage and toughness. Here is a bit of his story.

Grandpa Hillary served in B Company of the 16th Alabama Regiment of Infantry. He voluntarily enlisted in August 1861. He served as a personal assistant to General Wood and General Preston. I imagine only certain people were allowed to serve in those roles. Since he enlisted at the rank of Private, he surely earned his position with the Generals.

In a letter written to his local newspaper and dated May 19, 1905 Hillary wrote,

"I have been shot and badly wounded several times. the first battle I was at Fisher's Creek but I only got my heel shot off. The second was at Chickamauga, where I was badly wounded by a shot through the neck. I feel it until this day, but I still like the gray (the color of The Confederate uniform). On the 22nd of July, 1864, I got shot in the foot, through both legs and through the bowels all in the same battle at Franklin, Tennessee. Those shots through my legs were in my thighs and one knee shot off. The total number of wounds I sustained were seven"

Another story from Hillary's time spent fighting the Yankees was that while serving with General Bragg Hillary shot and killed a Northern General. He told General Bragg that he thought he could shoot the General even though the General and Northern troops were very far away. General Bragg told him to give it a try so he did. Hillary raised the sights on his rifle 200 yards MORE than they already were and fired. After Hillary took the gun down from his shoulder, they saw the Yankee General topple off of his large gray horse. The horse was spooked and ran across the large field toward the Confederate Soldiers. General Bragg told Hillary that he could keep the horse, bed-roll and equipment. For what it's worth, Hillary later sold the horse for $100.

Other stories about my Grandfather and his fellow soldiers were not so glamorous. Like how the food wagons were drawn by mules and were often several days behind the troops. Often, when the wagons would catch up to the soldiers the food would be spoiled or molded. The men were often so hungry they would scratch corn out of the ground from where it had been trampled on by horses who were once fed in that area. They would simply wash and parch the corn and eat it. Despite the unsanitary conditions, starvation, insufficient clothing and multiple wounds, Hillary lived to be 88 years old. He died on July 21, 1930.

Hillary Garrison Waldrep is a great American hero and is a man for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. May his legacy of courage, honor and grit be honored and, if needed, repeated in the lives of his many descendants.


Anonymous said...


I am a student of Chickamauga and in particular Sheridan's Division in the battle of which General Lytle's brigade belonged to who was supposedly shot by your great great great grandfather. Do you have family papers that document this and was this story handed down in your family? My research does have any of this story and I would love to include it if the documentation can be obtained. Thanks.

Scott from Birmingham, AL

Blake said...

I am still collecting information on the specifics regarding the death of Gen. Lytle. At this point it has not been substantiated officially and is simply something that has been passed down from one generation to the next. I was beginning to think that the story wasn't completely accurate because B Company of the 16th Alabama Infantry was never in close enough contact with Gen. Lytle's troops. However, due to a severe injury and my grandfather being separated from his original unit for an extended period of time, I think it could be more likely now. Let me review what I have and let you know. Do you know which units were near Gen Lytle when he was killed?