After the War

U.S. Army's Medal of Honor in the 1860's


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   At a reunion of the 16th Michigan in 1893, thirty-five surviving members signed a petition requesting that Hill be granted a Medal of Honor. Commanding the Brigade skirmish line at Cold Harbor, they wrote, Hill had "charged the enemy’s masked batteries … for the purpose of drawing and determining their fire and strength, a . . . hazardous undertaking which was accomplished with great coolness and courage." General Daniel Butterfield submitted the petition to the Secretary of War, and on December 4, 1893, while living in St. Louis, Michigan, Hill received the Medal of Honor "for distinguished gallantry at Cold Harbor, Va., June 1, 1864." The citation reads: "Led the brigade skirmish line in a desperate charge on the enemy's masked batteries to the muzzles of the guns, where he was severely wounded."

   Hill suffered from his wound at Cold Harbor for the rest of his life, and his disability worsened as he aged. In his pension records the examining physicians testify that the bullet had lodged in the ileum, the lower part of Hill’s small intestine, and that the injury rendered him partially incontinent and "unable to stand on his feet without support and then with difficulty." In 1890 Hill described his disability as "increasing for the last ten years I have been unable to be without the constant aid and attendance of another person am unable to dress or undress or attend the calls of nature alone. I cannot control my bowels and in consequence am compelled to lead a life of seclusion."

   His seclusion was not total, however. In January 1868 Hill married Mara Elizabeth Brigham of Jackson, Michigan, who remained his helpmate until the end. The couple was apparently childless. Although they spent most of the next decades in Michigan, at times they lived in Pennsylvania and New York, and in the 1880s they lived in Newfoundland for several years. For much of the 1890s Hill resided at the Alma Sanitarium near St. Louis, Michigan.

    Despite his disability, Hill managed to attend several brigade and regiment reunions, sometimes accompanied by Jack Wood, who again served as his personal attendant. In June 1889, Hill gave a speech to thirty veterans of the 16th Michigan who gathered on Little Round Top to dedicate the regiment’s monument on the southwest face of the hill. In 1892 he commemorated "The Last Charge at Fredericksburg" in an address to the Third Brigade Association which was later published.

    He remained involved in commemorating the war during his last year. In 1900 Hill published a "Roll of Honor" of the 16th Michigan, the result of two years’ research; it showed that 251 members of the regiment had died in battle or as a result of battle wounds. In May of that year Hill gave yet another speech during ceremonies for the laying of a cornerstone for a monument to the Fifth Corps at Fredericksburg. That fall he attended a reunion of the 16th Michigan in Flint. Shortly thereafter, on October 23, 1900, Edward Hill died at Green Bay, Wisconsin. The primary cause was an intestinal obstruction, the final complication from his battle wound. He is buried at Fredericksburg National Military Cemetery in Virginia.

Carl Guarneri, Saint Mary's College History department
Alyssa Sisco Ginn, Saint Mary's College Class of 2008

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