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John W. Holliday

Civil War Soldier and G.A.R. Post Namesake 

CDV thought to be John W. Holliday. Collection of Sean P. Duffy.John W. Holliday was born in Wheeling, Virginia on January 30, 1840. He joined the Union war effort on September 5, 1861, enlisting as a sergeant, Company G, 2nd Ohio Infantry Volunteers. He was promoted to Lieutenant and transferred to the Virginia Infantry Volunteers where he was made, by Governor Francis Pierpont, first adjutant and later “by reason of his gallantry and excellence,” promoted to Lieutenant Colonel Commanding 15th Regiment, West Virginia Infantry. Holliday served with that rank until he mustered out on June 14, 1865 at Richmond, Virginia.

[Left: CDV thought to be John W. Holliday. Collection of Sean P. Duffy.]

John was injured at the battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, where he was beaten “over the head and heart by a rebel soldier during an engagement at said place, causing weakness of his lungs of which he continued to suffer until date of his death...” According to the same source, he also contracted “Typhoid Fever” during this time, which a different source characterized as “bronchial lung trouble.” In any event, the combined affliction apparently lingered for the remainder of his life.

Holliday Post mourning badge. Courtesy Jon-Erik Gilot.After the war, John married and moved to Steubenville, where he worked as a nailer at the Jefferson Iron Works and became active in the Republican Party. When he died on November 27, 1882, the Wheeling Register said it was from “nailer's consumption,” the toll of breathing years of iron dust. But his comrades in arms in the Grand Army of the Republic knew better. They knew that, although the iron dust may have exacerbated the old wounds, it was really Cedar Creek that killed John Holliday. So when they formed a new post a few months later on March 19, 1883, they named it J.W. Holliday Post No. 12, Wheeling, West Virginia, in honor of their fallen comrade, a delayed casualty, 17 years after Appomattox, of a seemingly endless war.

March 19, 1883 DI: "It was resolved to name the organization the Colonel John W. Holliday Post. Its number has not yet been assigned. The name is bestowed in accordance with a rule of the Grand Army which requires all posts to be named after deceased officers of the army, and is taken not only in honor of the brave man who bore it worthily, but also as a mark of appreciation of the great service rendered by his mother to the boys in blue."

The last sentence refers to the heroic service of John's mother, Lydia Wilson Holliday, a Civil War nurse, who was so beloved by the soldiers she cared for that they took to calling her "Mother." 

(John's obit: Wheeling Register, Nov. 28, 1882)

See a PowerPoint presentation by Sean Duffy and Jon-Erik Gilot of the G.A.R. in Wheeling, and the Oglebay Collection.

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