Not all men who fought in the Civil War earned fame and fortune, even those who made the ultimate sacrifice. One man who gave all but earned no laurels was William Hinton.
William was born in 1818 in Covington, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the United States Navy, where he served as a pilot on the gunboat USS Carondelet. The Carondelet was an ironclad gunboat obstructed by James Eads and Company at the Union Iron Works in Carondelet, Missouri, the town for which the vessel was named.
It served as part of the Union’s Western Gunboat Flotilla.
In February of 1862, the Carondelet was involved in the Union attack on Fort Donelson in Tennessee, an important Union victory, especially coming right after the Union success at nearby Fort Henry.
After this battle, the Carondelet took part in the capture of Island Number Ten on the Mississippi River, and later saw action against Fort Pillow and Memphis, all in the middle of 1862.
Over the next year, the ship joined in the operations against Vicksburg, which finally succeeded when the city’s Confederate forces surrendered on July 4, 1863.
Its most famous expedition after Vicksburg was the failed Red River Campaign in 1864, after which it remained in service until being decommissioned in June of 1865 and later sold to civilian owners.
Though his ship survived the war and those other battles and campaigns, the fight at Fort Donelson was where William Hinton met his fate. He suffered an undisclosed wound, one that took his life on February 22, several days after the battle ended. He was among almost 2,500 Union men who were killed or wounded during this contest.
His body was returned to his home in Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky, where it was laid to rest in nearby Evergreen Cemetery on February 26.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported the death of this “highly respectable citizen” whose passing would “be mourned by a large circle of friends and acquaintances.”
That newspaper also stated that local Union Clubs would hold a gathering “for the purpose of devising measures for the relief of Mrs. Hinton, wife of Wm Hinton, late pilot of the gun boat Carondelet, who is now in destitute circumstances. Let there be full attendance.”
William had married Elizabeth Sederberg in 1849 in Boone County, and left her and a young (less than two years old) daughter behind. Elizabeth and William now share a plot in Evergreen Cemetery.
William Hinton was just one among thousands of faces in the Civil War navies, but stories like his illustrate the true nature and results of the war on the nation, its widows and children, friends and neighbors. Men like him were the foundation on which armies and navies were built, even if these most of these warriors are now largely forgotten.