William P. Holbert
Private, Company K

William Holbert was born in Washington County, Pennsylvania on December 16, 1833. When Holbert was seventeen, he moved with his family to Illinois, where the family engaged in farming. William married around 1854 - his first wife's name was Sophia - worked as a hired hand in Putnam County, Illinois, and began raising a family. Otis Moody, on one of his recruiting trips through northern Illinois counties, signed William up for the Fifty-First Illinois on November 18, 1861. Three weeks later William got his younger brother Abram to sign up. They were both mustered in to Company K. Rufus Rose of Chicago was the captain, Otis Moody of Chicago the first lieutenant.

After the regiment's duty at Island No. 10 and its first fighting around Farmington and Corinth in May and June 1862, the Fifty-First began several months of guarding the Memphis & Charleston Railroad between Corinth, Mississippi and Decatur, Alabama. That duty was initiated on July 23, 1862. On August 6, 1862, three men of Company K and three men of Company H of the regiment were sent to the railroad crossing over Mallard Creek in Alabama, about ten miles to the west of Decatur. They were to repair a problem with the telegraph line. One of the three men selected for the tiny mission was William Holbert. The mission was tiny but touchy and dangerous because Confederate cavalry under Phillip Roddy roamed the area with a view to damaging the railroad (now that it was in Federal hands) and to shooting Federal soldiers or taking them captive. The six men of the regiment had finished their repair work on the telegraph and were returning to camp—they were within two miles—when dismounted troopers of Phillip Roddy's Alabama and Mississippi cavalry who were lying in wait began shooting them and demanding surrender. The six men of H and K ran for camp—and dear life. William Holbert was shot through the chest and arm, the shot or shots severely damaging his lungs. The other two men of Company K escaped injury and helped Holbert get back to camp without being captured. In Company H two of the three men were wounded; one of the wounded was taken captive.

First William was treated in the regimental hospital at Decatur but after three weeks was sent on to the army's "general hospital" at Tuscumbia, Alabama. His younger brother Abram was given leave to take care of him. Still William did not do well. The wounds were severe. On October 17, 1862, William was discharged for disability—"a wound in the right breast penetrating the lung, also a wound of the right arm, disability total."

[The younger brother Abram, in the course of the next two and one half years, did not fare much better than William. He took sick in December 1862, just before the Battle of Stones River. For the next year he was in convalescent camps and hospitals in Nashville, Louisville, and Chicago. He finally returned to the regiment in November 1863, having "missed" the Battle of Chickamauga. He was wounded shortly thereafter at the Battle of Missionary Ridge on November 25, 1863 and spent another year in hospitals. He returned to the regiment on November 20, 1864, ten days before Spring Hill and Franklin. On February 28, 1865, he was mustered out of the regiment; his term of service had expired. After the war Abram lived and raised his family, with wife Almira, in Colorado.]

After being discharged from the regiment, William took up his farm and family life in Putnam County, Illinois again. The 1870 census records show William and wife Sophia living in Granville township with their four children. The censuses of 1880 and 1900 record Holbert, gone west, living with his second wife Eliza in Comanche County, Kansas. Holbert's obituary in the local Kansas newspaper, The Western Star, said that Holbert married Eliza Jane Cochran on December 1, 1874. They had four children. Seven of Holbert's children survived him at the time of his death. Holbert died on January 15, 1908. For two years prior to his death, according to his obituary (which is inaccurate in several pre-Kansas particulars), Holbert had been "weakened in body and mind" and confined to his room. He was buried in Protection Cemetery in Comanche County.