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Daniel Harvey Hill

July 12, 1821–September 24, 1889

Daniel Harvey Hill (aka D.H. Hill) was a prominent general officer who led Confederate forces in the eastern and western theaters of the American Civil War.

Early Life and Education

Daniel Harvey Hill (aka D.H. Hill) was born on July 12, 1821, in York District (now York County), South Carolina. Harvey (as he preferred to be known) was the youngest of eleven children born to Solomon and Nancy (Cabeen) Hill. Harvey’s paternal grandfather, Colonel William Hill, who died five years before Daniel’s birth, was an early ironmaster in South Carolina and a distinguished veteran of the American Revolution. When Harvey was four years old, his father died, leaving his family in debt. With the help of her children, Nancy Hill maintained ownership of the family’s small farm where she continued raising Harvey and his siblings.

Little is known about Hill’s childhood and early education. He must have been an able learner, however, because he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy where he enrolled on July 1, 1838. Hill graduated four years later on July 1, 1842, ranked twenty-eighth in a distinguished class of cadets that included fifteen future generals in the American Civil War.

Among Hill’s classmates were Union generals William S. Rosecrans, Abner Doubleday, John Pope, and George Sykes, and Confederate generals James Longstreet, Earl Van Dorn, and, Lafayette McLaws.

Other notable officers with whom Hill rubbed elbows during his four years at the Academy were Simon B. Buckner, Don Carlos Buell, Richard S. Ewell, William B. Franklin, Richard S. Garnett, Robert S. Garnett, Ulysses S. Grant, Henry W. Halleck, Winfield S. Hancock, Bushrod R. Johnson, Nathaniel Lyon, Edward O. C. Ord, Fitz-John Porter, John F. Reynolds, William T. Sherman, Edmund K. Smith, William F. Smith, George H. Thomas, Thomas J. Wood, and Horatio G. Wright.

U.S. Army Officer

After graduating from West Point, Hill was brevetted to the rank of second lieutenant on July 1, 1842, and assigned to duty with the First Artillery at Fort Kent, Maine. Between 1843 and 1845, Hill served at various posts in the South (Savannah, Georgia; Fort Moultrie, South Carolina; and Fort Monroe, Virginia). On October 13, 1845, Hill was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the Fourth Artillery, and deployed to Texas to serve with Zachary Taylor’s Army of Occupation. Hill received his first taste of combat in northern Mexico with the Fourth U.S. Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Monterrey (September 21–24, 1846) during the Mexican-American War. Promoted to first lieutenant on March 3, 1847, Hill also served under General Winfield Scott at the Siege of Vera Cruz (March 9-29, 1847). During the war with Mexico, Hill was brevetted to captain on August 20, 1847, “for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco” and brevetted to major on September 13, 1847, for “Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Storming of Chapultepec.” After the war, the South Carolina Legislature presented Hill with a sword in honoring him as one of the three bravest South Carolinians to participate in the conflict.

Marriage and Civilian Life

Upon returning to the United States, Hill was reassigned to garrison duty at Fort Monroe, Virginia. While serving there, he met Isabella Morrison, the daughter of Robert Hall Morrison, a Presbyterian minister and the first president of Davidson College. Following a brief romance, the couple wed on November 2, 1848. Their marriage eventually produced nine children.

Four months after his wedding, on February 28, 1849, Hill resigned his military commission to accept an appointment as professor of mathematics at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), in Lexington, Virginia. While living in Lexington, Hill renewed his acquaintanceship with Thomas J. Jackson (later lionized as General “Stonewall” Jackson), whom he had met while both men served in Mexico. Hill helped Jackson obtain a teaching position at Virginia Military Institute, also in Lexington. He also introduced Jackson to his wife’s sister, Mary Anna Morrison, in 1856. On July 16, 1857, the widowed Jackson married “Anna” Morrison and became Hill’s brother-in-law.

Hill remained at Washington College until 1854 when he accepted a position as professor of mathematics and civil engineering at Davidson College, in Davidson, North Carolina. While at Davidson, Hill authored a textbook entitled “Elements of Algebra” that incorporated word problems mocking Northerners. Hill remained at Davidson for five years until receiving an appointment as Superintendent of North Carolina Military Institute, at Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1859. He remained at the school until 1861 when he resigned to accept a commission in the Confederate army.

Civil War in the East

When the Civil War erupted, North Carolina Governor John W. Ellis entreated Hill to bring his cadets to Raleigh to train recruits for the First North Carolina Regiment. Subsequently, the Confederate government commissioned Hill as the regiment’s colonel and deployed him to Virginia. As commander of the Department of the Peninsula, Hill gained nearly immediate notoriety for his leadership during the Battle of Big Bethel, near Fort Monroe, Virginia, on June 10, 1861. Southerners celebrated the Confederate victory in what some historians consider to be the first major land engagement of the Civil War. Due to Hill’s success, the Confederate government promoted him to the rank of brigadier general one month later on July 10, 1861.

As the Confederate army sorted out its command structure during the first year of the war, Hill held several commands for brief periods of 1861 and early 1862. He commanded the Department of the Peninsula (May 31 – June 1861), and the Department of Fredericksburg (July 17 – July 1861). By October, he was back in North Carolina as head of the District of Pamlico for two months.

Shortly after the beginning of the Peninsula Campaign, (March 17–August 14, 1862), the Confederate government promoted Hill to the rank of major general on March 26, 1862. During the campaign, Hill served as a division commander under Major General James Longstreet with the Army of Northern Virginia. He participated in the Siege of Yorktown (April 5 – May 4, 1862) and Battle of Williamsburg (May 5, 1862). Hill distinguished himself during the battles of Seven Pines (May 31 – June 1, 1862), Gaines’ Mill (June 27, 1862), and Malvern Hill (July 1, 1862). After the Army of Northern Virginia forced Major General George B. McClellan’s Army of the Potomac to evacuate the Virginia Peninsula, Hill remained behind as officer-in-charge of the tidewater area east of Richmond and consequently missed the Battle of Bull Run II at Manassas.

Hill rejoined the Army of Northern Virginia by September 4, 1862, when General Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign, his first invasion of the North. On September 14, Hill’s Division stubbornly defended Turner’s and Crampton’s gaps through South Mountain, securing critical time for Lee to unite his divided army near Sharpsburg, Maryland. During the campaign’s pivotal encounter along Antietam Creek, Hill deployed his division on the morning of September 17 in a strong defensive line along a sunken farm lane worn down by years of wagon traffic, afterward known as the “Bloody Lane.” Although greatly outnumbered, Hill’s Division staunchly defended its position in the center of the Confederate line for nearly four hours before finally giving way. During the action, Hill had three horses shot from beneath him while rallying his division, which lost more than sixty percent of its strength. Despite the carnage on both sides, Hill’s steadfast resistance precluded the exhausted Federals from following up on their success when the center of the Rebel line finally broke, possibly preventing Union forces from carrying the day during the Battle of Antietam.

Despite his heroics at the sunken road, the Battle of Antietam marked the beginning of Hill’s military demise.Six days before the conflict, on September 11, 1862, members of the 27th Indiana found a copy of Lee’s campaign plans. The document was quickly passed up the chain of command where Union officials soon verified its authenticity. Upon receiving the copy of Lee’s orders, Union General George B. McClellan crowed, “Here is a paper with which, if I cannot whip Bobby Lee, I will be willing to go home.” The information no doubt aided the Union forces and Lee blamed Hill for its loss. Hill adamantly denied Lee’s accusations, but to no avail. When the Army of Northern Virginia next engaged the Army of the Potomac at the Battle of Fredericksburg (December 11 – 15, 1862), Hill’s Division was held in reserve. Hill’s participation, minor as it was, proved to be his last major action as a member of Lee’s army.

After missing the action at Fredericksburg, a despondent Hill considered resigning his commission, citing chronic health problems. Instead, he decided to stay on when Lee offered him a position closer to his home in early in 1863.On February 7, 1863, Hill assumed command of the Department of North Carolina. His duties included defending eastern North Carolina against Union coastal incursions, securing staples for the Confederate armies, recruiting soldiers, and rounding up deserters. On May 28, 1863, Confederate authorities expanded Hill’s department to include southern Virginia up to Petersburg.

When Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia following the death of Stonewall Jackson at the Battle of Chancellorsville (April 30 – May 6, 1863), not surprisingly he bypassed Hill as one of his three corps commanders. Throughout the Gettysburg Campaign, Hill spent his time guarding Richmond and building defenses around Petersburg.

Civil War in the West

The impact of Lee’s crushing defeat at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, was magnified by the fall of Vicksburg on the next day. As if things were not dire enough for the Confederacy, Major General William Rosecrans’ Union forces were bearing down on General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee near Chattanooga. Bragg’s command structure was in disarray. His personal relationship with Lieutenant General William J. Hardee (one of Bragg’s three corps commanders) was so poisoned that Hardee requested a transfer. In need of a competent general to replace Hardee, President Jefferson Davis traveled to Richmond on or about July 10 and offered the position to Hill. Hill was tempted but noted that Major General Alexander Stewart out-ranked him in the Army of Tennessee command structure. Davis resolved that issue by offering to promote Hill to the rank of lieutenant general (pending legislative approval). Hill accepted Davis’ offer. On July 14, 1863, the Confederate War Department notified Bragg that “Lieutenant General D.H. Hill” had been “ordered to report to you and now on the way.” Hill joined the Army of Tennessee in Chattanooga within the week and on July 19 Bragg issued General Orders, Number 152 (AOT) stating “Lieutenant General D. H. Hill is assigned to the command of the Second Corps (late Hardee’s). This corps will henceforth be known as Hill’s corps.”

Hill’s arrival did little to stem the onslaught of Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland. By September 9, 1863, Bragg abandoned Chattanooga and headed south into Georgia. Rather than stopping to rest and refit his weary forces, Rosecrans’ decided to follow. On September 19, Bragg turned and attacked his pursuers near Chickamauga Creek in Catoosa County and Walker County, Georgia. Hill’s corps fought well during the Battle of Chickamauga (September 19 – 20, 1863) and helped drive Rosecrans back into Tennessee.

Despite the Confederate victory at Chickamauga, Bragg’s senior officers were displeased with their commander’s failure to go on the offensive while Rosecrans’ army was in retreat. Hill played a leading role in drafting a petition sent to President Davis calling for Bragg’s dismissal. When Davis traveled to Tennessee to personally assess the situation, Hill was especially vocal and acerbic in his criticism of Bragg. Despite damaging testimony from several notable general officers, including James Longstreet, John C. Breckinridge, and Simon Bolivar Buckner, Davis eventually sided with his old friend, Bragg. Davis authorized Bragg to rid himself of any of his mutinous subordinates and on October 11, 1863, Bragg singled out Hill. Two days later, Davis wrote to Bragg, “GENERAL: I have received your application of the 11th instant, for the removal of Lieutenant General D. H. Hill from a command in the Army of Tennessee. Regretting that the expectations which induced the assignment of that gallant officer to this army have not been realized, you are authorized to relieve General D. H. Hill from further duty with your command.” Bragg quickly proceeded to issue General Orders, Number 33 on October 15, 1863, stating that “Lieutenant General D. H. Hill, with the staff brought by him to this army from Virginia, is relieved from duty in this department, and will report to General S. Cooper, Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond.” Adding insult to injury, Davis reneged on his commitment to Hill and declined to forward his promotion to lieutenant general to the Confederate Senate. The humiliated officer reverted to the rank of major general and returned to Virginia without a command.

Hill saw little action during the remainder of the war. In 1864, he volunteered to serve under General P.G.T. Beauregard and participated in the Battle of Proctor’s Creek (May 12–16, 1864) and the Second Battle of Petersburg (June 15–18, 1864). Later, when General Joseph E. Johnston was trying to scrape together forces to defend the Carolinas during the last days of the rebellion, Hill served with the Army of the South and was engaged at the Battle of Bentonville (March 19–21, 1865). A few weeks later, Hill surrendered with the rest of Johnston’s forces at Bennett Place, near Hillsborough, North Carolina (April 17 – 26, 1865).

Post-Civil War Life

After the war, Hill settled in Charlotte where he founded and published a periodical entitled The Land We Love. In 1877, he returned to the field of education serving as president and as a professor at Arkansas Industrial University (now the University of Arkansas). In 1884, Hill relocated to Georgia where he received an appointment as president of Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College (later Georgia Military College) at Milledgeville a year later. In 1889, the painful effects of stomach cancer forced Hill to resign and return to Charlotte. He died there on September 24, 1889, at age sixty-seven.Hill’s remains are buried on the campus of Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina.

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