« PreviousContinue »
up. He was the model of an excellent soldier, but deficient as an officer. He was splendid in action; he had a magnetic presence and a superb personal gallantry. But he knew but little of the art of war. There was much in his conduct that was vol
is exceptional in balancing a disposition so gay with the real virtues of the man, and in presenting in manners so light the stern stuff of heroic souls. The bright blue eye that could beam with laughter looked into the very face of death without a quiver of the lid. Ambitious, fond of glory, and sensitive to blame or praise, he was yet endowed with a bold and independent spirit which enabled him to defy all enemies. Light-hearted from his very indifference to danger, he has been likened to some chevalier of olden days, riding to battle with his lady's glove upon his helm, humming a song, and determined to conquer or fall. No braver spirit, no simpler heart, ever expired in liberty's cause. LIEUT.-GEN. AMBROSE P. HILL.
His record in the United States Army.--His part in the battles around Richmond,
1862.-Conspicuous gallantry at Frazier's Farm.--He repulses six assaults in the second battle of Manassas.-Critical service at Sharpsburg.- Episode of Boteler's Ford.—Bristoe Station.--Failure of General Hill's health.--He resumes command in front of Petersburg. Reams' Station.—Tragic death of the Commander.--His virtues and gallantry.
AMBROSE P. HILL was a native of Virginia, born in the county of Culpeper, on the 9th November, 1825. His father, Major Hill, was a leading politician and merchant of that county. In the year 1843, young Hill entered West Point as a cadet, and graduated on the 3d June, 1847, in the same class with Gen. Burnside. On the 1st July he was brevetted second-lieutenant of the First Artillery, and on the 22d August was made full second-lieutenant. On the 4th September, 1851, he was promoted first-lieutenant of the First Artillery, and afterwards to a captaincy.
A. P. Hill bad sought the education of a soldier with a fixed determination. He had made arms not only his profession, but an enthusiastic study, to which he was prompted by the natural tastes and dispositions of his mind.
Upon the breaking out of the war between the North and South, he was chosen Colonel of the Thirteenth Virginia Regiment; and at the first battle of Manassas, it will be recollected, this regiment, with the remainder of Gen. Johnston's command, arrived on the field just in time to secure and complete the great victory of that memorable day.
At the battle of Williamsburg, Gen. Hill had risen to the
rank of Brigadier-General; and in that fight he exhibited an extraordinary spirit and energy, which were recognized by all who observed his behaviour on that field, and drew the eyes of the public upon him.
But he made his greatest reputation by his conspicuous part in the seven days' battles around Richmond, in the summer of 1862. Having then been made Major-General, he occupied, with his division, the extreme left of the Confederate position in the neighbourhood of Meadow Bridge. He was put in command of one of the largest divisions of the Army of Richmond, his division being composed of the brigades of Anderson, Branch, Pender, Gregg, Field, and Archer. He rapidly brought his division to perfection in organization. It was made his duty to cross at Meadow Brigde, and make the first attack upon McClellan's forces. He performed this duty alone, without waiting for other movements; and, unassisted by a portion of his command (for Gens. Branch and Gregg did not come up until late in the evening), he sustained a terrible conflict with the enemy, encouraging his troops by examples of personal audacity, which kept him constantly exposed to the enemy's fire.
That position of the enemy gained, the division of Gen. Hill followed his subsequent movements, being placed first on the line of the advance, and bearing the brunt of the action to Frazier's Farm. Here occurred the memorable engagement in which bis command, composed of his own and one division of Longstreet, fought a largely superiour force, and achieved a success which broke the spirit of the enemy, and completed the circuit of our victories.
In this series of battles the division of Hill lost 3,870 men, killed and wounded; drew the first blood at Mechanicsville; fought five hours at Gaines' Mills; travelled a circuitous route of forty miles; won the field at Frazier's against the greatest odds of the seven days' conflict; took fourteen pieces of artillery and two stands of colours-a record of endurance and valour that at once made the reputation of the division, and placed the star of its commander in the ascendant. Of the desperate circumstances in which the victory of Frazier's Farm was wrested from the enemy, Gen. Hill writes: “Two brigades of Longstreet's division had been roughly handled and had fallen back. Archer
was brought up and sent in, and, in his shirt-sleeves leading his gallant brigade, affairs were soon restored in that quarter. About dark the enemy were pressing us hard along our whole line, and my last reserve, Gen. J. R. Anderson, with his Georgia brigade, was directed to advance cautiously and be careful not to fire on our friends. His brigade was formed in line-two regiments on each side of the road—and, obeying my instructions to the letter, received the fire of the enemy at seventy paces before engaging them. Heavy reinforcements to the enemy were brought up at this time, and it seemed that a tremendous effort was being made to turn the fortunes of the battle. The volume of fire that, approaching, rolled along the line was terrific. Seeing some troops of Wilcox's brigade who had rallied, with the assistance of Lieut. Chamberlaine and other members of my staff, they were rapidly formed, and, being directed to cheer long and loudly, moved again to the fight. This seemed to end the contest, for in less than five minutes all firing ceased and the enemy retired.” The fact was that Gen. Hill had ridden to the rear, to Wilcox's.brigade--which, however, had not retired under pressure of the enemy, but had been placed in position by its commander, under Longstreet's orders and by personal appeals, so ardent that tears started to his eyes, he besought them to save the day, and to come up to the front to make a last effort to check the advance of the now confident enemy. Catching the spirit of the commander, the brave but jaded men moved up to the front, replying to the enemy's cheers with shouts and yells. At this demonstration, which the enemy no doubt supposed signified heavy reinforcements, he stopped his advance, and surrendered the torn and bloody field. It was a victory narrowly won, and marked the last effort of McClellan to recover a position short of James River.
Frazier’s Farm ought, indeed, to have been the last fight against McClellan, and was so designed. Jackson on the enemy's rear, Huger on his right flank, Longstreet and Hill in front of him on the Long Bridge Road, and Holmes and Magruder pushing him on the Malvern Hill side-such were the dispositions of Gen. Lee. They constituted a perfect plan; they should have led to the capture and destruction of McClellan; but, unfortunately, the only Generals up to time were Longstreet and
Hill, and what was designed as decisive proved only a partial field, adorned, however, with a crowning exhibition of courage and devotion.
In the campaign of Northern Virginia, the division of A. P. Hill was sent to reinforce Stonewall Jackson, who had been dispatched to check the advance of Pope. With this illustrious commander it continued to operate during the remainder of his brilliant career; and among the last words of Jackson, in the delirium of death, was the habitual phrase: “A. P. Hill, prepare for action!” At the battle of Cedar Run, Hill gallantly maintained the prestige he had already won; his division strongly supporting Ewell's division and making a vigourous fight. In the subsequent operations, he bore a conspicuous part, marching with Jackson on his flank movement towards the Rappahannock and Manassas.
At the second battle of Manassas, he repeated something of the desperate drama of Frazier's Farm. In the first day of the action, the evident intention of the enemy was to turn the Confederate left and overwhelm Jackson's corps before Longstreet came up; and, to accomplish this, the most persistent and furious onsets were made, by column after column of infantry, accompanied by numerous batteries of artillery. Soon Hill's reserves were all in, and up to six o'clock, his division, assisted by the Louisiana brigade of Gen. Hays, commanded by Colonel Forno, with a heroic courage and obstinacy almost beyond parallel, had met and repulsed six distinct and separate assaults, a portion of the time the majority of the men being without a cartridge. The reply of the gallant Gregg to a message of the commander is worthy of notice, “Tell Gen. Hill that my ammunition is exhausted, but that I will hold my position with the bayonet.” The enemy prepared for a last and determined attempt. Their seried masses, overwhelming superiority of numbers, and bold bearing, made the chance of victory to tremble in the balance; Hill's own division, exhausted by seven hours' unremitted fighting, hardly one round of ammunition per man remaining, and weakened in all things save its unconquerable spirit. Casting about for help, fortunately it was here reported to Gen. Hill that the brigades of Gens. Lawton and Early were near by, and, sending for them, they promptly moved to the