Daniel Harvey Hill

This entry is part 2 of 8 in the series Confederate Generals Officers
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General Daniel Harvey HillOne of the more aggressive Confederate battle commanders, Daniel Harvey Hill ran afoul of Robert E. Lee and Braxton Bragg for his outspokenness. This in turn led him to fall out of favor with President Jefferson Davis. All of this led to his under-utilization in the second half of the war. This aggressive commander was shelved after the Battle of Chickamauga until the very end of the war.

D.H. Hill was a South Carolinian who graduated from West Point in 1842. He was assigned to the artillery due to his superior mathematical skills. He distinguished himself in the Mexican-American War, being brevetted to captain for bravery at the Battle of Contreras and Churubusco, and brevetted to major for bravery at the Battle of Chapultepec.

In February 1849 Hill resigned his commission and became a professor of mathematics at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), in Lexington, Virginia. It was during his time at Washington College that he wrote an Algebra textbook that included many disparaging examples that insulted Northerners. To say that D.H. Hill disliked Yankees would be an understatement.

In November 1848 Hill married Isabella Morrison, who was the daughter of Robert Hall Morrison, a Presbyterian minister and the first president of Davidson College. Hill and his wife would have nine children. In 1854, he joined the faculty of Davidson College and was, in 1859, made superintendent of the North Carolina Military Institute of Charlotte.

Hill’s wife was the sister of Mary Anna Morrison who would marry Thomas J. Jackson, later known as ‘Stonewall’, who was a professor of mathematics at the Virginia Military Institute.

At the start of the war Hill was commissioned as the colonel of the 1st North Carolina Infantry.He led his troops to victory at  the Battle of Big Bethel, near Fort Monroe, Virginia, on June 10, 1861. Shortly afterward, he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned to duty around Richmond.

By the spring of 1862 D.H. Hill was promoted to major general and given a division in the Army of Northern Virginia. He participated in the Yorktown and Williamsburg operations that started the Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 1862 and led his division with great distinction in the Battle of Seven Pines and the Seven Days Battles.

However, at the Battle of Malvern Hill he was ordered to lead a frontal assault by Robert E. Lee, who had succeeded to command after the serious wounding of General Joseph E. Johnston at Seven Pines. Lee’s plan was very complex and due to the Confederates’ unfamiliarity with the wooded terrain and confusing roads led to a series of disjointed attacks.

The Union artillery had disabled most of the Confederate batteries so the Confederate infantry were forced to advance with no artillery support. The Confederate troops reached only within 200 yards of the Union center and were repulsed by nightfall with heavy losses.

As the sun was going down, Brig. General Isaac Trimble of Ewell’s division began to move his troops forward. Jackson stopped him and asked “What are you going to do?” Trimble replied “I’m going to charge those batteries, sir!” “I guess you’d better not try it.” Jackson said. “General [D.H.] Hill has just tried with his entire division and been repulsed. I guess you’d better not try it.” Hill’s division was crushed in the fighting. He wrote afterward in a postwar article, “It wasn’t war; it was murder.”

On July 22, 1862, Hill and Union Maj. Gen. John A. Dix concluded an agreement for the general exchange of prisoners between the Union and Confederate armies. This agreement became known as the Dix-Hill Cartel and would be in effect for a good part of the war.

Hill’s division held up the Union advance at South Mountain during the Maryland Campaign. They would defend a part of the Sunken Road during the Battle of Antietam. Hill would personally lead a small group of detached soldiers from different brigades to hold the line at the critical moment. He had three horses shot out from under him during the battle.

After Antietam, Hill’s conflicts with Lee began to surface. After the death of ‘Stonewall’ Jackson at Chancellorsville, Lee reorganized the Army of Northern Virginia. Hill who expected to be promoted to corps command was not. In fact, he was off in South Carolina recruiting fresh troops. While the army was in Pennsylvania, Hill commanded reserve troops around Richmond.

Later in 1863, Hill was transferred to the Army of Tennessee with a provisional promotion to lieutenant general, to command one of Gen. Braxton Bragg‘s corps. At Chickamauga, Hill’s troops saw some of the heaviest fighting. After the battle Hill join with other general’s who openly condemned Bragg’s failure to exploit the victory.

President Jefferson Davis came to personally resolve this dispute, in Bragg’s favor, and to the detriment of those unhappy generals. The Army of Tennessee was reorganized again, and Hill was left without a command. Hill’s promotion was not confirmed by Davis, effectively demoting him to major general. He was also stripped of his corps with the reorganization of the Army of Tennessee.

After that, D.H. Hill served as a volunteer commander in smaller actions away from the major armies. Hill participated in the Battle of Bentonville in North Carolina, the last fight of the Army of Tennessee. Hill was a division commander when he, along with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, surrendered on April 26, 1865.

From 1866 to 1869, Hill edited a magazine, The Land We Love, at Charlotte, North Carolina, which dealt with social and historical subjects, and had a great influence in the South. In 1877, he became the first president of the University of Arkansas, a post that he held until 1884, and, in 1885, president of the Military and Agricultural College of Milledgeville, Georgia until August 1889, when he resigned due to failing health. General Hill died at Charlotte the following month, and was buried in Davidson College Cemetery.

 

 

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