Daniel Harvey Hill was born on July 12, 1821 in York District (County), South Carolina to Nancy and Solomon Hill. Hill would lose his father when he was only four and his mother would raise him and his 10 siblings. While he was a child, Hill was surely exposed to stories of war, his paternal grandfather had an iron works that supplied cannon to the Continental Army during The Revolution and his maternal grandfather was a scout for revolutionary general Thomas Sumter. Hearing the family history and his mother raising him as a dedicated christian, Hill accepted that slavery was a part of the southern way of life and that southerners had played a vital, if not the most important, role in winning the American Revolution. This belief shaped the young Hill's mind to despise anything related to the north.
In 1838, Hill was nominated for appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Hill was an average cadet during his time at West Point and he would graduate in 1842 ranked 28th out of a class of 56. A class that included future civil war generals John Pope, Lafayette McLaws, Abner Doubleday, and James Longstreet. Following his graduation, Hill was assigned to the artillery and he would see action during the Mexican-American War, receiving acclaim for actions during the war. Upon returning from war, Hill would marry Isabella Morrison in November 1848 and in early 1849, he would resign from the army and move to Lexington, Virginia, where he would become a teacher at the Washington College. During this time he would become friends with Thomas J. Jackson, later to be known as Stonewall, and assisted with getting Jackson employment at the Virginia Military Institute. While teaching at Washington College, Hill would be held in high esteem by his students despite, in the descriptions, his unorganized appearance despite having been an officer in the army.
Hill's stay in Lexington would be short however because in 1854, he would be offered a teaching position at Davidson College. Hill was familiar with the school because his father-in-law had been the first president of the school. Accepting the position was not an easy choice. He had wished to remain in Lexington but his convictions about his religious beliefs were at base of what Davidson was founded upon. When Hill arrived on the campus of Davidson, the college was overrun by undisciplined students that were threatening to close the school. Hill was given the full approval by the schools board of trustees to do whatever was necessary.
What awaited Hill was pure chaos. The students of the school were so undisciplined that riots were weekly occurrences, drunkenness was rampant and when students were suspended for their actions, they remained on campus, causing more mischief. Examples of such mischief was the attack on professors homes by a mob of students with rocks and eggs and another incident involved gunpowder being put into a candle snuffer that caused serious injury to the person that used it. Arriving on campus in May 1854, Hill immediately went about restoring order. He created a merit system similar to that which was in use at most colleges in the country at the time, including the USMA. Hill even went as far as stating that the college was in such a condition because of the current college president, Samuel Williamson. The friction between the two eventually lead to Williamson's resignation and Hill even went as far to offer his, but the board of trustees refused to allow him to leave. Over the coming months, the new discipline system bucked against that students and one night they rioted like never before. Again, they assaulted a professor's home with rocks and eggs. During this riot, Hill was struck by a stone and it was here that he decided enough was enough. He gathered the school's faculty, there were only four, to canvass the dorms to ensure which students had remained in their rooms. What occurred next exemplified what Hill was there for. He would suspend one student for three months, a student known to be a instigator of the troubles around campus. The suspension caused students, nearly half, to sign a petition demanding the student to be re-instated. When Hill and the board refused, many left the school. Hill's belief that a school was for students to study and further there lives in a disciplined manner ruled the day. With this action, Hill had all but restored order to the school and he also improved the schools academic program, especially in the mathematics department. His actions also caused a wealthy donor to give nearly $300,000. Hill's tenure would end in 1859 when he resigned to become superintendent of the North Carolina Military Institute.
|North Carolina Military Institute, circa 1870|
Life at the institute revolved around church, academics, and daily drill until December 1861 when South Carolina declared it was seceding from the Union. Many of the students at the school were South Carolinian, including some instructors. They contemplated withdrawing from the school to go home to take part in the events occurring there. Hill advised the students to remain in school until it was certain a war, which many believed was to occur, would take place. One instructor, in later years, believed that Hill, while supporting the southern way of life, did not want to fight in its defense until absolutely necessary.
Unfortunately, war would come when on April 12, 1861, forces from the recently created Confederate States of American fired on Fort Sumter, a United States military installation. Hill would gather his students at the institutes chapel to lecture them on what would should be expected in the coming war and unlike those that believed it would be a short war, Hill told his cadets it would be a long war, possibly has long as the Revolution and that each one would get their share of it. In the weeks ahead, Hill would be summoned to the state capital to set up a camp of instruction for North Carolina's volunteers. His cadets would join him to assist in the training of these volunteers.
As he was a prominent figure in North Carolina and possessed military experience, Hill was made colonel of the 1st North Carolina regiment in May 1861 and he would soon find himself in Virginia leading his North Carolinian's in their first taste of battle at Big Bethel on June 10, 1861 in what would be an overwhelming Confederate victory, in part due to confusion within the Union ranks that lead to a friendly fire incident. Hill's leadership during this fight would lead to his promotion to brigadier general on July 10th. With his new rank, Hill would remain in Virginia, commanding troops on the Virginia Peninsula near Richmond until his transfer to North Carolina where he would spend several weeks assisting with the construction and strengthening of coastal defenses. Upon the completion of this assignment, Hill would again find himself commanding a brigade of North Carolinans under Joseph Johnston defending Leesburg, Virginia. He would remain here, leading his brigade for the remainder of the winter. In March 1862, Joseph Johnston pulled his army back to a more defensible position and Hill would be promoted to Major General. Eventually, Hill would be with his division in the Confederate defenses near Yorktown, Virginia facing the massive Army of the Potomac under George B. McClellan.
Fighting an unbalanced artillery dual with Union artillery (Confederate ammunition was anything but reliable), Johnston would order his army to retreat back towards Richmond. Hill's division would assisted with covering the withdrawal and one of his brigades, under Jubal Early, would engage Union forces at Williamsburg. As Early moved with his brigade towards the sound of fighting, Hill accompanied him. As the Confederates deployed, Early divided his brigade and lead two regiments towards what he believed was the Union flank. Instead, he would run head-on into the Union line and the two regiments of Virginian's he led into the battle suffered terribly. Hill would bring up reinforcements, the 5th North Carolina, and he would personally lead the regiment into the fight but soon saw the futility and ordered a withdrawal. The Confederate retreat continued until they reach Richmond's outer defenses.
For Hill, the retreat and slaughter of his men at Williamsburg disheartened him. Reaching the defenses of Richmond, Hill found himself in a position to gain retribution against those Union men in blue. Joseph Johnston, needing to strike a blow, organized a plan that would through most of his army against an isolated portion of the Union army located near Seven Pines, a small village east of Richmond on the Williamsburg Road. The plan called for several Confederate columns to advance in columns along several roadways and converge on the Union positions, cutting them off from the main army. The plan went shambles from the beginning. Instead of advancing in seperate columns, the Confederates under James Longstreet advanced on the same road as D.H. Hill's division and other Confederate divisions did not get underway until late in the day. Knowing the battle was to open, but seeing no troops or hearing musketry, Hill became inpatient and order his division forward, opening the fight around 1 p.m. For the next several hours, Hill's division bore the brunt of the fight and captured the first Union defensive line. With reinforcement from Longstreet, Hill pushed on hitting the second defensive line at roughly 4:30 and facing fierce resistance. A flank attack by Colonel Micah Jenkins, sealed the victory on May 31st for the Confederates. With fighting dying down, the Confederate rested on there hard won laurels but a momentous event had taken place. In the late evening, arriving on the battlefield for a first hand report, General Joseph Johnston was severely wounded by a shell fragment with command falling to Gustavus Smith, who would lead the army's unsuccessful attacks on the following day, forcing a Confederate withdrawal. With Smith seemingly having a nervous breakdown at the time, Confederate President Jefferson Davis appointed Robert E. Lee to command the army defending Richmond.
For the better part of the next month, Lee would strengthen the Richmond defenses and eventually Hill would find himself, with his division, under the command of his brother-in-law Stonewall Jackson. While the majority of southerners believed that Lee was actually digging in to await the massive Union armies final assault on Richmond, he was strengthening the defenses to be capable of holding the lines with a smaller force while taking the bulk to attack McClellan and push his army back from Richmond. General Hill would serve an important role in this attack. As part of Jackson's wing of the army, he would lead his division in a wide flanking movement that would bring him into the rear areas of the Union 5th Corps, in fortifications near the hamlet of Mechanicsville. In the ensuing week, Hill would lead his division in a supporting role at Beaver Dam Creek, the attack at Gaines Mill, and finally in the bloody repulse at Malvern Hill, where he stated that the attack was "not war, but murder". All in all, the fighting that took place on the Peninsula, Hill established himself as a capable field commander. Hill would lead his division back their camps around Richmond for much needed rest, after spending a better part of a week after the fight at Malvern Hill gathering arms, equipment, caring for the wounded, and burying the dead of both sides. Hill's division would lose roughly 4,000 men as casualties during the week long fight.
Following the successful repulse of McClellan from the gates of Richmond, Lee would turn his eye to the north to deal with a new Union threat, the Army of Virginia, under the command of Major General John Pope, that was decimating northern Virginia. While Lee would move north with the majority of his army, he would leave behind Hill commanding forces to the south of the James River near Richmond to keep a watchful eye on McClellan's force, that was still standing in a semi-threatening posture at Harrison's Landing. While Lee was marching northward to see what could be done against Pope, Hill was ordered to harass the communications of McClellan. Hill would order a small force and several artillery batteries and go into position at Coggin's Point, opposite the Union camp at Harrison's Landing. The Confederates would open up on the Union camp on the night of July 31st and August 1st, causing confusion and damaging several ships that were docked at the landing. Hill's men would fire nearly 1,000 rounds of artillery on the encampment before being driven off by Union counter-battery fire. Not long after abandoning their position at Coggin's Point, Union troops crossed the James River and occupied the position.
Hill remain in overall command of Confederate forces in the area south of the James River covering that approach to Richmond as well as the vital railway link at Petersburg, Virginia. Around the middle of August, Hill reported that McClellan was evacuating the Peninsula. During the manuvering in northern Virginia, Confederate cavalry captured John Pope's headquarters baggage and other materials that provided information that McClellan was moving to link up with Pope's army, a move that would seriously threaten and outnumber Lee's army. With this information, Lee requested that all available forces that could be spared be sent from Richmond to strengthen his army against the growing Union threat. By the end of August, Hill was leading his division northward, missing the Confederate victory at Second Manassas. Linking up with the Army of Northern Virginia near Leesburg, Virginia on September 3, Hill would find himself as the spearhead for a movement northward, into Maryland.
On September 4th, Hill would be ordered by General Lee to demonstrate and cross the Potomac River. Sending one of his brigades to harass a Union positions near Berlin, Maryland while leading two other brigades across the Potomac near the mouth of the Monocacy River. After driving off Union pickets, the brigades set out destroying the Cheasapeake and Ohio Canal's banks, locks, and attempted to destroy the Monocacy Aqueduct, but we unable to due to lack of powder. Hill would lead his division as part of Jackson's command towards Frederick, encamping outside the city on September 5th. To note, Hill would find himself in command of all Confederate forces in Maryland prior to the arrival of Jackson on the Maryland shore, when Jackson would resume command responsibilities. Hill would also briefly be in command of Jackson's command when Jackson suffered a fall from a horse.
The Confederate forces would remain in and around Frederick until September 10th. Lee when moving into Maryland and marching on Frederick intended to force Union garrisons at Martinsburg and Harper's Ferry to abandon their positions allowing the Confederates to establish a secure line of communication and supply through the Shenandoah Valley in preparation for a possible advance into Pennsylvania. When this did not happen, Lee produced Special Orders 191 that outlined the capture of Harper's Ferry by Jackson, who would lead over half the army in the effort. The remainder of the army would advance to Boonsborough where they would await developments. The movement began on the 10th and Hill would be part of the Confederate concentration at Boonsborough with two divisions from James Longstreet's command. Arriving in Boonsborough, Longstreet received reports of a Union force advancing from Pennsylvania in the direction of Hagerstown. Taking his two divisions, Longstreet advanced and took possession of Hagerstown taking control the vital hub.
With this, Hill would find himself alone in Boonsborough to act as rear guard for the "main body" at Hagerstown and to keep an eye on roads south for any attempted escape by Union forces from Harper's Ferry. Hill would also provide infantry support for Jeb Stuart's cavalry that was covering the Confederate movement from Frederick. Hill first crisis would come on September 13, when Stuart requested infantry support for his hard-pressed cavalryman. Believing he was only facing two Union brigades, Stuart requested one infantry brigade to assist holding Turner's Gap on South Mountain. Hill instead ordered two brigades, those of Alfred Colquitt and Samuel Garland to march towards the gap while concentrating his remaining three brigades near Boonsborough.
|Mountain House, Turner's Gap|
At this time, Hill went on a reconnaisance of what was called the Wood's Road, a narrow path that followed the crest of the mountain towards Fox's Gap. Advancing about three-fourth's of a mile down the path, the sound of commands and rumbling of wheels gave Hill the perception that Union forces were crossing the mountain (this was in fact the 5th Virginia Cavalry, under Thomas Rosser, having been sent with John Pelham's horse artillery to hold the gap.) Hill was returning towards the mountain house when artillery fire came down on his small party. Rushing back, Hill found Garland's brigade prepared and he ordered the brigade to Fox's Gap with orders to sweep the woods and hold the road. Hill would never see Samuel Garland again, he would be mortally wounded in the defense of Fox's Gap.
The battle that would threaten Lee's Maryland Campaign began at roughly 9 A.M., when skirmishers stumbled upon each other, about a mile south of Fox's Gap. The fighting gradually grew in a general engagement with two brigades of Union infantry pressing Garland's North Carolinian's. The fighting was fierce and when Garland suffered a mortal wound, it seemed the North Carolinian's could not hold. Thomas McRae, commanding 5th North Carolina, took command of the brigade but it was so spread out and the woods creating a state of chaos and confusion, a final Union push broke the back of the Confederate defense. Garland's brigade streamed off the mountain in utter rout. Fortunately, reinforcements were on the way. Two regiments of Anderson's brigade were rushed to the Fox's by Hill and were able to stem the tide. At this point a lull fell over the battlefield.
During this lull, Hill would devise a plan to regain control of Fox's and push the Union army of the mountain. Hill, feeling the main threat was his right, ordered Roswell Ripley's and the remainder of Anderson's brigade to Fox's Gap. He also ordered the brigades of Thomas Drayton and George T. Anderson, having arrived on the mountain at around 3 p.m. to Fox's as well. Hill's plan called for this quasi-division to counterattack and flank the Union position at Fox's. Hill deployed the brigades with Ripley on the right, George B. Anderson's brigade next in line followed by George T. Anderson's brigade and finally the left being constituted by Thomas Drayton's brigade. Taking position in or near the Old Sharpsburg Road, Hill call for the brigades of Ripley, G.B. Anderston, and G.T. Anderson to pivot on the right of Drayton's brigade and fall on the flank of the Union force, driving them off the mountain. During the deployment, a gap opened between G.T. Anderson's left and Drayton's right. This would prove a fatal event.
Thomas Drayton ordered his brigade to advance into Daniel Wise's South Field against Union forces to the front. This advance led to the gap opening up and within minutes of advancing, Drayton's force was decimated by musketry from their front, left, and rear. G.T. Anderson attempted to close the gap but found it occupied by a strong Union force. With this failed attack, the fighting at Fox's Gap fell into a state of skirmishing with a final Confederate push around dusk ending the fighting.
During the afternoon lull in the fighting, General Hill took notice to a prominence to the left of the National Pike that could command any Confederate positions if Union artillery were to take position. Hill would order Robert Rodes to take his Alabama Brigade of about 1,200 men to hold this position. Rodes would come under attack at roughly the same time as Drayton's men advance at Fox's Gap. For the next three hours, Rodes men would hold back an entire division of Union infantry. Reinforcements would arrive just hours before dusk and Hill was frustrated that, as the commanding officer with the best knowledge of the ground over which he was fighting, was not able to deploy these reinforcements from Longstreet. Instead, they would march without a purpose before finally going into the fight, but too exhausted to hold for long. Luckily, nightfall would halt this threat on the Confederate left.
While fighting was occuring on both the left and right of the Confederate line, an attack came straight against Turner's Gap. Colquitt's brigade would hold off this final desperate assault by what is now known as the Iron Brigade. With this assault, the Battle of South Mountain concluded and Daniel H. Hill had proven a worthy fighter. His division paid dearly, suffering nearly 1,000 casualties. Hill would lead his division in a retreat towards Sharpsburg, where they would find some time to lick their wounds and prepare for the coming fight.
Hill, in his official report, stated that his division, and other Confederate forces had "accomplished all that was required--the delay of the Yankee army until Harper's Ferry could not be relieved." Leading his weary division in the retreat from South Mountain, Hill's division would arrive early in the morning of the 15th, taking up positions to the north of the Boonsborough Turnpike along the hills outside of Sharpsburg. Throughout the day, Hill and his men would watch a steady stream of blue infantry and artillery going into positions on the opposite banks of the Antietam Creek. Hill's men would find themselves under a monotonous artillery fire for most of the next day. It was late on the 16th, that Union forces began crossing the Antietam Creek at the unguarded upper bridge. Hill believed that at this moment, as Union troops crossed within striking distance of his division, that the Union men were vulnerable but as to the weaken state of his division and also Hood's Division to his left, the opportunity was lost. During this time though, Hill was not idle. He would order into position an artillery battery that would shell the Union column as a sharp skirmish erupted between advance elements of the Union First Corps and elements of Hood's Division for control of what became known as the East Woods. The fighting for the woods would prove rather fierce, but was certainly a preview of what was to come. The skirmish ended not long after the nightfall and the two sides prepared for the coming fury that would surely erupt on the morning of the 17th.
Fighting erupted on the morning of the 17th with the Union troops advancing down the Hagerstown Turnpike in an effort to turn the Confederate flank. At the time the fighting erupted, Hill reported as a result of straggling and the recent fighting, that his division was down to only 3,000 men. These 3,000 men constituted the Confederate center located in a sunken road, worn down by years of wagon traffic, that connected the Hagerstown Turnpike with the Boonsborough Pike.Hill's deployment was as follows: his right flank was held by the brigade of George B. Anderson and on Anderson's left was the brigade of Robert Rodes was deployed. The remaining three brigades under Alfred Colquitt, Roswell Ripley, and Duncan McRae (commanding Garland's brigade) were pushed forward in positions near the Roulette and Mumma farms. These three brigades would support the Confederate left following the repulse of the attack by Hood's division through the Cornfield. They would be hammered by the attack of the Union Twelfth Corps, eventually retreating to positions just outside of Sharpsburg.
|The Sunken Road|
As fighting began dying down in the now blood soaked areas surrounding the Hagerstown Turnpike and Smoketown Road, the division of William French from the Union Second Corps, advanced over the fields of the Roulette Farm towards the center of the Confederate line, occupied by the final two brigades of Hill's yet to see action, Robert Roads and George B. Anderson (in the picture at left, Anderson's brigade would occupy the roadbed in the foreground and Rodes' brigade would be in position in the road in the area near the group of trees in the distance). The road created a strong natural defensive position that would prove difficult to crack. Advancing in three lines, "with the precision of parade day", as Hill noted, the Union force looked like an unstoppable force. As the first line moved over the final hill before the Confederate position, the Confederates saw slowly the flags of the Union regiments, then faces, then belts, and then when just yards away and full targets presented, a devastating fire was unleashed, "My rifles flamed and roared in the Federals faces like a blinding blaze of lightening accompanied by the quick and deadly thunderbolt....The entire front line, with few exceptions, went down in the consuming blast.", remembered John Gordon, commanding the 6th Alabama in Rodes' Brigade.
For the next three hours, the two sides would punish one another. Fresh Union regiments continued to pour into the fight. To bolster his brigades, Hill saw the division of Richard H. Anderson moving forward. Hill directed Anderson to deploy his division to the immediate rear of his main battleline. As the deployment occurred, Anderson was wounded and command fell to Richard Pryor, who promptly sent the division in the road bed. As a result, several misguided and unsupported Confederate counterattacks ensued, weakening the Confederate position. Eventually, Union forces were able to gain somewhat of a foothold in G.B. Anderson's brigade, causing the first crack in Hill's line. As a result, Rodes order the right wing of his brigade to refuse the line, or bend a portion of line back at a right angle from its original position. The order was mistaken for an order to retreat and the Alabamians, orderly then in utter rout, fled to the rear. As a result, G.B. Anderson's brigade was exposed to a dreadful flanking fire. They too, broke and ran back towards the town of Sharpburg. Hill's line had crumbled and the Confederate center was broken.
With Union troops pushing beyond the road, all that stood between them and the town was a thin line of artillery. Hill ordered a battery, concealed within an orchard, to move forward and deploy. The battery deployed, driving back the Union infantry. Hill stated that at this moment, believing the enemy to be demoralized, he rallied a force of about 200 men and with musket in hand led them in a counterattack. In the ensuing attack, Hill's small band was "met with a warm reception" and "the little command was broken and dispersed." As this was occurring, several of Hill's regimental commanders had rallied a force similar in size to the one led by Hill. This small group was ordered by Hill to flank them Union position but, the attack would also fail. As a result of these attack, Hill believed the boldness of the attacks convinced the Union commanders to halt the advance on what was left of the Confederate center.
To Hill's delight, and surely every soldier on the battlefield at Antietam, night mercifully fell over the blood soaked fields ending the fighting. Remaining on the field throughout the day of the 18th, Hill reported that he could muster only 1,500 to 1,700 men in a new defensive position. While his division had suffered heavily in Maryland, losing according to Hill's report anywhere from one-half to two-thirds of his division, Hill believed that these remaining men were the truest and bravest men remaining in his division and would "fight with determination, if not enthusiasm," if a renewed Union assault were to come. Fortunately, no more major fighting would occur and Hill would lead his division back into Virginia.
For the next few months, Hill's division would reset and refit before again finding itself on a battlefield. At Fredericksburg, a new Union "On to Richmond" campaign found itself repulsed in a bloody manner. Hill's division would remain in reserve during this fight. Following the battle, the armies would go into winter quarters.
|D.H. Hill family grave site|
Daniel Harvey Hill was an outspoken commander that would find himself on the losing end of the his beliefs several times. After being overlooked for command of a corps within Lee's army, he believed that because the army was based in Virginia the command positions with the most responsibility unfairly went to those officers born in Virginia and his criticism of Bragg as part of the officers coup following the failure to followup the dramatic Confederate victory at Chickamauga caused him his lieutenant generalship and his command. Despite his stubborn and opinionated personality, Hill proved to be a man that when called upon would lead his men with a determination and enthusiasm that was evident in the fighting spirit of his division during the Maryland Campaign.