D. H. Hill was another of the professional soldiers (West Point 1842) who fought for his state rather than his country. In his case it was South Carolina, although as a military man he moved from place to place before and during the war. He’d done well at West Point, well enough to win a place in the artillery (which got second pick of the men after the small Engineer Corps), where he fought in the Mexican War – winning two brevets. It wasn’t enough to hold him in the Army, and he resigned just after the war (1849) and moved into teaching. In 1861 he was Superintendent of the North Carolina Military Institute which he marched off to war.
He was instantly made Colonel of the 1st North Carolina Volunteers, and shortly sent to the Peninsula in Virginia where his regiment won the Battle of Big Bethel on June 10, 1861. He was temporarily moved up to Fredericksburg, then briefly down to the North Carolina coast, then spent the winter in northern Virginia, training his men. He was promoted to Major General in the early spring of 1862 and given command of a division when Earl Van Dorn was sent to Arkansas to bang heads of argumentative generals. He led the division all through the Peninsular Campaign, fighting from Yorktown and Williamsburg to Seven Pines and then the Seven Days Battles. They were then left in southeastern Virginia to recuperate, so he missed the second battle of Manassas (for the first he’d been in Fredericksburg) but he fought at South Mountain and commanded at the Bloody Lane at Antietam. He also fought at Fredericksburg before returning to North Carolina for four months (April-July 1863).
From there he moved west, to replace Hardee as a Corps commander under Braxton Bragg. Hardee had transferred out because he couldn’t stomach Bragg; Hill found the same problem. The new Lieutenant General fought at Chickamauga; the lack of pursuit, the wasted opportunity infuriated him and he suggested that Jefferson Davis replace Bragg. Davis liked Bragg, so he dropped Hill instead. Hill lost his command, and his rank was not confirmed by the Confederate Senate because Davis never forwarded the papers.
He came back to Virginia, and was serving on P. G. T. Beauregard’s staff as a volunteer when Ben Butler made his stab at Richmond. Beauregard bottled Butler into the loop of the James at Bermuda Hundred; Hill was instrumental at both Drewry’s Bluff and later when Beauregard’s thin line saved Petersburg as well.
He was relieved from that to command a scratch division in North Carolina, then Stephen Lee’s old Corps. He surrendered with Joe Johnston.
In peacetime he returned to teaching, and also wrote a variety of historical and literary pieces.
Content provided by:
Eicher, John H. & David J. Civil War High Commands. Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 2001.
Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray - Lives of the Confederate Commanders.
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000.