General Ambrose Powell "A.P." Hill
By John T. Marck
A.P. Hill was born on November 9, 1825 in Culpepper, Virginia. He attended West Point and graduated in 1847, fifteenth in his class. Commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant, he first saw action during the Mexican War. After this war, he served in the office of the superintendent of the Coats Survey, then again saw action in the Seminole War.
About one month before the Civil War began, when war was imminent, Hill resigned from the United States Army and joined the Confederacy. Entering the Confederate Army as a colonel of the 13th Virginia Infantry, he rose to brigadier general on February 26, 1862. Following his outstanding service at the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, where he successfully overran the Union troops as they were advancing up the peninsula, he was promoted to major general.
Following a few battles and campaigns, he then joined Major General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on the Rapidan River in July 1862. Hills' division would go on to exalt themselves as one of the Confederacy's finest units, serving at Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
Following the death of Stonewall Jackson, General Robert E. Lee reorganized his army. Promoted to lieutenant general, Hill was placed in command of the new III Corps. As a corps commander, the reasons for his actions that followed are unclear. Whether his problems were physiological or psychological, or perhaps his abilities merely could not face the challenges ahead, is unknown. In any event, his performance as a corps commander was less than noteworthy. At the Battle of Gettysburg, although it was his corps that began the fight, he remained very submissive. Again at Bristoe Station, his spontaneous and impatient assault on the Union cost his corps more than one thousand three-hundred casualties. At the Battle of the Wilderness, his corps was facing certain tragedy, only to be rescued in time by Lieutenant General James Longstreet and his men. Becoming sick, suffering from an unidentifiable illness, he missed the Battle of Spotsylvania and at the Battle of Petersburg, as soon as the battle's moment of truth approached, he would report himself sick, yielding all command responsibilities. During those times when he was absent to illness, it was General Robert E. Lee who in effect took over his command.
On April 2, 1865, upon returning from sick leave, he did ride into battle to attempt to rally his shattered troops whose lines had been destroyed, and was shot and killed by two soldiers of the Union VI Corps. Throughout his life, Hill remained very close friends with both Lee and Jackson. It is believed that General Lee and Jackson looked upon their friend in kindness, in spite of his battlefield actions, and in consideration of his illness, which was not understood. Interestingly, when Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were in their dying delirium, they both called out for A.P. Hill.
Ambrose Powell Hill was buried in Richmond, Virginia.
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