Whenever we talk about the United States Civil War, there are certain names that stand out clearly:
- Ulysses Grant
- Robert E. Lee
- “Stonewall” Jackson
just to name a few…
But there are so many lesser known names that played huge roles in the outcome of this war between the North and the South.
One of those names is the Union’s own General Alexander Hays. A great man, tremendous leader and honored in many ways.
In today’s post, I am going to share the top 10 cool facts about General Alexander Hays. They are in no particular order, so be sure to scroll through them all.
#1: Graduated From West Point In 1844
Hays transferred to the United States Military Academy in his senior year of college. He finished way below average ranking at 20 out of 25 cadets. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 8th U.S. Infantry.
#2: Mexican-American War
Not long after graduation, Hays traveled with the troops to Mexico to battle in the Mexican-American War. He earned great distinction for his military abilities when they were engaged in battle near Atlixco, Mexico.
After the Mexican-American War, Hays resigned his commission and set out to make his riches in the civilian world. He first attempted to start an iron business that failed and he went to California to enter the gold rush but also had no luck.
He traveled back to Pennsylvania and worked as a civil engineer.
#4: Outbreak Of The Civil War
When the Civil War started, Hays re-upped in the military. He held 2 ranks…
- In the 63rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Hays was a Colonel
- In the regular Army’s 16th U.S. Infantry, Hays was a Captain
#5: Campaigns Hays Was In
The soldiers had great respect for this seemingly fearless Army leader. Alexander Hays participated in many Civil War campaigns and was wounded several times. The campaigns he was in were:
- Seven Pines
- Savage’s Station
- Malvern Hill
- Second Bull Run
- Pickett’s Charge
- and the Wilderness
#6: Close Friends
When Hays attended West Point, there was a man in the class ahead of him who became one of Hay’s best friends. That man also became a huge military hero in the Civil War and later became President of the United States.
I speak of Ulysses Grant.
#7: Monument At Gettysburg
There is a monument in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Alexander Hays.
He showed his great fearlessness during the Battle of Gettysburg. Leading his troops and defending the Union line at Cemetery Ridge, Hays had not 1 but 2 horses shot out from under him during the battle.
As Confederate prisoners were lined up, Hays grabbed the Confederate flag and rode before them dragging it through the dirt and mud.
#8: Hays Death
It was the Battle of the Wilderness and suddenly a shot came from behind a tree. The Minié ball bullet struck Alexander Hays and dropped him dead then and there.
Hays was brevetted a Major General after his death.
Even Confederates had great respect for this Union leader and a Confederate officer, Major W.S. Embrey, donated land at the site of Hays’ death for a monument to be erected. The monument is made from a 42 pounder rifled cannon set into a stone base.
#9: The Tears Flowed
Hays was buried at Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
When the great Ulysses Grant was campaigning for the Presidency, one stop was in Pittsburgh. Ulysses made sure to visit his friend’s grave site and the media and others watched as the next President of the United States cried openly in front of all.
#10: Named After This Union Leader
The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization that operated until the last Union Army member died in 1956.
Post #3 of the GAR in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was named for General Alexander Hays.
Fort Hays in Kansas was named for him.
And the city of Hays, Kansas is named after general Alexander Hays.
General Alexander Hays may not be a household name like other Civil War heroes, but he should be. He was a firm leader who did stand fearless in battle.
What are your thoughts?
Did you know about this Union officer before reading this?
Share your comments and questions below.