Copyright I\^°








Brevet Colonel United States Army

Brigadier General and Brevet Major General

United States Volunteers.







"Above the dust of the beloved dead Who passed to immortality this way,

We bare our head and reverently tread, And tenderly our heartfelt homage pay.




To the Soldiers of Alexander Hays, living and dead, who followed their dauntless leader under the Red Patch and the Blue Trefoil, 1861- 1864.

^tl' 10(S/Q

Copyright, 1919. By Gilbert Adams Haya.

'^CiAJ^^OOHl ^ iV




Nearly fifty-five years have passed since General Alexander Hays, in the zenith of his career, fell in the tangled thickets of the Wilderness. Conscious that they ai'C nearing the age when the expectation of life shortens, his children have determined to publish a biography of their honored father, and show to all the world who may care to know, what manner of man he was.

Treasured as precious memories throughout the long years, the family have preserved the letters he wrote from the front during the three years in which he gallantly served, until that fatal day when he fell as a soldier often falls, in action, on the advanced line.

Alexander Hays was a plain man, a man of simple tastes, a man of action rather than words. He was thoroughly averse to ostenta- tion, and wanted no eulogies. He was therefore a modest man. Modest, though dignified in bearing, he sought not praise. He went his way to duty and performed that duty well, whatever it may have been. Large of frame and large of brain, Alexander Hays had all the charactristics of the true soldier. Endowed with a liberal education, he was therefore a man of refinement and education. Schooled in the grim school of war, he knew the value of obedience, and the necessity of discipline. Obedience to authority and courage in the hour of danger are the main attributes of a soldier, and the men that Alexander Hays led possessed these characteristics in common with their chief, and the laurel has been placed upon their tattered standards, and history has written their deeds in the records of the great war.

Had General Hays lived to read his own biography he would have cut out all superlatives "illustrious son of Pennsylvania," "gallant hero," "brilliant commander." Such phrases would not have ap- pealed to him; and why speak of loyalty, patriotism and allegiance to duty? Are these not imposed on all citizens? "Courage, sagacity and discrimination," these are mer^ attributes of a successful com- mander. Alexander Hays would never have consented to be written down as a military genius. He preferred that his deeds should speak, and they do speak, and in the subsequent pages the man as well as the soldier will be considered, the gentleness of the man at home as well as the man of arms in the din of battle and amid the crash of guns.

In the career of Alexander Hays there is much that is incentive to the young men of our land much in his character worthy of commendation and emulation. The story of his life can be made a, simple and unpretentious chronicle, or there can be used the


adjective with liberality. The written story has been aimed to be true to the man. We find him in early life in a country home, struggling to obtain even the rudiments of an education and early overcoming obstacles. We note his prominence in boyhood sports and athletic feats; his excellence as a marksman, and his marvelous horsemanship. We hear of his academy and college career, where always manly and popular, he goes next to the great Military Academy at West Point. And here he is the classmate and fellow- student of those whose names have been written in the history of the world for all time, and with whom when Valor and Genius were placing the unfading laurel, some fell also upon himself. We find him a subaltern in Mexico, dauntless and tireless, serving through that war. We behold him in California in the days when the real- ism of the times has faded any romance of the most brilliant novelist in the intensity of action, and in the marvelousness of truth. And he had crossed the trackless West, too, and won the title of "Argonaut." We see him return to his own fireside and engage in the pursuits of civil life. We observe him in the bosom of his happy family. We see him a pioneer in railroad development, a builder of railroads, the great civilizers of the greatest century since the dawn of time. We hear the boom of the Sumter's portentous guns, and the great Lincoln calls, and Alexander Hays puts his love of home away, and his great work away, and springs to arms among the first. His title is Major now, literally great and greater he became. He goes to the very front. He stays there and dies. At Pair Oaks he has sprung into prominence. At Gettysburg his name is indelibly written upon the "High water mark of the war." In the Wilderness he falls and his name is henceforth written on his . Country's fiag, but in deeds, not letters.

Pennsylvania furnished the Union many distinguished names, and not a few of these died as did Alexander Hays. They are known. Their services have long since been appreciated and their deeds marked by statue and embellished in story and song.

"Micat inter omnes," is a simple Latin sentence, and when all those who struggled through the four years of desolating war are considered it can be truthfully written of Alexander Hays. "He shines among them all."

Pittsburgh, Pa., January, 1919. G. T. F.



Chapter Pag^

I. Boyhood, School and College 1

II. Cadet Hays, U. S. M. A 8

III. Some Fellow Cadets 16

IV. The West Point Class of 1844 32

v. Lieut. Alexander Hays, U. S. A 41

VI. Alexander Hays' Own Story of First Service and Some

Letters 53

VII. Lane's Brigade in Mexico 66

VIII. Across the Plains 98

IX. Before Sumter 113

X. Letters from Camp. The 12th Regiment Pennsylvania

Volunteers. Three Months' Service 121

XI. The 63rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. Around Washington. 137

XII. The Peninsular Campaign 198

XIII. Letters from the Field. Harrison's Landing to Second

Bull Run 247

XV. Gettysburg 401

XIV. After Gettysburg. Efforts for Promotion 470

XVII. When Grant Came 557

XVIIL The Wilderness 596

XIX. Honors to the Fallen 610

XX. Alexander Hays in Song and Story 626

XXI. Monuments 640

XXII. Some Testimonials 652

XXm. Immortelles 672

XXIV. Conclusion 678

Appendices 681




Portrait General Alexander Hays Frontispiece •■

Lieutenants U. S. Grant and Alexander Hays, Camp

Salubrity, La 50 ^

Victory Monument, West Point Military Academy 120

Memorial Tablet, Cullum Hall, West Point 200

General Hays' Headquarters, Winter, 1863-4 ^. . . .270

Soldiers' Monument, Franklin, Pa 350

Gettysburg Battlefield Monument 450

AVilderness Battlefield Monument 650

Grave and Monument, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh 650


Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays



ALEXANDER HAYS was born at Franklin, Venango County, Pennsylvania, July 8, 1819. He was the fifth child and the fourth son of Samuel Hays and Agnes Broadfoot Hays. This worthy couple had six children, viz. : Eleanor, John Broadfoot, David Brown, Samuel B., Alexander (the subject of this memoir), and James P. Mrs. Agnes Hays, the mother of these children, died in November, 1839, when the future general was in his 21st year, and about to enter the Military Academy at West Point. Samuel Hays, the father, died at his home in Franklin, July 6, 1868, in his 85th year, surviving his illustrious son four years and two months.

Samuel Hays, known in his home community as General Hays from his commission and service as such in the early Pennsylvania militia, was a man of high standing. Born in County Donegal, Ireland, September 10, 1783, at the age of seven, with his mother, Mrs. Eleanor Hays, he emigrated to the United States and located in Venango County, Pennsyl- vania, then an almost unbroken forest just opening to settle- ment. Eleanor Hays died in 1822. A sketch of the life of General Samuel Hays will be found in the appendices.^ Suffice it to say here that General Samuel Hays served as treasurer and sheriff of Venango County and in both branches of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, and was elected to the

1 Vide Appendix A.

2 Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays

Twenty-eighth Congress of the United States, entering that body in 1843. He later served as United States marshal for the Western District of Pennsylvania, and was associate judge of Venango County, and all these positions he filled with honor and integrity.

On his maternal side Alexander Hays was of Scotch line- age, the Broadfoot family having come to Pennsylvania early in the last century, and they, too, found a home in its north- western corner. The family name is chiefly known and localized in Wigtonshire, though frequently met with in other parts of Scotland. The Broadfoots were a numerous family that came from a distinguished Scotch ancestry, of which they were very proud.

Alexander Hays grew up in a wild and picturesque region where he passed a happy boyhood. Beautiful today, the scenery around the now thriving and handsome little city of Franklin, was in Alexander Hays' boyhood even more beau- tiful and inspiring. A century of progress has tamed its rugged nature, but the native beauty of the river and hills cannot be taken away. One can speculate on the relation of environments to the development of character, and he who knows the upper Allegheny region must believe such environ- ments are an inspiration, even to this day. What then were they ere modern improvement came in the march of progress, when hill and valley were yet unmarred? Could anyone say that the magnificent outlook up the river from Franklin to the lower blufT, crowned with the changing colors of the deciduous trees and the dark-hued evergreens, the stately pine and the towering hemlock, the gently flowing waters, or the torrent's rush of the river below, were not an inspira- tion and an incentive to higher things? In the pure air of these everlasting hills Alexander Hays saw their verdure and their flowers come and go, and the autumn tint the leaves, and the snows fall and melt, but the beauty and glory of the region was ever present though the seasons changed. Such a wealth of natural beauty could not fail to appeal to the youthful imagination and find response in a youthful heart such as his, so there grew in the young Alexander Hays a love of the true and the beautiful and an appreciation of the sublime, that ever characterized his utterances and were manifest in his letters both to family and friends— and throughout his whole career this is true. At school and in

Boyhood, School and College 3

war, as an "Argonaut," a designer, or a constructor, the aesthetic nature of the man was always apparent.

Young Alexander Hays was a robust child. He was cheerful and companionable, strong and decided in his likes and dislikes. In following his subsequent career in whatever situation, condition or emergency he was placed, this charac- teristic was marked. He was a courteous and well-behaved boy, and a dutiful son.

Into all boyish sports and the athletic exercises of that day he entered with zest and enthusiasm. In these he in- variably excelled, and always by force of his own will and character, and generally in these boyish diversions he was the recognized and logical leader, and hence the unanimous choice of his classmates and associates.

Alexander Hays early evinced a liking for good books and developed a taste for reading. Standard literature as recognized, the classics, history, poetry, military science, and the stories of heroic achievements appealed to him with equal strength. Reading makes a ready man and the early im- pressions were strengthened and his boyish propensities increased as he grew, and even under unfavorable circum- stances, oft fortuitous and unforseen, and conditions that were disheartening, his ready mind could call up a precedent and furnish a fit and appropriate quotation from some favorite author.

The youthful Hays was from young boyhood a lover of flowers and this trait was prominent throughout his life and many floral mementoes are cherished yet among his children, sent from the battlefield and the plains, and far ofif California and Mexico. When the story of his life has been developed, these traits now adverted to and others as noticeable and com- mendable, will be taken up more in detail in the final estimate of his character, after his life had been given to his country, along with encomiums of those who knew and loved him long and well and were thus qualified to speak of him as they have.

Two accomplishments of Alexander Hays seemed to have come to him naturally and with little effort on his part. When yet a boy he was a "dead shot" with pistol or rifle, and he could ride any horse, and both accomplishments stood him in good need frequently throughout his eventful life.

Another inspiration which came to young Hays was that which arose from hearing the oft-told tales and legends

4 Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays

of his Scottish ancestors, as he sat at his Grandmother Broad- foot's and his mother's knees. These near and dear ones he loved with all the afifection of his nature, and their stories of heroism and adventure were such as would sink deep into the soul of any boy.

To sum up the boyhood of Alexander Hays, it can be said he was always manly and popular, he was studious and looked on the beautiful in nature with keen admiration. He was a reader of the best thoughts of the world's greatest writers, and a lover of the sublime in poetry and art. He was obedient and filial. Strong in frame and contented in mind, he drank deeply the traditions and glory of his ancestry and exulted in their truth, and hence was true to himself and his teachings. When through with the training of a gentle home and his preparatory education had been completed, he entered upon the higher education with a superb young man- hood and a gifted mind, and that one was a poor prophet who could not predict his rise.

Young Alexander Hays' opportunities for a rudimentary education were the same as those of any of his associates. The school system of Pennsylvania, previous to the adoption of the present system in 1835, was not a generous one. Sub- scription schools were common, that is, each head of family subscribed for as many pupils as he would send, and paid the pro rata cost of their teaching. Thus, early in Samuel Hays' family life, in the history of Venango County he is listed as one of the subscribers to such a school and for one pupil only. John Broadfoot, Marcus Hulings and Samuel Plumer are down also for one pupil each. Broadfoot, (the maternal grandfather of Alexander Hays,) Plumer and Hul- ings, are well known Venango County families to this day. The teacher of this school was Alexander McCalmont (who married Margaret Broadfoot, Alexander Hays' aunt) also one of the first board of trustees of the Venango Academy in which Alexander Hays was enrolled as a pupil previous to going to IMercer to a like institution.

The Venango Academy, in its checkered career of more than fifty years, represented a system of educational work long since relegated to the past. It dated back to 1815 and was part of a general plan of higher instruction, wherein each

Boyhood, School and College 5

county had its academy to which state aid was directed, the greater sources of revenue being local. With the introduction of the so-called "free school system," these academies passed out of existence.

The exact date that Alexander Hays went to Mercer to live cannot be given. Judge Pearson tells all that is known of his young brother-in-law's stay in Mercer in a letter to Alden F. Hays, of Sewickley, under date of August 27, 1883, when the venerable judge was in his 83rd year:

"Alexander Hays, your father, lived with his sister Ellen and myself in Mercer, I think in 1832 or early in 1833, and went to school there (Old Mercer Academy) for perhaps two or three years, when he went back to Franklin to his father's, and soon after went to college in Meadville (Allegheny Col- lege) where I think he remained until he graduated."

Judge Pearson is in error as to the graduation, for the records of Allegheny College show that Alexander Hays did not graduate, but was so keen to enter West Point, he left college in his senior year, as soon as he received his appointment.

"Mr. Pearson," says Dr. Eaton, a local historian, "was one of our best citizens and ablest attorneys. He married Ellen, a daughter of General Samuel Hays, and after some years removed to Mercer, thence subsequently to Harrisburg, where he died."

In 1849 he was appointed by Governor Johnston to the office of president judge of the twelfth judicial district, com- posed of the counties of Dauphin and Lebanon, the duties of which he discharged continuously for a period of thirty- three years, having been frequently re-elected without opposition. During his residence in Mercer he was twice elected to ofifice, first to the Congress of the United States, and afterward to the Senate of Pennsylvania for the counties of Mercer and Beaver, three years of which term were spent as chairman of the judiciary committee. Judge Pearson's second marriage was solemnized with Miss Mary H., daughter of Joseph and Caroline Briggs, of Harrisburg. Politically he was for many years an ardent Whig, and later, in 1856, he joined the newly-formed Republican party, with which he remained identified until his death in the spring of 1888.

6 Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays

Alexander Hays entered the freshman class in Allegheny College in 1836, in his 17th year.^

The curriculum of Allegheny College was similar to all colleges of the time. It was divided into the usual two courses; Classical and Scientific. The Classical included the old time Latin and Greek classics, most of which are custom- ary and accepted as standard today; present day text books, however, have English notes instead of Latin.

Upon the registry of students of old Allegheny, 1836- 1840, there are few names familiar to this generation. Ap- pearing as seniors in 1839 occur Patrick A. Farrelly and Jonathan Hamnett, of Pittsburgh, and Francis H. Pierpont, of Middletown, Va. Patrick Alden Farrelly, a grandson of the celebrated Timothy Alden, was a step-brother of Miss Annie McFadden, afterward the wife of Alexander Hays. Farrelly followed him to West Point, entering in 1841 and graduated No. 20 in the class of 1845. ^

Other familiar names of students when Alexander Hays attended college are his eldest brother, David B. Hays, a junior in 1837-1838; Samuel Griffith, of Mercer; Frederick C. Bierer, of Greensburg; Alexander Hays' lifelong friend, John S. McCalmont, of Franklin, a freshman in 1836-1837, of the West Point class of 1842, first colonel of the loth Pennsyl- vania Reserves, and later judge of Common Pleas in Venango and adjoining counties; John Fleming Dravo, of Pittsburgh, and John Wesley Fletcher White, a sophomore in 1839-1840, registered from Washington County, Pennsylvania, whom old Pittsburghers will recall as Judge White of Common

iThis class graduated in 1840, and was as follows:

Martin B. Atkins, A. E. S. Bailey, John H. Bailey, Benjamin Bassel, Jr., Gordon Battelle, James Porter Brawley, Moses Crow, Darwin A. Finney, Francis A. Hall, J. B. Johnson,

William A. Kelly. Johnson Pearson,

M. G. (or M. J.) Porter, Sawell J. Stewart, J. J. Sykes,

Crawford County, Pennsylvania.

Watertown, N. Y.

Perry, N. Y.

Harrison County, Va. (nowW. Va.)

Newport, O.

Crawford County, Pennsylvania.

Smethport, Pa.

Rutland County, Vermont.

Lima. N. Y.

Meadville. Pa. (also registered

from Pittsburgh). Venango County, Pennsylvania. Mercer, Pa. (also registered from

New Castle). Venango County, Pennsylvania. Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania. Ogdensburg, N. Y.

2 For memoir. Vide Appendix B.

Boyhood, School and College 7

Pleas Court No. 2 of Allegheny County. Ephraim Buffing- ton, freshman, 1838-1839, registered from Kittanning, has a homehke sound. Alfred B. McCalmont, of Franklin, was a freshman that year, a boyhood companion of Alexander Hays.

Of Alexander Hays' classmates of 1840, Rev. Moses Crow, D. D., died in Geneva, N. Y. in 1859; Gordon Battelle died in 1863, a chaplain in the Union Army; Darwin A. Fin- ney, registered from Rutland County, Vermont, spent his after life in Meadville and was a member of the Fortieth Congress. Ridgeley J. Powers, of the class of 1843, was for many years a practicing attorney at the Allegheny County bar and noted for his resemblance to Abraham Lincoln.

While a student in Meadville, Alexander Hays boarded with a family named Kennedy. Thomas Rustin Kennedy, a member of this family was on General Hays' stafif during the former part of 1863.



THERE came a day when the schoolboy dreams of Alex- ander Hays were realized. July i, 1840, he reported to the adjutant and went through the preliminaries for admission as a cadet to the United States Military Academy at West Point, in four years to become graduate No. 1225, in the class of 1844, there taught by famous professors and fellow cadet with future makers of history ; soldiers of fame tri- umphant, soldiers immortal.^

Alexander Hays' appointment came to him at the hands of Judge Thomas Henry, of Beaver, then member of Congress from the Mercer and Beaver district, of Pennsylvania, who served in the Twenty-fifth, Twenty-sixth and Twenty- seventh Congresses. Young Alexander Hays passed a creditable entrance examination. He was leaving Allegheny College, 21 years old, and in superb physical condition. He entered upon the entrance examination without preparatory study. The examination was not rigid then as now, but all nominees for entrance were compelled to undergo it. Dr. Coppee states that it included the common branches only arithmetic through decimals and that Grant's scholarship was respectable and no more and Grant admits it. Alexander Hays, however, was well prepared.

One of Grant's biographers gives an amusing and suc- cinct account of Grant's experience when first a plebe at the

1 The official register of Cadet Hays is as follows: "Admitted July 1, 1840. Age at date of admission, 19 years and 11 months. Legal residence, Mercer, Mercer County, Penn- sylvania. Father's name, Samuel Hays. Place of residence of parents, Franklin, Venango County, Pennsylvania. Where born, Pennsylvania. Time and manner of leaving the Academy, promotion brevet second lieutenant. Fourth Infantry, July 1, 1844."

There is an error of one year here in the general's age; how occurring, not known.


Cadet Hays, U. S. M. A. 9

old Academy. ^ Grant was quiet and serious. He might even have been termed docile. He had no remarks to hand back. Then Grant was small in statue and rather sluggish in nature. Alexander Hays was in striking contrast, of heroic mold, six feet in height and of magnificent physical proportions. Alexander Hays was quick, impetuous, even fiery. If any- thing in the code of cadet etiquette in the way of convention- alities in the reception and treatment of plebes, ever made life a burden to Alexander Hays and caused a weariness of the flesh, as Hamlin Garland avers in Grant's first year, the story has not come down to the Hays family. One must re- member here that Grant and Alexander Hays were subse- quently chums. ^

Little is known now of Alexander Hays' Academy days in the matter of his most intimate associates, or even his roommates and little is accessible. Grant's roommate was Rufus Ingalls, later Frederick T. Dent, and his intimates, Isaac F. Ouinby, Charles S. Hamilton, James Longstreet and William B. Franklin. These, however, were upper class- men to Alexander Hays. Yet Grant's friends were Flays' friends, and Allen Norton, class of 1842, was very dear to Alexander Hays. Some years ago a fire at West Point de- stroyed many early records. Had this biography been at- tempted in the life of General Hancock or other of Alexander Hays' classmates as interesting story as Grant's no doubt would have been easily forthcoming. Nevertheless some facts have drifted down the years concerning student life in those delightful days, and some days that were not so.

Hamlin Garland in his Life of Grant in the chapter en- titled "The Trials of a Plebe" has most graphically told about all that could be told of the making of a cadet in the first stages in those years. He quotes General William B. Frank- lin to corroborate the story, and the general's evidence is strong. There were few compensations the first year. "Arise summer, 5 a. m. ; winter, 6. Every hour busy until 7:30 p. m. The cadet scrubbed his room floor; made his bed; kept his gun, room and uniform in order, and obeyed everybody but his fellow plebes."

1 Garland.

2 "Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and Character," Garland; P. 33.

10 Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays

The second year brought a great change. There was the entering class to bully, and of course it had to be done or the class would never make good soldiers. If you had been a cadet in those days, you would have been permitted to swagger around doing corporal duty ; and the next year your lot was even lighter for you had two classes to bully. You could wear a red sash around your waist on parade to show your standing as a cadet officer, and in the last year you were permitted to do most anything you pleased ; in fact, the very things you kept your subordinates from doing in the second year.

Alexander Hays came one year after Grant, and as a yearling most likely was a "fag end" in a manner. In the curt, over-expressive language of the Academy, a "beast." ^

Those who knew Alexander Hays can well believe no one ever went too far with fagging, for he would fight and did fight. Many letters written from West Point by Alex- ander Hays, after being treasured and sacredly preserved for over two score years, are now missing and their fate is un- known. Longstreet in his book touches but lightly on his Academy days,- and Hancock's biographers are almost as slight. Grant's generally confine their story to the individual. Grant in his "Memoirs" passes quickly over his cadet days and Dr. Coppee, who was a fellow student, in his book, does likewise. After the statement that the entrance examina- tions were simple, he tells us that there were no options afterwards. The cadet took the required course and passed the examinations or he got out. Many indeed fell by the wayside.

"From September until June the cadets are in barracks, studying, riding, and fencing in the riding hall, and in fine weather drilling in the afternoon at infantry. From June to September, they encamped upon the plain, their time entirely employed in drills of every kind, guard duty, pyrotechning and practical engineering.

"The daily duties were varied and interesting, especially during the summer months, when, in addition to the severe

'- Consult "Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and Character," Garland, Chapter V., et seq. ; also, "West Point in the Early Sixties," General J. P. Farley; P. 37.

2 "Manassas to Appomattox;" Chapter I.

Cadet Hays, U. S. M. A. H

studies of the class rooms, the cadets were practically exer- cised in the art of war. The encampment, with its sentinels, gave the effect of the tented field, with its drills, manoeuvres and discipline. There were the artillery drills, during which the athletic young men rattled the heavy field pieces about like so many playthings, loading, firing, swabbing, attacking and repelling with as a great degree of accuracy, rapidity, precision and skill as could be exhibited in active warfare."' At the cavalry exercises in the riding school, feats of horse- manship were performed that made the lady spectators shud- der with fright, and that rivaled in daring and skill some of the classical performances of the ancient circus. Then forti- fications would be laid out, fascines would be made, and bridges would be built out in the river on pontoons, launched from their w^agons. The art of war was exemplified.^

"Sam" Grant excelled in horsemanship. Alexander Hays too was a most excellent horseman from his youth. A rider in fact that dared that which any one else did. Coppee pictures Grant wearing an old torn coat and obsolescent leather gig top loose riding pantaloons with spurs buckled over them, with clanking sabre, riding at full speed in the riding hall. Riding jackets had not yet been issued and the cadets always wore their seediest rigs into the sweat and dust of the riding drill. Cadet Hays can likewise be seen in retrospect, and there were other seedy riders in those days who subsequently rode to fame and death.

The discipline at the Academy was very strict, and in addition to daily marks for deficiencies at recitations, by which the relative standing of each cadet was ascertained at the end of the academic year, demerit marks were given for offenses against the regulations. These were given for what would seem a trivial nature, but they formed part of the system of discipline. Demerits were given for delinquencies that would not be noticed in other schools, for instance, a collar not neatly put on or a coat unbuttoned, shoes not properly blacked, not neatly shaved, or with hair too long at inspection, and when a cadet received more than a hundred

1 "Life and Public Services of Ambrose E. Burnside," Ben Per- ley Moore, P. 36.

2 "Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and Character," Garland; P. 52.

12 Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays

demerits in six months, he was dismissed. Leniency, how- ever, was shown to the "plebes" by striking off one-third of their demerit marks. It will be readily seen that class stand- ing therefore was not altogether a matter of scholarship. De- merits commonly called black marks, Grant says, were given for almost nothing, and two hundred received in one year brought dismissal.^

The cadet uniform of Alexander Hays' days was the shade of gray cloth which had been adopted by General Win- field Scott for uniforming the troops with which he won the battle of Chippewa. It was trimmed with black braid, and ornamented with a profusion of brass ball buttons. In the winter the gray cloth, and in summer white drilling panta- loons were worn. The full dress hat was of leather, with woolen pompon, with a leather bellows-topped cap for un- dress. The trousers were poorly made of white stuff that would shrink. The gray uniform still holds at the Academy, but the style of the '40s had long since gone its way. Cadets' buttons in those years were highly prized by the belles who visited West Point, who secured them as trophies of war, wherein the theatre of operations was hearts a changing field, no doubt.

In a letter to a cousin, McKinstry Griffiths, of Batavia, Ohio, under date of September 22, 1839, Grant tells of his first months at the Academy and has a word of description concerning his uniform. He says :

"If I were to come home now with my uniform on, the way you would laugh at my appearance would be curious. My pants set as tight to my skin as the bark to a tree, and if I do not walk military that is, if I bend over qujckly or run they are apt to crack with a report as loud as a pistol. My coat must always be buttoned up tight to the chin. It is made of sheep's gray cloth, all covered with big round but- tons. It makes one look very singular. If you were to see me at a distance, the first question you would ask would be, 'Is that a fish or an animal?' "

Imagine how the six feet tall Alexander Hays looked dressed likewise.

The "plebe year" of Cadet Alexander Hays passed quietly enough, according to traditions in the Hays family.

1 "Ulysses S. Grant, His Life and Character," Garland, P. 41.

Cadet Hays, U. S. M. A. 13

Of the fifty-four who remained at the close of the year, Cadet Hays was No. 30 in order of general merit, 29 in mathematics, 31 in French. His standing in conduct was 167 out of 219 cadets in attendance. His scholarship and standing were fair, when it is considered that there was sometimes but a slight fraction between cadets' marks to determine these standings, and not having the marks to guide us, it is only just to consider that some of the commanders of the civil war who were high in academic standing and conduct at West Point, were such poor generals that they made as much history as successful generals, great commanders, who were medium or low in standing as cadets. Instances can be readily called to mind.

Other statistics of Alexander Hays' West Point days are : Enrollment, June 1842, 217; June 1843, 223; June 1844, 211. Cadet Hays' scholarship was about the same ; his order of general merit sometimes as high as 14. His best standing in conduct was in his fourth year, 112, of 223. Coppee says "Grant's scholarship was respectable;" so was Alexander Hays'. Coppee's, however, was great. W^hen the war came between the States, scholarship did not do much successful fighting. Of the so-called "high men," Sherman was among the foremost and his number at graduation was 6. The world has rated him No. i in results.

During his cadet years, the records of the Academy show that Alexander Hays served as cadet lieutenant from June 24, 1843, until June, 1844, and that this was the only office he ever held in the corps of cadets. The course of study at the Academy was severe. An outline can be given as follows, the curriculum being during the years 1840-1847 : Engineer- ing, natural philosophy, including optics; astromony, mathematics, including surveying; drawing, French, chem- istry, mineralogy and geology, tactics (military), English and rhetoric, geography, history, ethics, including law.

The class of "plebes" that entered in 1840 numbered nearly one hundred ; in June, 1841, fifty-four remained ; in June, 1842, forty-four; June 1843, thirty-four; and at gradua- tion, July I, 1844, twenty-five, as noted.

The rigidity of the examinations can be given as the most potent cause of this falling ofif, and anyone who grad- uated at the Academy, even at the tail end of the class, could


14 Life and Letters of General Alexander Hays

justly lay claim to scholarship, and class standings were often determined by the fractions of one per centum.

It will be seen that Alexander Hays entered the famous Academy under favorable circumstances, and came under the tuition of some of its most noted professors Church, Bart- lett and Mahan being especially so. Alexander Hays came to know and was associated with many cadets who were destined to become famous soldiers and live in history, to shine as few American soldiers' names had ever shone, and for whom the laurel has been most unsparingly used Grant, Hancock, Re3molds, Lyon, Rosecrans, Longstreet, A. P. Hill, Jackson, Pickett, these are but a few of a long line of illus- trious soldiers recorded on the class records of the Academy and referred to in later chapters.

Looking over the register of the Academy for the four years, 1840-1844, one is astonished at the brilliant galaxy of since familiar names, and becomes cognizant of the fact that there were many good men who fell in Mexico and much hard fighting in that little war.^

It has been stated that Alexander Hays fought with fists while a cadet and it was not on his own account, but for a little classmate.

When Alexander Hays entered, he lacked a few days of his majority; Hancock, however, was only sixteen and Gen- eral F. A. Walker says that he was not mature, in fact, but half grown. "Hancock's large frame and powerful physique, his unfailing flow of animal spirits, and his impulsive dispo- sition required a longer period in the preparatory stage." -

At the time of General Hancock's candidacy for the presi- dency (1880), this paragraph was printed:


"General W. S. Hancock and General Alexander Hays, deceased, of this city were classmates at West Point. At their graduation, Hancock stood No. 18 in the class, and Hays No. 20. General Pleasanton, who stood No. 7 in the same class, tells the following anecdote of Hays and Hancock : 'Hancock was the smallest boy in the class, hence in the event of a fight with any one of the boys, he was at a considerable

1 Consult Cullum's "Register;" also "History of the Mexican War," Cadmus M. Wilcox, Appendix C; P. 609, et seq.

2 "Great Commanders, Hancock," Walker; PP. 12, 13, 14. "Life of W. S. Hancock Personal, Military, Political," Junkin and Nor- ton; P. 16.

Cadet Hays, U. S. M. A. 15

disadvantage. One time a big bully in another class, named Crittenden, had treated Hancock very meanly, and Alexander Hays, a big honest fellow, not afraid of anything, took up the quarrel for his little classmate. He challenged Crittenden to fight him at the Kosciusko Monument, in a secluded part of the grounds. Here the two men fought very hard and long, Hays coming out victor, and using his opponent up so badly that he was compelled to keep to his bed for several days.' "

This incident is strictly true, and fully illustrates the chivalrous spirit that ever animated Alexander Hays. Captain David Shields, an aide on his stalT, of whom General Hays will have much to say in his letters from the front, often heard the story of this celebrated fight from officers who had either witnessed the affair, or were at the Academy at the time, or soon after, and the captain states that the versions he heard, concur in the declaration that it was a battle royal, and that the men fought for hours and at the finish both were down, but Alexander Hays got up first and was not put to bed, while Crittenden was, hence Hays was the victor and his prowess was fully established.

To those who knew Hancock in the subsequent years, the description of him as a small boy will appear most strange, but General Pleasanton surely knew. Crittenden will be men- tioned later in these pages. Crittenden was a brave man, as brave as Marshal Ney. He died as Ney died.

General Simon B. Buckner, of the class of 1844, gave many most interesting details of those West Point days, and there was a strong and lasting friendship between him and Alexander Hays, and the old general speaks most reverently of his classmate Hays, just as Longstreet does of Grant. Strong friendships were formed at the old Academy, regard- less of geographical lines, and the class of 1844 had its chuminess distributed, as the others.

The Crittenden-Hays fisticuffs is authenticated in a per- sonal letter from General Hancock to Mrs. General Hays in 1865 after the general's death. In the same letter General Hancock also pays deserved tribute to a gallant soldier who was so intimately connected with his own brilliant career.^

1 For letter Vide Chapter XXII.



WHEN the Civil War was progressing Alexander Hays was brought face to face with many cadets he had known at West Point, some of whom obtained high rank. He met in the service two commanders in chief; one of the armies of the United States and the other of the Army of the Potomac Ulysses S. Grant and George B. McClellan. As one reads the class rolls there will appear who of Alex- ander Hays' fellow cadets were antagonists and on what fields. When Burnside was in command of the Army of the Potomac, Alexander Hays was incapacitated for duty by reason of wounds received in battle. Hooker was of the class of 1837. Both Hooker and Burnside were in service in Mexico. Meade,^ of the class of 1835, was with Taylor in the Military Occupation of Texas, and participated in the battles on Texan soil, in which Alexander Hays saw his first active field service and received his "baptism of fire," a phrase dear to some modern soldiers. Hooker commanded a division in Heintzelman's corps on the Peninsula of Virginia, in which corps Alexander Hays served in General Charles S. Ham- ilton's division.

With the closing of his first year at the Academy, Alex- ander Hays saw a large class graduated and promoted brevet second lieutenants in the Army of the United States in com- mon parlance "The Regular Army."


Fifty-two young officers went forth from the old Academy in 1841, and if one were to be selected to tower above all the rest, whose name has gone down the years and for whom

1 Life and Letters of Major General George G. Meade, Vol. I., P. 25, et seq., Mexican War Letters, "Lee and Longstreet at High Tide," P. 144, et seq.


Some Fellow Cadets 17

"All time is the millenial of his glory/' beyond question there must be written, John Fulton Reynolds, whose first war service came with Taylor's Military Occupation of Texas as an officer of