★  Hays, Alexander

Alexander Hays


Alexander Hays
graduated from the West Point Military Academy in 1844, and served in the Mexican–American War, and won special distinction in an engagement near Atlixco, after which he resigned his commission, went on a foolish search for gold in California, and worked on several more promising engineering projects. When the Civil War began, he re-entered service as a Colonel. After the Seven Days Battles, he was appointed a brevet lieutenant colonel in the regular army for gallantry in action. He was badly wounded at 2nd Bull Run, but was appointed brigadier general of volunteers for his actions. Soon he was given command of the third Division in the II Corps during the Gettysburg Campaign. Hays's division defended the right of the Union line on July 3rd, holding firm on Cemetery Ridge. At the Battle of the Wilderness, Hays was struck in the head by a Minié ball and killed.

Born: July 8, 1819

Birthplace: Franklin, Pennsylvania

Father: U.S. Congressman Samuel Hays 1783 – 1868
(Buried: Franklin Cemetery, Franklin, Pennsylvania)​

Mother: Agnes Broadfoot 1783 – 1839
(Buried: Franklin Cemetery, Franklin, Pennsylvania)​

Wife: Annie Adams McFadden 1826 – 1890
(Buried: Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)​

Agnes Milnor Hays Gormly 1847 – 1908​
(Buried: Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)​
Alden Farrelly Hays 1850 – 1919​
(Buried: Sewickley Cemetery, Sewickley, Pennsylvania)​
Gilbert Adams Hays 1854 – 1934​
(Buried: Sewickley Cemetery, Sewickley, Pennsylvania)​
Martha Alden Hays Black 1856 – 1916​
(Buried: Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)​
Corporal Alfred Pearson Hays 1859 – 1931​
(Buried: River View Cemetery, Portland, Oregon)​
James McFadden Hays 1860 – 1923​
(Buried: Bellefontaine Cemetery, Saint Louis, Missouri)​


Allegheny College​
1844: Graduated from West Point Military Academy – (20th​ in class)​

Occupation before War:

1846 – 1846: Brevet 2nd​ Lt. United States Army, 4th​ Infantry Regt.​
1846 – 1848: 2nd​ Lt. United States Army, 8th​ Infantry Regiment​
1846: Brevetted 1st​ Lt. for Gallantry at Battle of Palo Alto, Mexico​
1848: Resigned from United States Army on April 12th​
1848 – 1850: Iron Manufacturer in Venango County, Pennsylvania​
1850 – 1852: Assistant Engineer Pittsburgh & Steubenville Railroad​
1852 – 1854: Assistant Engineer Allegheny Valley Railroad Co.​
1854 – 1861: Civil Engineer in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania​

Civil War Career:

1861: Major of 12th​ Pennsylvania Volunteers, Infantry Regiment​
1861: Captain United States Army 16th​ Infantry Regiment​
1861 – 1862: Colonel of 63rd​ Pennsylvania Volunteers, Infantry Regt.​
1861 – 1862: Served in the Defenses of Washington, D.C.​
1862: Served in the Virginia Peninsula Campaign​
1862: Brevet Major for Gallantry at Battles of Fair Oaks and Glendale​
1862: Breveted Lt. Colonel for Gallantry at Battle of Malvern Hill, VA.​
1862: Wounded during the Second Battle of Bull Run, Virginia​
1862 – 1864: Brigadier General of Union Army Volunteers​

1862 – 1863: Served in the Defenses of Washington, D.C.​
1863: Division Commander at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania​
1863: Served in the Battle of Mine Run, Virginia​
1864: Killed in action near the intersection of Brock and Plank Roads at the Battle of the Wilderness​

Died: May 5, 1864

Place of Death: Battle of the Wilderness, Virginia

Cause of Death: Struck in the head by a Minié ball

Age at time of Death: 44 years old

Burial Place: Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania


On Left, Lt. U.S. Grant and his racing pony Dandy,
On Right, Lt. Alexander Hays and his pony Sunshine.
4th U.S. Infantry at Salubrity, Louisiana, 1845,
while preparing to leave for the Mexican-American War.
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Lieutenant General
- ★★★ -
Managing Member & Webmaster
Apr 1, 1999
Martinsburg, WV
Reports of Brig. Gen. Alexander Hays
U.S. Army, commanding Third Division.
Gettysburg Campaign


July 8, 1863.

Lieut. Col. C. H. MORGAN,
Chief of Staff.

SIR: I have the honor to report through you the part taken by this division in the battle near Gettysburg, Pa.
On July 2, the division, moving on the Taneytown road, arrived within about a mile of the town, where it was assigned a position on a ridge nearly parallel with the road, facing westward. A stone wall just below the crest of the hill gave much strength to the position, and an open space of half a mile in our front afforded the artillery posted on the right and left flanks a fair field for effective service. A strong line of skirmishers was thrown forward to our front, and during the day contended successfully with the enemy. Twice, at least, sorties were made from our position by the Twelfth New Jersey Volunteers, First Delaware, and Fourteenth Connecticut Regiments against a barn and house one-fourth of a mile in advance of our position, returning in each case successfully with prisoners.

Col. G. L. Willard, One hundred and twenty-fifth New York Volunteers, commanding the Third Brigade, was early in the day withdrawn from the division by the major-general commanding, and took a prominent part in the engagement on our left.

The history of this brigadiers operations is written in blood. Colonel Willard was killed, and next day, after the brigade had rejoined the division, his successor, Col. Eliakim Sherrill, One hundred and twenty-sixth New York Volunteers, also fell. Col. Clinton Dougall MacDougall, One hundred and eleventh New York Volunteers, and Maj. Hugo Hildebrandt, Thirty-ninth New York Volunteers, were each severely wounded, leaving the brigade in command of a lieutenant-colonel. The loss of this brigade amounts to one-half the casualties in the division. The acts of traitors at Harper's Ferry had not tainted their patriotism.

The operations of the First Brigade, commanded by Col. S. S. Carroll, are fully set forth in his own accompanying report. Too much credit cannot be given him and his command for the gallant manner in which they went to the relief of the troops on our right. The darkness of night was no obstacle, and I have no doubt their timely arrival and merits will be acknowledged by the general commanding in that part of the field.

The Second Brigade, Col. Thomas A. Smyth, First Delaware Volunteers, remained continuously in protection of our front along the stone wall and in support of our line of skirmishers.

Throughout the 2d, the enemy kept up a desultory fire from their artillery, posted on the skirts of the distant timber, frequently shifting their batteries and opening suddenly on our line. In no case were they enabled long to retain position, but were relieved or driven off by the effective fire of our artillerists. The ensuing night passed in comparative quietness, our men resting on their arms.

The daylight of the 3d was a signal for renewed hostilities, and during the forenoon was a repetition of the practice of the previous day, excepting that their skirmishers appeared more pertinacious in their assault.

About 11 a.m. an entire lull occurred, which was continued until nearly 2 p.m. Anticipating the movement of the enemy, I caused the house and barn in our front, which interrupted the fire of our artillery, to be burned. At the hour last named, they opened upon our front the most terrific and uninterrupted fire from artillery. I cannot believe there were less than eighty pieces bearing on us within good range. It was continued uninterruptedly until 4.30 o'clock, when a heavy column of the enemy moved forward in three lines, preceded by a strong line of skirmishers, debouched from the wood opposite our line. Their march was as steady as if impelled by machinery, unbroken by our artillery, which played upon them a storm of missiles. When within 100 yards of our line of infantry, the fire of our men could no longer be restrained. Four lines rose from behind our stone wall, and before the smoke of our first volley had cleared away, the enemy, in dismay and consternation, were seeking safety in flight. Every attempt by their officers to rally them was vain. In less time than I can recount it, they were throwing away their arms and appealing most piteously for mercy.

The angel of death alone can produce such a field as was presented.

The division captured and turned into corps headquarters fifteen battle-flags or banners. A number of other flags were captured, but had been surreptitiously disposed of, in the subsequent excitement of battle, before they could be collected.

I transmit the report of Lieut. W. E. Potter, showing a collection by him of 2,500 stand of arms, besides an estimate of 1,000 left upon the ground for want of time to collect them. From my own personal examination of the field, I am satisfied the number estimated is not too great. Of the prisoners which fell into our hands, I regret that no accurate account could be kept but by estimate, which cannot be less than 1,500.

Colonel Smyth, commanding Second Brigade, was severely wounded in the head and face by a shell, which, however, did not prevent his return to duty next day.

I commend to the notice of the general commanding and the War Department the gallant conduct of my commanders of brigades and regiments, trusting that they, in return, will not be forgetful of meritorious subordinates. When all behaved unexceptionably it is difficult to discriminate. The coolness and determination evinced by our officers and men reflect back credit on their former commanders.

I cannot omit the high recommendation of credit which is due Dr. Isaac Scott, medical director of the division, and all his assistants. No case of neglect or evasion of their duties has come to my notice.

Lieutenant [John S.] Sullivan, of the ambulance corps, deserves the highest credit for his courage and the fearless manner he discharged his duties, continually, under the fire of the enemy's skirmishers, bringing off the wounded and assisting in keeping up the stragglers.

Lieut. W. E. Potter, ordnance officer, was indefatigable in the discharge of his duties.

Capt. George P. Corts, assistant adjutant-general, and my aide, Lieut. David Shields, Sixty-third Pennsylvania Volunteers, were constantly by my side, exhibiting, as always heretofore, self-possession and courage of the highest order. Captain Corts lost 2 horses, killed, and Lieutenant Shields 1.

Division quartermaster, Captain [Marshall I.] Ludington, and commissary officer, Captain [Columbus J.] Queen, discharged their duties to my entire satisfaction, and deserve the notice of their respective departments.

Second Lieut. E. J. Hueston, One hundred and eleventh New York Volunteers, attracted my attention by his exemplary conduct in charge of posting and encouraging our pickets. As a present recognition, I have appointed him an acting aide on my staff.

By accompanying report, the entire loss of the division in the two days' action will be seen to be 1,285 men killed, wounded, and missing.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding Division.

August 15, 1863.

Aide-de-Camp, and Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen.

SIR: In compliance with orders, I have the honor to submit a supplement to my report of the part taken by this division in the operations prior to and following the battle of Gettysburg, Pa.

On June 28, broke camp near Barnesville, Md., and marched to the vicinity of Frederick City, Md.

On the 29th, marched at 1 p.m. through Liberty, Johnsville, and Union Bridge, to Uniontown, Md.; distance, over 30 miles. Encamped at 3 a.m. June 30. Same day changed camp to north side of Uniontown.

On July 1, marched through Taneytown to within about 3 miles of Gettysburg, Pa.

On July 2, moved to Gettysburg, and took position in line of battle. (For operations of July 2, 3, and 4, I respectfully refer you to a copy of my official report for those days, herewith inclosed.)

On July 5, moved from vicinity of Gettysburg, Pa., to Two Taverns, remaining in camp at latter place on the 6th.

On July 7, 8, 9, and 10, marched to near Frederick City, Md.

On July 11, marched to Jones' Cross-Roads, and went into line of battle. Toward evening, received orders from general commanding corps directing the sending of the First Brigade, Col. S. S. Carroll commanding, on a reconnaissance toward Funkstown, Md. This brigade encountered the enemy's pickets about 3 miles from Jones' Cross-Roads. Some skirmishing ensued, without loss on our side, save the slight wounding of 1 man. The enemy retired to the cover of his earthworks.

During the night, the remainder of the division, Second and Third Brigades, was ordered forward to the support of the First. Formed line of battle, and on the following clay (12th) changed position twice. During the night threw up earthworks, line connecting on the right with the Fifth Corps, and on the left with the Second Division of the Second Corps.

On July 13, moved forward half a mile. Again formed line of battle, supported on the flanks by same troops as the previous day. Employed during the afternoon and evening intrenching our line.

Some picket firing, without any loss to my command.

On July 14, advanced toward Williamsport, Md.

On July 15, marched from Williamsport, via Sharpsburg, Md., to Sandy Hook, Md.

July 16 and 17, encamped near Sandy Hook, Md.

On July 18, crossed the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers; marched to near Hillsborough, Va., and encamped.

On July 19, marched to Woodgrove, Va.

On July 20, marched to Bloomfield, Va., and encamped until 22d, when the march was resumed to Ashby's Gap, Va.

On July 23, marched to Markham Station, on the Manassas Gap Railroad. Same evening, with the corps, moved to the support of the Third Corps, which was engaged with the enemy on Wapping Heights. Took position behind Third Corps.

On July 24, returned to Markham Station. On July 25, marched to White Plains, Va.

On July 26, resumed the march, arriving near Warrenton Junction, Va., same day, where we remained encamped July 27, 28, and 29.

Respectfully submitted.
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Comdg. Division.

Tom Elmore

1st Lieutenant
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
Some quotes (in bold) attributed to Hays during the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble charge at Gettysburg:

July 3, 1-2:30 p.m. During the cannonade, Hays rode along line of the 108th New York, saying “Stand firm for your country, boys, don’t let them touch one of those guns, **** them.” (A Complete Military History and Record of the 108th Regiment New York Volunteers, p. 322)

July 3, 2:45 p.m. As soon as the cannonade ceased, Hays called out, “Now boys, look out; you will see some fun.” (Pickett’s Charge, as Seen from the Front Line, by Winfield Scott, Captain, 126 NY, California Commandery of the MOLLUS, February 8, 1888)

July 3, 2:50 p.m. Cannonade ended, get to our feet and stretch … infantry approaching. Gen. Hays rode along in front of our line shouting, “They are coming, boys; we must whip them, and you men with buck and ball, don’t fire until they get to that fence.”- pointing to the fence along the Emmitsburg road. (William P. Haines, History of the Men of Company F … [12th New Jersey])

July 3, 2:50 p.m. Cannonade slackened, gentle breeze blew smoke away, Hays rode down line, sternly bidding each man keep hidden from view. “Lie down; lie down like that man.”- pointing to a figure at his feet. “That man is dead, General.” “I wish you were; be quiet.” Then turning to his orderly, said, “Orderly! When we are attacked I expect you to ride where danger is the thickest; do you think you will keep up with that flag, even if I ride to ****?” Touching his cap, the orderly said “With pleasure. General if you reach **** just look out the window and you’ll see the little blue trefoil fluttering behind you.” (Charles E. Troutman, 12 NJ, Camp-Fire Sketches and Battlefield Echoes, p. 220)

July 3, about 2:55 p.m. Hays sent Provost Marshal Capt. Dewey to Meade with the message, “We must have reinforcements or we cannot hold our position.” (Sketches of the Tenth New York Volunteers, by Charles W. Cowtan, p. 211)

July 3, about 3 p.m. When enemy reached Emmitsburg Road, Hays shouted, “Fire!” (William P. Seville, History of the First Regiment Delaware Volunteers, 1884, p. 81)

July 3, about 3:10 p.m. Provost Marshal Capt. Dewey delivered a message from Meade, and Hays replied “**** General Meade and his reinforcements” and almost while speaking seized a rebel color and rode along the division front, dragging the flag in the dust. (Sketches of the Tenth New York Volunteers, by Charles W. Cowtan, p. 211)

July 3, about 3:30 p.m. A rebel officer came within our line, looked about and asked, “Where are your men?” The line being pointed out to him, he said: “If I had known that this is all you have, I would not have surrendered.” Hays replied: “Go back and try it over.


Sep 15, 2018
South Texas
Following the Seven Days Battles he was brevetted some say for major, another biography states it was Lt. Col. He took a month of sick leave as he was suffering from partial blindness and paralysis in his left arm. These are said to be Injuries from battle but I don't see where he was wounded until 2nd Manassas where his leg was shattered while he was leading a charge.


Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
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May 3, 2013
I just found this little tidbit. While on a campaign stop at Pittsburg, U.S. Grant on his run for the presidency visited Hay's grave and wept openly.
They had become personal friend while attending West Point. Interestingly enough, rumors concerning Hays' sobriety abounded as they did for his friend Grant.


Sep 15, 2018
South Texas
They had become personal friend while attending West Point. Interestingly enough, rumors concerning Hays' sobriety abounded as they did for his friend Grant.
I don't have the details in front of me but last night I read that an accusation of his being drunk came at one of his later or the last battles. Hays flatly denied it plus his wife was in camp during that battle. The fact that Mrs. Hays was present should have meant that Hays was indeed sober. Like I said I don't have any details in front of me and am writing from memory, which is pretty poor at present.
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Lt. Colonel
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Silver Patron
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May 3, 2013
I don't have the details in front of me but last night I read that an accusation of his being drunk came at one of his last or the last battle. Hays flatly denied it plus his wife was in camp during that battle. The fact that Mrs. Hays was present should have meant that Hays was indeed sober. Like I said I don't have any details in front of me and am writing from memory, which is pretty poor at present.
The engagement was the Battle of Morton's Ford which occurred February 6 - 7, 1864. The accusations appeared to have mostly originated from the 14th Connecticut Regiment which suffered heavily in the battle and blamed Hays. I also remember reading accounts that Hays was killed in the Wilderness when he tilted his head back to take a swig of whiskey from a flask.


Sep 15, 2018
South Texas
I don't have the details in front of me but last night I read that an accusation of his being drunk came at one of his last or the last battle. Hays flatly denied it plus his wife was in camp during that battle. The fact that Mrs. Hays was present should have meant that Hays was indeed sober. Like I said I don't have any details in front of me and am writing from memory, which is pretty poor at present.
I think it was Morton's Ford.

Grant's Tomb

Apr 4, 2020
It is said He was a close friend of both Grant and Hancock from His West point days.
When Grant heard the news of Hay's death at the battle of the Wilderness from his aide Colonel Horace Porter who had been with Hancock at the time, Grant told him "Hays and I were cadets for three years. We served for a time in the same regiment in the Mexican war. He was a noble man and and a gallant officer. I am not surprised that he met his death at the head of his troops; it was just like him. He was a man who would never follow, but would always lead in battle." Source: Grant by Jean Edward Smith, Chapter Ten: The Wilderness, Page 124.


First Sergeant
Jul 20, 2019
I am a big fan. My only civil war ancestor was in his division at Gettysburg where the brigade he belonged to, and was previously commanded by Hays, redeemed their reputation after their Harper's Ferry misadventures. It would be really cool to be related to him, in my opinion.

If I remember correctly the old Visitor center at Gettysburg used to have the sword he wore during the Battle displayed, right at the entrance to the electric map. I believe it was a British light cavalry saber, which I thought was interesting. That was long ago though. I wish I could be sure about that!