Alexander “Fighting Elleck” Hays

The Life of a Civil War General, From West Point to the Wilderness


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About the Book

Although he never achieved the renown of Ulysses S. Grant or Robert E. Lee, General Alexander Hays was one of the great military men of the Civil War. Born July 8, 1819, in Franklin, Pennsylvania, Hays graduated from West Point and served with distinction during the Mexican War. When the Civil War began a few years later, it was no surprise that Hays immediately volunteered and was given the initial rank of colonel with a later meritorious promotion to general. Hays was also known for his concern for his men, a fact that no doubt contributed to the acclaim which he received after his death on May 5, 1864, at the age of 44. From West Point to the Civil War, this biography takes a look at Hays’s life, concentrating—with good cause—on his military career. Personal correspondence and contemporary sources are used to complete the picture of a complex man, devoted husband and father, and gifted and dedicated soldier.

About the Author(s)

Wayne Mahood is professor emeritus at State University of New York, Geneseo. He is the author of numerous books and articles on Civil War topics. He lives in Geneseo, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Wayne Mahood
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: 32 photos, maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011 [2005]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6105-9
eISBN: 978-0-7864-8735-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1

1. Sam Hays’s Son      5
2. “Alexander Is the Best Rider at West Point”      12
3. “There Is No Man Whom I Would More Highly Commend”: The Mexican War      25
4. “Have Not Yet Determined on a Profession”      43
5. “The Boys Wonder Why I Am Always Awake”: Colonel Alex Hays      51
6. “Still Distant from Richmond”: The Peninsula Campaign      61
7. “The Gallant Hays Is Badly Wounded”: Second Bull Run      77
8. Alex Hays Has “Triumphed”      86
9. “The Angel of Death Alone Can Produce Such a Field as Was Presented”: Gettysburg      100
10. “Annihilating Lee’s Forces by ‘Masterly Inactivity’”      121
11. “We Fought the Rebels—As Usual, Whipped Them”: Morton’s Ford      138
12. “My Pathway Leads to Richmond or to the Grave”: The Army Reorganizes      149
13. Hays “Would Always Lead in Battle”: The Battle of the Wilderness      160
14. He Died in “Harness”: Memorials to “Fighting Elleck”      169

Appendix: Accusations of Drunkenness      179
Notes      183
Bibliography      207
Index      215

Book Reviews & Awards

“well-written study”—Civil War News; “useful”—The NYMAS Review; “Alexander ‘Fighting Elleck’ Hays may never be fully understood, but this book helps bring him into focus and illustrates an important figure in the history of northwestern Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, and the Civil War”—Western Pennsylvania History.