Civil War Wiki
William Hays
[[Image:150px|center|200px|border]]William Hays
Personal Information
Born: May 9, 1819(1819-05-09)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: February 7, 1875 (aged 55)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Nickname: {{{nickname}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: 22x20px United States of America
Participation(s): {{{participations}}}
Branch: United States Army
Union Army
Service Years: {{{service years}}}
Rank: Brigadier General
Service number : {{{servicenumber}}}
Unit: {{{unit}}}
Commands: II Corps
Battles: Mexican-American War
American Civil War
Awards: {{{awards}}}
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

William Hays (May 9, 1819 – February 7, 1875) was a career officer in the United States Army, serving as a Union Army general during the American Civil War.

Early life[]

Hays was born in Richmond, Virginia, but moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Andrew Jackson appointed Hays to the United States Military Academy, where he graduated in 1840 alongside William T. Sherman and Richard S. Ewell. He as initially a brevet second lieutenant, and was promoted to first lieutenant in 1847, serving at various posts in the northeastern states.

He served throughout the Mexican-American War with the light artillery, serving alongside future Civil War artilleryman Henry J. Hunt. He was wounded at the Battle of Molino del Rey, and was subsequently brevetted to captain for Contreras and Churubusco and to major for Chapultepec. From 1853 (when he was promoted to captain) until 1854, he was engaged in the Seminole Wars in Florida, and was on routine frontier duty in 1856–60 in the 3rd and then the 5th U.S. Artillery.

Civil War[]

As a lieutenant colonel, Hays commanded a brigade of horse artillery under Henry Hunt in 1861–62 in the Army of the Potomac, serving with distinction at the Battle of Seven Pines during the Peninsula Campaign. He participated in the Battle of Antietam, where he commanded the V Corps Reserve Artillery. His batteries were stationed on the heights east of Antietam Creek, providing long range fire against Confederate infantry positions between the East and West Woods. He commanded the artillery of the Right Grand Division at Fredericksburg. Hays was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in November 1862 and assigned command of an infantry brigade in Maj. Gen. William H. French's division in the II Corps. He was wounded and taken prisoner at Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863, along with all but one of his immediate staff.

Hays was exchanged on May 15, 1863, and sent to Fort Monroe in Virginia. Although without an official command, he rejoined the Army of the Potomac and accompanied it to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During Pickett's Charge on July 3, Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock was severely wounded but refused to leave the field until the battle had been decided[1]. When it became clear the Confederate charge had been defeated Hancock relinquished command temporarily to his 3rd Division commander John C. Caldwell. Later that evening, Hays (although still a brigadier general), was assigned to command II Corps[2]. He led the corps throughout the summer until permanent command was given to Major General Gouverneur K. Warren in mid-September. In November, Hays was appointed provost marshal of the southern district of New York, and was also promoted to major in the regular army.

At the expiration of his term in February 1865, Hays rejoined the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg and served again in the II Corps, this time commanding the 2nd Division. He was brevetted brigadier general in the regular army on March 13, 1865, for gallant conduct, but on April 6 he was relieved of command for sleeping on duty, and his brevets were revoked. (Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow was given the division instead.) From that date, Hays commanded the Artillery Reserve of the Army of the Potomac until he was mustered out of volunteer service in January 1866.

Later life[]

Reverting to his permanent rank of major of the 5th U.S. Artillery, Hays served on various posts, commanding Fort Independence in Boston Harbor from April 1873 until his death there almost two years later. He was buried in Yonkers, New York, but was re-interred at West Point Cemetery in 1894.

See also[]

32x28px United States Army portal
32x28px American Civil War portal


  1. Clark, pp. 139-43; Pfanz, p.51; Sears, pp. 436-39.
  2. Eicher p. 291
  • Eicher, John H., and Eicher, David J., Civil War High Commands, Stanford University Press, 2001, ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1964, ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
  • Template:Appletons

Template:Start box |- style="text-align: center;" |- style="text-align:center;" |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"|Preceded by
Winfield S. Hancock |width="40%" style="text-align: center;" rowspan="1"|Commander of the II Corps (ACW)
July 3, 1863 - August 16, 1863 |width="30%" align="center" rowspan="1"| Succeeded by
Gouverneur K. Warren |- |}