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Civil War Encyclopedia >> People - Confederate Military
Other references: William J. Hardee
Nicknames: Old Reliable
Hardee learned primary and secondary school skills from a tutor, and in 1830 a local lawyer attested to Hardee's education and fitness so that he could apply to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Georgia, though, did not have any openings at West Point for the 14-year old boy. In 1833, after working in the Sandersville office of a cotton factor (his brother), Hardee again applied to West Point. When word of his appointment never arrived, Hardee journeyed to Milledgeville to confront Governor Wilson Lumpkin. In March, 1834, Hardee found out he would attend the prestigious academy the following July.
The four years along the Hudson River were lackluster to say the least. Following graduation he was reassigned to Winfield Scott and stationed in Cherokee Agency at Rattlesnake Springs in the Cherokee Nation (near present-day Sweetwater, Tennessee). His duties included rounding up Cherokee Indians that were missed in the initial sweeps and sending them to the notorious Cherokee Removal Forts. Once the Cherokee left on the Trail of Tears, William Hardee headed south towards Rural Felicity.
The Camden County estate was not his destination. He was heading for Florida, now part of the United States, and the Second Seminole War. He was assigned to the Second Dragoons, under the command of David Twiggs, joining them on November 21, 1838. He almost immediately was sent to the hospital at St. Augustine because of illness. After returning to his unit in December, he did little more than patrol before General Alexander Macomb negotiated a peace with the Seminoles.
After serving in a staff position in Florida until July, 1839, Hardee returned home, but not for long. William Harney and a regiment of dragoons were attacked and the Second Seminole War once again raged. Hardee was detached from the Second Dragoons and ordered to recon the Georgia-Florida border and the Okefenokee Swamp. He rejoined the Dragoons in February, 1840 as a first lieutenant.
After the end of the Second Seminole War, Secretary of War Joel Poinsett chose three officers from the Second Dragoons to study cavalry tactics in France and Great Britain. Hardee was one of the three officer chosen to attend Cadre Noir, (Royal Cavalry School) at Saumur. Upon his return to America he was assigned to Fort Jesup in Louisiana to train U. S. troops in the cavalry tactics he had learned in France.
One of the first steps Hardee took was to organize two squads of lancers trained in precision drill. These lancers were extremely effective attacking an infantry position but poor against traditional cavalry, so Hardee used them in combination, normally positioning the lancers at the center of the charge with cavalry or dragoons on either flank to protect them from opposing cavalry.
On April 13, 1844, Hardee received a new commanding officer at Fort Jesup. Future President of the United States Zachary Taylor arrived with little fanfare. Taylor was impressed with Hardee's success at introducing European cavalry tactics to the United States and made him a captain on October 21, 1844. When Taylor's command became the "Army of Observation" early in 1846, Hardee's dragoons rode west to the Mexican-American border to support the infantry then sailing to Texas.
Taylor combined Hardee's dragoons with Major Samuel Ringgold's "flying artillery" to form a highly mobile, effective fighting force. At this point in time many European scholars felt the Mexican cavalry was both a better and bigger fighting force than the American cavalry, a belief that was supported by the capture of Hardee, his commanding officer and their squad of men by Mexican cavalry.
Atop a high chaparral north of the Rio Grande on April 25, 1846, Captain Sam Thorton, Captain Hardee, and two companies of dragoons had been sent to recon a 22-mile stretch of the river. Once bivouacked, the men began to look for water and some settled near the river. When Mexican cavalry found the Americans Thorton rode his out of control horse into Mexican lines and was captured. With most of his men unarmed, Hardee requested surrender terms under a white flag from Mexican General Anastasio Torrejon. After giving Hardee favorable terms, the General took Hardee prisoner but put the Captain up in lavish quarters.
Hardee's and Thorton's reports on the incident varied greatly. Thorton blamed the disaster on the original orders and his guide, which did not sit well with his commanding officer, Zachary Taylor. With the double victories at Palo Alta and Resaca, Taylor secured enough Mexican prisoners to trade for Hardee and his men and they returned to the American side. A court of inquiry found Hardee acted properly and determined that he had filed a correct report.
During Taylor's siege at Monterrey, Hardee's men protect nearby passes that Torrejon might use for an escape route. Following the battle, Hardee and Daniel Harvey Hill worked together to learn more about the countryside in northern Mexico. When General Scott moved south to Vera Cruz he ordered the Second Dragoons, now under William Harney, to join him.
Scott had a few ideas of his own about the effective use of dragoons. He held Harney's men in reserve during the Battle of Cerra Gordo to pursue the Mexicans if they were defeated. When Santa Anna withdrew, Hardee and his men were in close pursuit, killing the enemy rear guard and hastening the retreat. It was his action at San Augustine during the battle of Churubusco that earned Hardee a brevet to Lieutenant Colonel. Protecting the flank of the American army Hardee swept a superior force from the field.
During the battle of Chapultepec, General Scott reinforced General William J. Worth's flank with two companies of dragoons, including Hardee's, under Edwin Vose Sumner, in addition to Franklin Pierce's brigade and an artillery battery under John Magruder. The Mexican army hit Pierce and Hardee in their position on the flank, but the Americans held the line and prevented Santa Anna from turning the flank. Lt. Colonel Hardee received special praise for his actions under heavy fire.
Following the war, Hardee was stationed in the Army training facility, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He returned to Texas in 1849, where he was assigned to patrol the Mexican frontier from the Ringgold Barracks on the Rio Grande. At first the quiet was only occasionally broken by Indian raids, but in 1850 the problems began to increase. A successful mission in 1850 lead to a peacemaking journey into Comanche territory in 1851. Then his wife became ill and over the next two years he watched as she died from tuberculosis.
With the inauguration of Franklin Pierce as President of the United States things began to improve in the Army. Young, forward-thinking Jefferson Davis took the reigns as Secretary of War. One of Davis's first desires was a complete rewriting of the Army's tactics manual. As an officer in the Mexican-American War Davis knew of Hardee's outstanding performance. Combined with the recommendation from Hardee's commanding officers, William Harney and Edwin Vose Sumner, Davis knew Hardee was the right man for the job.
Hardee completed the manual in July, 1854. Hardee's Tactics replaced a 1835 manual written by Winfield Scott (who lost a bid for President to Franklin Pierce in 1852). He also edited the cavalry and light infantry manual although he never received credit for this work. These works would influence men in the armed forces for generations and created the concept of modern warfare practiced by William Tecumseh Sherman and perfected by George Patton.
In 1855 Hardee joined the Second Cavalry in Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Albert Sidney Johnston and Robert E. Lee were his commanding officers. E. Kirby Smith considered Hardee a "model officer." Davis, though, wanted Hardee for his experience dealing with the Comanche. In the fall of 1855 he advanced to the Brazos River and established a base to monitor Comanche activity on a newly formed reservation. After a brutal winter, Hardee was reassigned to become Commandant of West Point.
Hardee molded the school into a modern learning institution by adding courses in history and Spanish (the Academy already taught French). He seemed open to suggestions from the cadets to improve the school. A lieutenant, Oliver Otis Howard formed a prayer group that helped many cadets with faith-based counseling. He continued as commandant of West Point until September, 1860, when John F. Reynolds replaced him.
Although The Election of 1860 had been lurking for months and the outcome seemed predictable, Hardee continued with military life, turning down an opportunity from VMI and being reassigned to the First Cavalry in the summer of 1860. He took a leave of absence until February 1, 1861, but long before he was to report Hardee had decided to join Georgia when it seceded. When Governor Joseph Brown of Georgia decided to seize Fort Pulaski, he turned to William Hardee for advice. When the First Regiment was drawn from Georgia, Hardee was a commander, but when old friend Jefferson Davis asked him to serve the Confederacy, Hardee went to Montgomery (Confederate capital at the time).
Working with P. G. T. Beauregard and Secretary of War Leroy Pope Walker, the Georgian literally built the Confederate Army from the ground up. Initially, Hardee was placed in command of the Mobile Bay, Alabama, defenses, then moved west to Arkansas in July, 1861. It was in camp in Arkansas that he first met Patrick Cleburne, an Irish lawyer from Little Rock. They became close friends. By August, Hardee was making unopposed advances into Missouri.
When Gideon Pillow decided to move independently into Missouri because of Hardee's success, Pillow put both armies at risk. Hardee complained to Leonidas Polk and Jefferson Davis, but Pillow could not be controlled. In September, 1861, Davis put another friend, Sidney Johnston in command of the West. Brigadier General Hardee moved his command to Bowling Green, Kentucky, where he assumed command of the Central Army of Kentucky, a small army of pro-Confederate Kentucky militia formed by Simon Bolivar Buckner. Hardee was to hold the center of Johnston's extended line.
Hardee, Beauregard and Johnston met in Bowling Green on February 7, 1862, and determined that if Fort Donelson fell, the Confederate Army would withdraw to Nashville. When Ulysses S. Grant took Donelson on February 16, , the planned withdrawal, with Hardee in command, was already complete. When the Central Army of Kentucky arrived in Nashville, Tennessee Hardee found a city in turmoil. There was little to do other than preserve supplies and harvest Nashville's plentiful manufactures. Before the Fall of Nashville, Hardee moved to Murfreesboro, then Shelbyville, and on to Alabama.
The race south began because Grant had turned south from Donelson and seemed to be trying to outflank his Rebel rivals on a grand scale. Hardee carefully began his rear-guard duties, ordering his cavalry to destroy bridges in the face of the advancing Army of the Ohio under Don Carlos Buell. As Hardee moved west to Corinth, Mississippi to regroup with Johnston and Beauregard, Grant slowed to await Buell and regroup.
The Central Army of Kentucky was merged into the Army of Mississippi, becoming Hardee's Corps. It consisted of Thomas Hindman, Patrick Cleburne and Sterling Wood's brigades. On the morning of April 2, 1862, Hardee, Polk, Bragg and Johnston met in Corinth to hear Beauregard's plan of attack. That afternoon Hardee began moving towards Grant's position at Pittsburg Landing. At 7:00 am on the morning of April 6, William Hardee opened up the Battle of Shiloh with a cannon blast. By 8 am his men were advancing against the Yankees, but then ran into William Tecumseh Sherman's main force.
Sherman resisted the advance until Hindman pushed around the flank and opened fire, sending the bluecoats left flank scurrying. Hardee quickly ordered his reserves to the right and soon Sherman's entire division was on the run. Hardee then came up against Benjamin Prentiss. A large force of Yankees had been nearly completely separated from Grant's main army. Confederate attacks had whittled away at the flanks, but the main body, a mixed command under Prentiss, stood firm. As Braxton Bragg concentrated on the center of the Union line, Hardee hit the flank. By 5:30 the 5,000 men under Prentiss were completely enveloped and surrendering.
That night, Nathan Bedford Forrest approached Hardee with bad news. Grant's forces were not leaving, they were being reinforced in large numbers at Pittsburg Landing. Hardee instructed him to find Beauregard and tell him. Forrest could not find the diminutive Creole and the Confederate Army was not prepared for the federal onslaught the next day. Although Hardee held his position on Bark Road and actually attacked and took five pieces of artillery, at 1:00 pm Beauregard ordered a general withdrawal.
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William Hardee was last changed on - August 28, 2011
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