Friday, February 18, 2011
By Bob Hurst
It has been an irritation to me for many years that a segment of the population of this country delights in denigrating and disparaging those individuals who fought for four long years for the Cause of Southern independence and self-determination. Often these attacks are meant to portray those Southerners (and their progeny) as nothing more than bumpkins or gap-toothed, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
Because of this continuing character assassination by that segment of the population, I have long held a strong affinity for those Confederate leaders who were not only gallant warriors but also men of academia.
There are two Confederate generals who especially stand out to me in this regard and they are what this month’s article is about.
Since I first read about Daniel Harvey Hill, he has been a special favorite of mine among Confederate generals (who just happen to be one of my favorite groups among Homo Sapiens).
D.H. Hill was a native South Carolinian who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point as a member of the rather remarkable class of 1842. He served in the Mexican War and was twice breveted for bravery but, rather than pursuing a career in the military, he had a desire to become an educator and resigned to pursue this dream. He succeeded admirably.
He served as a professor of mathematics at Washington College in Virginia from 1849 to 1854. This is the college that is now known as Washington & Lee University. (The school was renamed after the immortal Robert E. Lee served as president of the college until his death and was then succeeded by his son, Custis, who served as president for 27 years.)
While a professor at Washington College, D.H. Hill authored a college textbook , ELEMENTS OF ALGEBRA, that was popular throughout the South. It was described as "pointing a finger of ridicule and scorn at any and everything Northern". Despite the sarcasm in the book, Professor Thomas J. Jackson of Virginia Military Institute (this was in the pre-"Stonewall days) had high praise for the book as an excellent algebra text.
D.H. Hill left Washington College in 1854 to take a position at Davidson College in North Carolina as a professor of mathematics. He stayed at Davidson until 1859 when he was selected to be the superintendent of North Carolina Military Institute, a position he held until the outbreak of war in 1861.
Hill left NCMI to join the Confederate Army. He was immediately appointed a colonel because of his intelligence, leadership ability and prior military record. His advancement was fast as he was appointed a brigadier general on July 10, 1861 and then major general on March 26, 1862. He had a distinguished record in the War as his division performed exceptionally at Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Second Manassas and Sharpsburg. He was made commander of the Department of North Carolina in 1863 and promoted to lieutenant general on July 11, 1863.
At Chickamauga he commanded a corps and performed outstandingly. He did, however, become an outspoken critic of General Braxton Bragg, a close friend of President Jefferson Davis. Hill was always true to his convictions and this is one of the things I most admire about him. Unfortunately, in this instance it led to his being relieved of his command. Sadly, there is politics in everything. Hill did see action later in the War at the rank of major general and performed gallantly.
After the War ended, he returned to Charlotte and edited and published a popular magazine, THE LAND WE LOVE, from 1866 to 1869. In 1877 he returned to academia when he was selected to be the president of the University of Arkansas. He held this position until 1884.
In 1886 he was made president of Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College and served in this capacity until his death in 1889.
An academic through and through, his family reflected this passion for learning. His wife was the daughter of the first president of Davidson College, one son would become president of North Carolina State University and another son would serve on the Arkansas Supreme Court as chief justice.
Daniel Harvey Hill personified the very best of the Southern gentleman, scholar and warrior.
Another Confederate general who shattered the stereotype of the uneducated Southerner was Alexander Peter Stewart of Tennessee.
A.P. Stewart was another member of the outstanding West Point class of 1842. He left the military, however, in 1845 to take a position as a professor at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He taught mathematics and also natural and experimental philosophy. For the next sixteen years, until 1861, he lectured in these two academic disciplines at Cumberland and at the University of Nashville.
At the onset of the War, he volunteered to fight for the South. His abilities and intelligence were quickly recognized and he was appointed brigadier general on November 8, 1861. Because of his distinguished record in the field, he was promoted to major general from June 2, 1863 and to lieutenant general on June 23, 1864. After his promotion to lieutenant general, he became commander of Polk’s corps and held that position until the end.
After the War, he returned to Cumberland and taught for five years before moving to St. Louis to enter the business world. In 1874, however, he was elected by the Board of Trustees to the position of chancellor of the University of Mississippi. His election as chancellor was an indication to the citizens of the state that the rule of the Radical Republicans was coming to an end in Mississippi.
Stewart held the position of chancellor for twelve years before resigning. He recognized what he represented to the people of the state and worked tirelessly as a promoter of the university going on numerous speaking tours touting the school. It was during Stewart’s administration that the first female student was admitted to the university and the first female faculty member was hired.
After A.P. Stewart left Ole Miss, he was selected to be a commissioner of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park – a position he held until his death in 1908.
While D.H. Hill and A.P.Stewart represent, to me, the finest examples of the scholar warrior because of their academic careers both before and after the great war of 1861-65, they certainly were not alone among Confederate leaders in also being leaders in the field of higher education.
Other Confederate generals who served as college presidents after the War include Henry Clayton who served as president of the University of Alabama, L.L. Lomax who was president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute (now Virginia Tech), the remarkable Sullivan "Sul" Ross who was president of Texas A&M after serving as governor of the state, Edmund Kirby Smith who was president of the University of Nashville before spending the last 18 years of his life as a professor of mathematics at the University of the South and Stephen D. Lee who was the first president of what is now Mississippi State University.
Another Confederate general, Mark Perrin Lowrey, went a step further and actually founded a college after the War. General Lowrey founded Blue Mountain Female Institute in Mississippi and , in addition to serving as president of the school, also taught courses in history and moral science for many years.
I have, of course, already mentioned Robert E. Lee and his son, George Washington Custis Lee, who each served as president of the institution that now bears the name of Washington and Lee University – one of the finest academic institutions in the country.
There are far too many former Confederates who served as professors after the War to even begin mentioning them. The truth is that there were many truly outstanding individuals in the leadership of the Confederacy. Gentlemen who served not only as scholars and college presidents but also as governors, senators, congressmen, diplomats and business leaders. Many were truly Renaissance Men.
During the next four years, while we celebrate the sesquicentennial of the War, there will be many attempts by the media and others to portray Confederates in a negative and unflattering manner. Don’t drink their Kool-Aid. Do some research on your own and I’m sure you will soon realize how truly outstanding these men were. Their Cause was also right and just.
Note: I hope many of you plan to attend the re-enactment of the Battle of Natural Bridge. It will be Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6. Activities start at 9AM each day and extend into the evening on Saturday but only until about 3:30 PM Sunday afternoon. It’s a great chance to watch the good guys win again and prevent the yanks from taking our capital. My daughter and I will be there selling copies of my two new books – CONFEDERATE JOURNAL, Volume 1, 2005-2007 and CONFEDERATE JOURNAL, Volume 2, 2008-2009. These books are compilations of all CONFEDERATE JOURNAL articles appearing in this magazine from October 2007 through December 2009. Volume 3 will have to wait until I write the articles for this year. I hope many of you will stop by our sutler’s tent to say "hello" and, hopefully, buy the books. If you prefer to order online please go to the following sites:
https://www.createspace.com/3540609 (for Volume 1) and
https://www.createspace.com/3543269 (for Volume 2)