Born on November 29, 1825 in his family plantation near Culpeper, Virginia, Ambrose Powell Hill was the son of Thomas and Frances Hill. Locally educated, Hill chose to pursue a military career and received a rendezvous at West Point in 1842. Upon arriving at the academy, he became a close friend with his roommate, George B. McClellan. An average student, Hill’s studies were interrupted in 1844 after a night of youth indiscretions in New York City.
Gonorrhea contracting, he was admitted to the academy hospital, but failed to improve dramatically.
Returned home to recover, he would be tormented by the effects of illness for the rest of his life. Due to his health problems, he was retained for a year at West Point and did not graduate with his classmates in 1846, which included prominent figures such as Thomas Jackson, George Pickett, John Gibbon, and Jesse Reno. Leaving the class of 1847, he soon became friends with Ambrose Burnside and Henry Heth. Graduated on June 19, 1847, Hill ranked 15th in a class of 38. He was commissioned second lieutenant and was ordered to join the 1st American Artillery engaged in the Mexican-American War.
AP Hill – Mexico and Antebellum Years:
Arriving in Mexico, Hill saw little action since most of the fighting had ended. Back north, he was posted to Fort McHenry in 1848. The following year he was posted to Florida to fight the Seminoles.
Hill spent the majority of the next six years in Florida with a brief interlude in Texas. An unhealthy climate, he contracted yellow fever in 1855. Surviving, he received a transfer to Washington, DC to work with the US Coast Survey. There, he married Kitty Morgan McClung in 1859. This marriage made him a brother-in-law of John Hunt Morgan.
AP Hill – The Civil War Begins:
On March 1, with the imminent civil war, Hill resigned from his position in the US Army. When Virginia left the Union the following month, Hill was given command of the 13th Virginia Infantry with the rank of Colonel. Assigned to the army of Brigadier General Joseph Johnston of Shenandoah, the regiment fought well in the first battle of Bull Run in July. After serving in Romney’s campaign, Hill was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General on February 26, 1862, and commanded the brigade previously owned by Major-General James Longstreet.
AP Hill – The Light Division:
Serving valiantly during the Battle of Williamsburg and the Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 1862, he was promoted to major on May 26. Commander of the Light Division in Longstreet Wing of General Robert E. Lee’s Army, Hill saw an important action against him. the friend McClellan’s army during the seven-day battle in June / July. Falling with Longstreet, Hill and his division were transferred to serve under his former classmate Jackson. Hill quickly became one of Jackson’s most trusted commanders and fought well at Cedar Mountain (Aug. 9) and played a key role at Second Manassas (August 28-30).