The Legend

Last updated June 18th, 2007 by Jenny

Word spread quickly that A.P. Hill had been killed. His brother-in-law, Basil Duke, a cavalry general with the "Western" Army noted later,

We learned that a man had been killed, whose name had so long been associated with the army of Northern Virginia and its victories, that it almost seemed as if his life must be identified with its existence. The officer who was the very incarnation of the chivalry, the high-souled constancy, the glorious vigor of that army—General A. P. Hill—was dead. He was a hero, and he died like one. When the lines around Richmond were forced— his gallant corps overpowered, he was slain in the front still facing the enemy. His record had been completed, and he gave his life away, as if it were worthless after the cause to which he had pledged it was lost.

One week after Hill was killed, Lee -- outnumbered and cornered, surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at a place called Appomattox Court House. What little remained of Hill's gallant Third Corps had been absorbed into James Longstreet's corps. Not long after on June 6, 1865, Dolly gave birth to a daughter. She named the little girl Ann Powell and the child was promptly nicknamed "A.P." after her father. Sadly, the child died on April 3, 1868 just short of her third birthday. Dolly was "in great distress" over the loss.

In 1867, Hill's remains were moved to Hollywood Cemetery. The only marker for his resting place was his name -- "A.P. Hill" -- which was cut into the curbing.

In the fall of 1870, General Lee fell ill. Among his final words were said to be an order to "Tell A.P. Hill he must come up." This recalled Jackson's death bed order to "Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action" and led one of Hill's soldiers to write a short poem:

No Epitaph more noble or sublime

Hath e'er been written in all tide of time;

Nor yet can be. It doth all fullness fill

These -- Death's undying words -- "Tell A.P. Hill!"

Hill was already Fame's, and Jackson's death

Confirmed her verdict with his latest breath.

So LEE's last words, as his great heart grew still,

Were Fame's and Jackson's own -- "Tell A.P. Hill!"

"Prepare for action!" Ah, the action's done!

These three have met on fields beyond the sun.

But Fame endures, and shall endure until

Her trumpets cease to sound -- "Tell A.P. Hill!"

After the War, Jefferson Davis wrote: "Our cause was so just, so sacred, that had I known all that has come to pass, had I known what was to be inflicted upon me, all that my country was to suffer, all that our posterity was to endure, I would do it all over again."

His sentiments were not shared by Hill's beloved Dolly. She took a strong dislike to the "Lost Cause" and was left embittered by the War that had killed her brother, cavalry general John Hunt Morgan, and husband. She dropped using Dolly and returned to being called Kitty. In 1870 she married again, this time to a Louisville doctor named Alexander Forsyth. She bore him two children, but he fell ill and died at the Morgan home in the fall of 1875.

As time passed, the wounds of the War healed somewhat. Reverend J. William Jones, who had served with Hill, later reflected:

But it is for me always a peculiar pleasure to attend a Confederate gathering in historic, battle scarred heroic old Richmond, and to mingle with the men who followed Lee and Jackson and James Longstreet and Ewell and A. P. Hill , and "Jeb" Stuart; the men who composed the Army of Northern Virginia, the noblest army of heroic patriots that ever marched under any flag, or fought for any cause, "in all the tide of time."

During this period, memorials were raised to Lee, Jackson, and Stuart in Richmond. Hill's men did not want to see him left out and a movement began among Hill's veterans who wished for a more fitting resting place for their chief.

Major Lewis Ginter spearheaded the movement to build Powell Hill an appropriate monument in Richmond. Known as the wealthiest man in Richmond, Ginter (who had served under the General) was a sculptor of national renown. He designed a stately monument which was placed over the sarcophagus. At the time, the location was pastoral. The monument faced south; it was the fourth monument the South raised of size to any of her Confederate heroes. The idea, Ginter noted, was for "A.P. Hill to stand alone in his glory as he had on many battlefields." Sadly, the monument's location has not worked out in modern times -- for today A.P. Hill lies today in the middle of a very busy city street -- a somewhat undignified and noisy final resting place for a man who gave his life to protect the city of Richmond..

Even as early as 1938, an English visitor noted in an article in a Richmond paper,

General Hill, out on the Hermitage Road, has warm friends for the most part, although there are a few persons who see little beauty in the figure of the distinguished infantry officer, while a few of those questioned had forgotten he was there. The Richmond member of the Virginia Art Commission said that the statue had never appealed to him, but that he had nothing definite against it, while on the very same day Captain Bayliss was warm in his praise. It is good, simple and appropriate for a great infantry leader. True, it is not quite big enough and the pedestal is a bit too big, which makes the whole effect a little bottom heavy. Perhaps, I am prejudiced in its favor as my grandfather was a staff captain under General Hill.

As the city of has Richmond spread, A.P. Hill's monument become a "hindrance." Eventually in the 1930s it became a traffic island in Hermitage Road. Today, it sits at the intersection of Hermitage and modern-day Burnham roads among bustling city traffic.

But perhaps Hill needs no monument. One of his soldiers wrote:

Endowed by nature with commanding resolution and marvelous energy, his "forward spirit" ever "lifted him where most trade of danger ranged," and from that thrice glorious day when, leading in at Mechanicsville his superb "light division" with all the fire of youth and skill of age, he dislodged McClellan's right flank on the upper Chickahominy, even to this memorable April morning, when, riding with a single courier far in advance of his men, he sought to restore his broken lines at Petersburg -- his every utterance and action was informed by the lofty spirit of a patriot, by the firmness and address of a valiant soldier.

 Much he suffered during this last campaign from a grievous malady, yet the vigor of his soul disdained to consider the weakness of his body, and accepting without a murmur the privations of that terrible winter, he remained steadfast to his duty until the fatal bullet stilled the beatings of a noble heart which had so often throbbed responsive to the music of victory.

    No more splendid monument, no nobler epitaph, than of that Latour d'Avergne, "the first grenadier of France," to whose name every morning at roll call in the French army, answer was made as the front rank man on right of his old company stepped forward and saluted: Mort sur le champ de bataille -- "dead upon the field of battle." Such monument, such epitaph, at least, is that of A. P. HILL and the men of his old corps remember with sorrowful pride that his name lingered last upon the dying lips of Lee and of Jackson.

The dedication of Hill's staute in 1892 was a big deal as evidenced by articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch and the Petersburg Index Appeal newspapers. The Times-Dispatch also published the address of General James Walker at the dedication.

Hill's two surviving daughters led relatively quiet lives. "Russie," the eldest, married twice, but had no children. Born on August 01, 1861, she died on July 19, 1917.

After the War, Lucy moved to Chicago and engaged in literary work. She was "a noted beauty in youth" who's "gracious cordiality endears her to friends new & old." In November 1904 she married, but she was too old to have any children. She died in 1931.

Hill's beloved wife Dolly led a long life. She died on March 20, 1920 in Lexington, Kentucky, having outlived three husbands and four of her daughters (three from her marriage to Powell). She was buried on March 25, 1920 in Lexington, under a grave marked simply "K. Forsyth."

Eventually the last of A.P. Hill's veterans passed over the river. When the last of the veterans passed away, the dust began to gather. Sadly, today most Americans are utterly deficient in any knowledge of American history and Hill has slipped into obscurity -- forgotten by all but a few dedicated, history-oriented Americans who call themselves "Civil War buffs." Even among Civil War buffs and historians, however, Hill is often seen as a nebulous figure -- not well understood, dismissed as an example of the Peter Principle, a mystery man of sorts. Hopefully this site will help correct the fact that A.P. Hill has unjustly been relegated to footnote status in American history. If you enjoy it, please feel free to pass it along and join me in trying to correct the injustice done to Hill and his fellow Americans -- on both sides -- who fought in the Civil War.