previous next

Further details of the death of General A. P. Hill.

Letter from a courier.

[At his own earnest request we suppress the name of the gallant young soldier who sends the following letters; but he will have the thanks of all old Confederates, not only for his own contribution, but also for eliciting from Colonel Venable his graceful tribute to the accomplished soldier and chivalric gentleman whose name was among the dying words of both Lee and Jackson.] [184]

Richmond, Va., March 21, 1884.
Rev. J. William Jones, Secretary Southern Historical Society, Richmond, Va.:
My Dear Sir,—Some time since I noticed an account of the death of General A. P. Hill, which was written by Sergeant Tucker, of General Hill's staff. Having seen General Hill only a short while before his death, and thinking Sergeant Tucker had left out (unintentionally) some facts that might be interesting to the soldiers, I sent the account to Colonel C. S. Venable, formerly of General R. E. Lee's staff, and I beg herewith to hand you for publication Colonel Venaable's letter to me, which I am sure will be read with interest by all.

Let me say, that as General Hill came across the branch referred to by Sergeant Tucker, I met him (I was going to General R. E. Lee), and turned back with him and Sergeant Tucker, and told him of the enemy in General Mahone's old winter-quarters. After being fired at by the enemy in the old quarters, we turned to the right and there met Colonel Venable, who desired General Hill not to expose himself, saying that it was General Lee's request. General Hill thanked him and told him to say to General Lee that he thanked him for his consideration, and that he (General Hill) was only trying to get in communication with the right. Colonel Venable turned off to return to General Lee, and as he did so, told me I was wanted at General Lee's headquarters, and I rode with Colonel Venable to that place. I carried several orders for General Lee, and was present when Sergeant Tucker came up and reported the death of General Hill.

Never shall I forget the look on General Lee's face, as Sergeant Tucker made his report. After hearing what Sergeant Tucker had to say, General Lee remarked: ‘He is at rest now, and we who are left are the ones to suffer.’

Some may ask how it was that I, a courier in artillery, should have been in that locality. I was a mere boy, fond of excitement, and it so happened that our quarters were in the yard of a Mr. Whitworth, who lived almost south of General Lee's headquarters. I was awake all Saturday night, looking at the mortar and other shells, and when the enemy, on Sunday morning, came too close to our quarters to be comfortable, our wagon was packed and sent with all but myself to General Pendleton's headquarters. I remained, fed my mare, and ‘held my position’ until the enemy were close enough for me to see [185] how many had been shaved Saturday, and then I moved out, receiving as I went cheers or yells from the enemy, for which compliments I did not stop to thank them. When I got down in the bottom I stopped my mare in the branch, and was letting her drink, when General Hill came up, as before stated. I think General Lane will recollect my coming to him later in the day, when he was having a rough time. My Colonel was absent on official business that day, and I was trying to make myself useful. I took a hand in anything that 1 could; carried orders for General R. E. Lee; was sent to General Longstreet, then to Colonel Manning, who was ‘forming a skirmish line’ (to the south of General Lee's headquarters). Colonel Manning put me in charge of the right (he being in centre), and we had a lively time for some hours. That was a grand skirmish line, with the men almost as close together as telegraph poles on the line of a railroad, but we held our position, and were only driven back a short distance by a line of battle, sent against us by the enemy. Later I was ordered to Richmond on official business; after attending to which I reported to my Colonel at General Lee's residence on Franklin street, and left there that night after supper.

Trusting you may find something to interest your readers in this my first communication, I am

Yours very truly,

Courier, Artillery Second Corps.

Letter from Colonel C. S. Venable.

Vevay, Switzerland, December 25th, 1883.
My Dear Sir,—Your postal of November 26, has been forwarded to me here, as well as the clipping from the Dispatch giving Tucker's account of General A. P. Hill's death. Tucker's is a true statement, doubtless, of the circumstances immediately attending the death of General Hill at the hands of the Federal skirmishers—but his memory has failed him in several points which should have been presented in order to give a true picture of the sad event, and a fuller idea of the anxious devotion to duty and love for his troops which made the General on that fatal morning utterly reckless of his own life.

General Hill reached General Lee's headquarters before light and reported personally to the General in his own room. General Longstreet had arrived from the north side of the Appomattox about one o'clock the same morning and was lying on the floor of the Adjutant's [186] office trying to get a little sleep. A few minutes after General Hill's arrival I walked out to the front gate of the Turnbull House, and there saw wagons and teamsters dashing rather wildly down the River Road (Cox's) in the direction of Petersburg. Walking out on the road, I met a wounded officer on crutches coming from the direction of the huts of Harris's brigade, which lay across the branch in front of the headquarters, who informed me he had been driven from his quarters in these huts (which a few sick and wounded men occupied) by the enemy's skirmishers. I immediately returned to the house, ordered my horse, and reported what I had seen and heard to General Lee, with whom General Hill was still sitting. General Lee ordered me to go and reconnoitre at once. General Hill started up also; we mounted our horses and rode together, General Hill being accompanied by one courier, as I remember, who I thought was Tucker. I had no courier with me. On arriving at the branch (it was barely light at the time), we stopped to water our horses and look around. While thus engaged the enemy made his presence known by firing on us some straggling shots from the direction of the huts and hill towards the Boydton plankroad. Soon perceiving half a dozen or more of our own skirmishers near us, who had been driven back by the sudden advance of the enemy, I got General Hill's permission to deploy these in front of us so as to make some show of force. It being impossible to go straight on to the Boydton plankroad on the road on which we were riding, we turned to the right and rode up the branch. General Hill, whose sole idea was to reach his troops at all hazards, soon became impatient of the slow progress of our improvised skirmishers, and really there seemed to be no enemy in our front in the direction in which we were riding. So we pressed on ahead of them. After going a short distance it became light enough to see some artillery on the River Road (Cox's) about one hundred and fifty yards distant on the hill to our right. He asked me whose artillery it was. I informed him that it was Poague's battalion which came over the night before from Dutch Gap. He requested me to go at once and put it into position. I leaped my horse over the branch and carried out his request. This was the last I ever saw of General Hill alive. As I rode across the field and up the the slope towards Poague's battalion he rode up the branch towards a copse of small pines, with a few large ones interspersed. It was in this copse, doubtless, that General Hill met his death in the manner described by Tucker. The mistakes of Tucker are first as to the distance of the branch in question from the Turnbull House, which is [187] not more than 200 (two hundred) yards, and then as to the time of his conversation with General Hill which must have been after I left him, and some distance up the branch. I remember Tucker's presence but not that of Jenkins at the branch. When we left the gate of the Turnbull House General Hill had but one courier; but another could have easily ridden up behind us without attracting my attention, while we were examining the front so intently in the dim light of the coming day.

The sad event of General Hill's death was the crowning sorrow of that fatal morning. In him fell one of the knightliest Generals of that army of knightly soldiers. On the field he was the very soul of chivalrous gallantry. In moments of the greatest peril his bearing was superb and inspiring in the highest degree. No wonder that Lee, when he saw the horse of his trusted Lieutenant with the saddle empty, led by the faithful Tucker, found time to shed tears, even in the trying moment when the tide of adverse battle, sweeping heavily against us, demanded his every thought. The name of A. P. Hill stands recorded high on the list of those noble sons of Virginia at whose roll-call grateful memory will ever answer: ‘Dead on the field of honor for the people they loved so well.’

I should have added to the account above that in less than half an hour after General Hill was killed, the advanced skirmishers of the enemy were driven from the copse of pines by our men, and his body recovered.

While thus supplementing, and in a manner correcting, Sergeant Tucker's account, I wish to say I have great respect for him. He was a true and faithful soldier—as brave as a lion. I well remember being with General Hill on the 5th of May, 1864, as his advance guard on the plank road struck the enemy's cavalry outposts in the Wilderness, when Tucker, whose horse had died during the winter, got permission to go on the skirmish line and kill a Yankee cavalryman and appropriate his steed. His eagerness caused him to be imprudent in exposing himself, and he got a bullet in the thigh, which rendered a horse unnecessary to him for some time.

With all the good wishes of the day, I am

Yours most truly,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Richmond (Virginia, United States) (2)
Vevay (Indiana, United States) (1)
Dutch Gap (Virginia, United States) (1)
hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 21st, 1884 AD (1)
December 25th, 1883 AD (1)
May 5th, 1864 AD (1)
November 26th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: