Symposium Spotlight: A.P. Hill

In this week’s Emerging Civil War Symposium Spotlight we welcome Edward Alexander’s look at fallen leader, A.P. Hill.

During the chaotic aftermath of the Sixth Corps breakthrough attack outside Petersburg, Virginia, on April 2, 1865, Corporal John Mauk fired at a pair of mounted riders, instantly killing Lieutenant General A.P. Hill.

Ambrose Powell Hill did not perform as well as a corps commander as he had in charge of a brigade or division, and the general spent much of the Petersburg campaign outside of the limelight. He returned from medical leave just a day before his death and inherited a situation where his men held responsibility for guarding far too long of a stretch of line than their numbers would allow. The decisive attack that ended the 9.5-month long campaign pierced his lines, and, not knowing the extent, Hill rode to meet with division commander Henry Heth.

John Mauk participated in the 138th Pennsylvania’s attack that morning as it swept through the Confederate defenses near the home of John Hart. As triumphant Union soldiers fanned in all directions, Mauk and Private Daniel Wolford ventured for the South Side Railroad, the final supply line into Petersburg. As they returned they noticed the approach of the two Confederate riders.

Though Mauk did not find out until the end of the day who he had actually killed, the Pennsylvanian’s recollection of the event perfectly matches that of Confederate courier George Tucker, who accompanied Hill. Many Civil War scholars are familiar with the basic outline of Hill’s last ride and his standoff with Mauk and Wolford. This talk will explore how that story came to light, examine the reliability of some of the popular conclusions made about Hill’s mindset, and share new details that have recently been discovered.

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2 Responses to Symposium Spotlight: A.P. Hill

  1. steve32ndil says:

    I got down to the site of Hill’s death last June. I’m not sure how much foliage was there in 1865. It wasn’t even clear to me which way he was going, and where the Union soldier(s) were facing when they shot at him. There’s a tidy, modest neighborhood adjacent to the site. As is the case with Stonewall’s shooting, and J.E.B. Stuart’s wounding, it’s one of those must-dos for those of us fortunate enough to live in Virginia.

    • Dan Hurley says:

      Certainly an underwhelming location across the Boydton Plank Rd. from Pamplin Park, Hill was heading directly into the major breech. Hill’s selection as a corps commander makes one wonder if Lee’s preference for Virginian’s did not serve the ANV well.

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