Leuitenant General William Joseph Hardee
William Hardee resigned his U.S. Army commission on January 31, 1861,after his home state of Georgia seceded from the Union. He joined the Confederate States Army as a colonel on March 7 and was given command of Forts Morgan and Gaines in Alabama. He was subsequently promoted to brigadier general (June 17) and major general (October 7). By October 10, 1862, he was one of the first Confederate lieutenant generals. His initial assignment as a general was to organize a brigade of Arkansas regiments and he impressed his men and fellow officers by solving difficult supply problems and for the thorough training he gave his brigade. He received his nickname, “Old Reliable”, while with this command. Hardee operated in Arkansas until he was called to join General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of Mississippi as a corps commander for the Battle of Shiloh. He was wounded there in the arm on April 6, 1862. Johnston was killed at Shiloh and Hardee’s corps joined General Braxton Bragg’s Army of Tennessee.
At the Battle of Perryville in October 1862, Hardee commanded the Left Wing of Bragg’s army. In his arguably most successful battle, Stones River that December, his Second Corps launched a massive surprise assault that drove Maj. Gen. William Rosecrans’s army almost to defeat. After the Tullahoma Campaign, Hardee lost patience with the irascible Bragg and briefly commanded the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana under General Joseph E. Johnston. During this period, he met Mary Foreman Lewis, an Alabama plantation owner, and married her in January 1864.
Hardee returned to Bragg’s army after the Battle of Chickamauga, taking over the corps of Leonidas Polk at Chattanooga, Tennessee, besieging the Union Army there. During the Chattanooga Campaign in November 1863, Hardee’s Corps of the Army of Tennessee was defeated when Union troops under Maj. Gen. George Henry Thomas assaulted their seemingly impregnable defensive lines at the Battle of Missionary Ridge.
Hardee renewed his opposition to serving under Bragg and joined a group of officers who finally convinced Confederate President Jefferson Davis to relieve Bragg. Joseph E. Johnston took over command of the Army for the Atlanta Campaign in 1864. As Johnston fought a war of maneuver and retreat against Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, the Confederacy eventually lost patience with him and replaced him with the much more aggressive Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood. Hardee could not abide Hood’s reckless assaults and heavy casualties. After the Battle of Jonesboro that August and September, he requested a transfer and was sent to command the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. He opposed Sherman’s March to the Sea as best he could with inadequate forces, eventually evacuating Savannah, Georgia on December 20. As Sherman turned north in the Carolinas Campaign, Hardee took part in the Battle of Bentonville, North Carolina, in March 1865, where his only son, 16-year-old Willie, was mortally wounded in a cavalry charge. Johnston’s plan for Bentonville was for Hardee to engage one of Sherman’s wings at Averasborough so that Johnston could deal with one wing piecemeal. The plan was unsuccessful. He surrendered along with Johnston to Sherman on April 26 at Durham Station.
After the war, Hardee settled at his wife’s Alabama plantation. After returning it to working condition, the family moved to Selma, Alabama, where Hardee worked in the warehousing and insurance businesses. He eventually became president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad. Hardee was the co-author of The Irish in America, published in 1868. He fell ill at his family’s summer retreat at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and died in Wytheville, Virginia. He is buried in Live Oak Cemetery, Selma, Alabama.