Portrait of William J. Hardee

William J. Hardee was a prominent Confederate corps commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War, who briefly commanded the Army of Central Kentucky and the Army of Tennessee on two occasions. [Wikimedia Commons]

William Joseph Hardee - Facts

October 12, 1815 - November 6, 1873

Key facts about William J. Hardee, a prominent Confederate corps commander in the Western Theater of the American Civil War who briefly commanded the Army of Tennessee on two occasions.

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Full Name:

  • William Joseph Hardee

Birth Date:

  • October 12, 1815

Birth Location:

  • Family’s plantation, “Rural Felicity,” in Camden County, Georgia

Parents:

  • John and Sarah (Ellis) Hardee

Education:

  • United States Military Academy (1838)

Occupation:

  • Miltary officer

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Military Academy as Commandant of Cadets
  • Lieutenant Colonel (USA)
  • Lieutenant General (CSA)
  • Army of the Mississippi commander
  • Army of Tennessee commander

Spouse:

  • Elizabeth Dummett (1840), Mary Foreman Lewis (1864)

Nickname(s):

  • Old Reliable

Place of Death:

  • Wytheville, Virginia

Date of Death:

  • November 6, 1873

Place of Burial:

  • Live Oak Cemetery, Selma, Alabama

Significance:

  • William J. Hardee was the youngest of seven children of John and Sarah Ellis Hardee.
  • William J. Hardee’s father was a successful planter and slaveholder who also served in the state senate.
  • William J. Hardee attended the United States Military Academy from July 1, 1834 to July 1, 1838.
  • William J. Hardee graduated from the United States Military Academy on July 1, 1838, ranked twenty-sixth in his class of forty-five cadets.
  • Among William J. Hardee’s classmates at the United States Military Academy were future Union General Irvin McDowell and future Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard, with whom Hardee would serve in the Army of the Mississippi.
  • Immediately upon graduation, William J. Hardee was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the 2nd U.S. Dragoons and sent to Florida where he campaigned against the Seminole Indians during Second Seminole War.
  • On December 3, 1839, William J. Hardee was promoted to first lieutenant.
  • In October 1840, William J. Hardee received an assignment to study at the Royal Cavalry School in Saumur, France.
  • William J. Hardee married Elizabeth Dummett on November 16, 1840. Their marriage produced three daughters and a son.
  • On September 13, 1844, William J. Hardee was promoted to captain.
  • In 1845, William J. Hardee was sent west to serve with General Zachary Taylor’s Army of Occupation.
  • On April 25, 1846, Mexican cavalry troopers took William J. Hardee prisoner during an ambush known as Skirmish of La Rosia. Hardee was held prisoner for two weeks until he was exchanged on May 10, 1846.
  • During the Mexican-American War, Hardee served with General Winfield Scott’s Army of Invasion.
  • William J. Hardee was brevetted to captain “for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Affair at Medellin,” effective March 25, 1847,
  • William J. Hardee was brevetted to lieutenant colonel “for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Affair with the Enemy at San Agustin, Mexico,” effective August 20, 1847.
  • In 1852, U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis selected William J. Hardee to write a new manual of military tactics addressing the adoption of rifled muskets.
  • Between 1852 and 1855, William J. Hardee drafted a manual of military tactics entitled Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics.
  • The U.S. Army adopted William J. Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics on March 29, 1855.
  • More commonly known as Hardee’s Tactics, William J. Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics later became the handbook used by officers on both sides of the Civil War.
  • William J. Hardee was brevetted to major, effective March 3, 1855.
  • William J. Hardee’s wife died of tuberculosis in 1853. In order to continue his military career, Hardee entrusted the care of his four young children to his wife’s sister who lived in St. Augustine, Florida.
  • William J. Hardee served at the U.S. Military Academy as Commandant of Cadets from July 22, 1856, until September 8, 1860.
  • William J. Hardee was promoted to lieutenant colonel, effective June 28, 1860.
  • After his home state of Georgia seceded from the Union, William J. Hardee resigned his U.S. Army commission on January 31, 1861, and offered his services to the Confederacy.
  • At the beginning of the Civil War, William J. Hardee was commissioned as a colonel in the Confederate Army and assigned to command Forts Morgan and Gaines at the mouth of Mobile Bay in Alabama.
  • On June 17, 1861, William J. Hardee was promoted to brigadier general.
  • In June 1861, William J. Hardee was sent to the west where he was tasked with organizing and training troops for defense of Arkansas’ northern border.
  • William J. Hardee’s propensity for solving difficult problems with limited resources impressed his men, earning him the nickname, “Old Reliable.”
  • William J. Hardee was appointed as major general commanding a division, effective October 7, 1861.
  • From December 4, 1861, through February 23, 1862 William J. Hardee briefly commanded the Central Army of Kentucky.
  • In 1862, the Confederate War Department sent William J. Hardee’s command to western Tennessee where it was merged into the Army of the Mississippi on March 29, 1862.
  • At the Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862), William J. Hardee received a slight arm wound as he commanded the 3rd Corps of Johnston’s army.
  • After the Confederate defeat at Shiloh, William J. Hardee continued to command the 3rd Corps of the Army of the Mississippi while it was besieged by Major General Henry Halleck’s Union troops at Corinth (April 29 to May 30, 1862).
  • On July 5, 1862, General Braxton Bragg issued General Orders, No. 22, temporarily handing off command of the Army of the Mississippi to William J. Hardee.
  • William J. Hardee commanded the Army of the Mississippi from July 5, to August 15, 1862.
  • On August 15, 1862, General Braxton Bragg issued General Orders, No. 116 (Department No. 2) assigning William J. Hardee to command the left-wing of the Army of the Mississippi.
  • During the Confederate Heartland Campaign, William J. Hardee’s wing of the Army of the Mississippi took part in the Rebel success at the Battle of Munfordville (September 14 – 17, 1862).
  • During the Confederate Heartland Campaign, William J. Hardee’s wing of the Army of the Mississippi took part in the Battle of Perryville (October 8, 1862).
  • William J. Hardee disagreed with Braxton Bragg’s decision to end the Confederate Heartland Campaign and retreat to Tennessee.
  • William J. Hardee was promoted to lieutenant general, effective October 10, 1862.
  • On November 20, Braxton Bragg issued General Orders, No. 151, reorganizing the Army of the Mississippi as the Army of Tennessee. Bragg subdivided the army into three corps and placed William J. Hardee in command of one of the corps, designated simply as Hardee’s Corps.
  • William J. Hardee commanded Hardee’s Corps of the Army of Tennessee during the Battle of Stones River (December 31, 1862 – January 2, 1863).
  • On July 14, 1863, the Confederate War Department transferred William J. Hardee to Alabama, where he assumed temporary command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana from July 24 through October or November 1863.
  • On January 13, 1864, William J. Hardee married Mary Foreman Lewis, the twenty-six-year-old daughter of an Alabama plantation owner. Their marriage lasted nine years but produced no children.
  • On October 23, 1863, Confederate President Jefferson Davis replaced Leonidas Polk with William J. Hardee as commander of the 1st Corps of the Army of Tennessee.
  • On November 23, 1863, Hardee’s Corps checked Major General William T. Sherman’s assault against the right flank of Bragg’s army at Tunnel Hill.
  • After the loss of Chattanooga, William J. Hardee lobbied for Braxton Bragg’s removal as commander of the Army of Tennessee.
  • After Braxton Bragg’s resignation, William J. Hardee assumed command of the Army of Tennessee from December 2 to December 16, 1863.
  • In the spring and summer of 1864, William J. Hardee served as a corps commander with the Army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston during the Atlanta Campaign.
  • During the Atlanta Campaign, William J. Hardee led his troops in combat at the Battle of Rocky Face Ridge (May 7-13, 1864), the Battle of Resaca (May 13-15, 1864), the Battle of Adairsville (May 17, 1864), the Battle of New Hope Church (May 25-26, 1864), the Battle of Dallas (May 26–June 1, 1864), and the Battle of Pickett’s Mill (May 27, 1864).
  • After Jefferson Davis replaced Joseph E. Johnston with John Bell Hood as commander of the Army of Tennessee on July 17, 1864, William J. Hardee continued to serve as a corps commander.
  • General John Bell Hood blamed William J. Hardee for Rebel setbacks at the Battle of Peachtree Creek (July 20, 1864), the Battle of Utoy Creek (August 5-7, 1864), and the Battle of Jonesboro (August 31-September 1, 1864).
  • Unwilling to serve as a scapegoat for John Bell Hood’s failures and mounting casualty totals, William J. Hardee requested a transfer from the Army of Tennessee in September 1864.
  • On September 28, 1864, Confederate President Jefferson Davis relieved William J. Hardee from duty with the Army of Tennessee and placed him in charge of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
  • William J. Hardee assumed command of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida on October 5, 1864.
  • As commander of the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, Hardee inherited the insurmountable task of trying to check William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea (November 15, 1864–December 21, 1864).
  • On December 20, 1864, William J. Hardee evacuated his troops from Savannah, Georgia enabling William T. Sherman’s forces to occupy the city the next day.
  • On February 22, 1865, Robert E. Lee, merged William J. Hardee’s department with the remnants of the Army of Tennessee. Lee placed General Joseph E. Johnston in command of the combined force.
  • On March 16, 1865, William J. Hardee’s forces were able to slow William T. Sherman’s march through the Carolinas at the Battle of Averasboro.
  • While staunchly defending the Confederate right flank during the Battle of Bentonville (March 19–21, 1865), William J. Hardee learned that his only son, seventeen-year-old Willie, a private with 8th Texas Cavalry, had been killed during the engagement.
  • On April 26, 1865, Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his forces, including William J. Hardee’s command, to Sherman at Bennett Place, virtually ending major organized combat in the American Civil War.
  • Following the conclusion of the Civil War, William J. Hardee settled in Alabama, where he tried to restore his wife’s family plantation. He later moved to Selma where he engaged in the insurance business and he served as president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title William Joseph Hardee - Facts
  • Coverage October 12, 1815 - November 6, 1873
  • Author
  • Keywords William Joseph Hardee
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date July 28, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update April 29, 2021
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