by Andy Mateja

There was a chapter in the history of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia that many casual readers of the Civil War are unaware of. There was a situation that became so heated that Lee was on the verge of presiding over court-martials of two of his best commanders – Gen Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson and Gen A.P. Hill
Stonewall Jackson was the best at his game – out-maneuvering, confounding and ultimately defeating almost every Union opponent he faced. He was usually able to accomplish this with far fewer men than he faced.
However internal problems within his command with subordinate commanders continually plagued him until his untimely death in May 1863. The most famous feud was between himself and Gen A.P. Hill. Both of them were proud Virginians and zealous in the Confederate cause. They were also both West Point graduates and understood the rule of military discipline.
Jackson was a strict disciplinarian, uncommunicative and driven by the desire to destroy the enemy rather than merely defeating them. Hill on the other hand was a proud and sensitive individual while also being bold and reckless. BOTH were superb battlefield commanders and valuable assets to Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.
Hill took offence very quickly if he felt his personal honor was assailed. He even quarreled with his former commander, Gen James Longstreet in the aftermath of the Seven Days Battles. Lee had to intervene to prevent Hill from challenging Longstreet to a duel.
A.P. Hill was sequentially transferred to Jackson’s command, which, from Hill’s point of view, was like going from the frying pan into the fire. Hill knew of Jackson’s secretive nature and his record of court-martialing subordinate officers. Jackson was in the middle of one of those court-martials when Hill arrived, which was interrupted when Union Gen John Pope began his forward movement against Lee’s army. Hill’s division was immediately put in motion, to march between Jackson’s other two divisions, towards Pope’s new position. As was Jackson’s method of operation, Hill was not informed where they were going or why. To compound the issue, Jackson changed the route of the lead division that Hill was supposed to follow without informing Hill. When he realized things had changed, he waited until the third division, who Hill was supposed to precede, had passed. When Jackson learned of this, he was furious at Hill for not moving is division forward. Jackson apparently had forgotten that he had ordered Hill for follow the first division (Gen Richard Ewell’s) which was now moving by another route that Hill was not informed about.
When Hill did start his division forward, it ran into blockage by the intersection of Ewell’s division moving in front of and perpendicular to Hills troops. Jackson blamed Hill for the confusion on the march which ignited the feud between him and Jackson that was to grow in intensity over the next ten months.
The next day Jackson launched his attack against Pope’s forces and failed once again to tell Hill exactly what his troops were supposed to do in the battle. When Jackson’s lead division commander was killed and his troops forced back, Hill with this celebrated “Light Division” came up and saved the day by launching a fierce counterattack. Jackson won the day thanks to Hill.
Lee then moved the rest of his army from Richmond forward to reinforce Jackson and overwhelm Pope’s army while they were still miles away from the safe confines of Washington DC.
Jackson was ordered to initiate a sweeping movement around Pope’s flank. However once again a communication breakdown between Jackson and Hill led to confusion and a late start. Jackson, ignoring military protocol, personally ordered Hill’s division to march, overriding Hill’s authority and causing even more bitter resentment with Hill. Hill later redeemed himself during the Battle of Second Manassas in holding Jackson’s line against repeated assaults by Pope’s best divisions. The only words of praise that Jackson uttered were “Tell him I knew he could do it”.
The newest charges against Hill pertained to straggling. Jackson felt there was too much straggling by Hill’s men in the pursuit of Pope back to the Washington DC defenses and a week later on the march into Maryland. Jackson once again usurped authority away from Hill and directly ordered his division to march.
Hill further antagonized Jackson by not following his orders to have his officers ride along the line of march to keep the column moving and prevent straggling. It was almost as if Hill was deliberately thumbing his nose at Jackson…
The final straw between the two of them occurred on Sept 4th when Jackson intervened in the command of Hill’s troops. Jackson had wanted the men on the march to rest ten minutes out of every hour and thirty minutes at noon. Hill ignored these orders and kept his men marching, which Jackson put an end to with a direct order to Hill’s leading brigade commander. When Hill learned of this he offered his sword in protest to Jackson. Jackson instead put Hill under arrest. Hill was further humiliated by having to march on foot behind his troops into Maryland. Hill requested from Jackson a list of the formal charges leading to his arrest but was told they would be provided if the matter is brought before a court martial panel.
Hill now decided to file counter charges against Jackson for what he perceived were Jackson’s command abuses and dereliction of duty. However Hill shelved his charges and instead appealed to Jackson to let him command his division once again during the upcoming assault at Harpers Ferry and later at Antietam. Jackson agreed and reinstated Hill back to temporary command and return him to arrest status after the battles were over.
Once again A.P. Hill demonstrated exemplary battlefield command which prompted Lee to praise Hill as his third best commander after Jackson and Longstreet. Even Jackson wanted to drop the feud with Hill and dismiss all further action by letting Hill remain in command of his division. But Hill, his image tarnished and his pride deeply hurt, refused to drop the matter and asked Lee to initiate a Court of Inquiry to investigate the matter fully. Lee tried and failed to handle the matter diplomatically. Hill wanted the matter to be pursued and be presented with a list of charges. Hill now was seeking vindication for his actions and condemnation for Jackson’s.
Jackson, while wanting to drop the issue, had no choice but to prepare a list of charges (eight in all) against Hill. Lee, one again tried to reconcile the issue and met with both Jackson and Hill together. Once again Lee’s conciliatory efforts were in vain.
The matter was put on hold once again with the pending battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. After the battle, Hill pressed Lee once again to pursue the matter and order a trial. Lee tried to talk Hill out of any further legal action but Hill would not accept it and wrote Lee a very strongly worded letter demanding action. It was now a matter of honor – either he was wrong or Jackson was.
Lee was in a tight spot. To avoid a Court of Inquiry that Hill was demanding, he would have to transfer Hill. But to where ? Out of the army ? Lee would not do that to his admitted third best commander.
Fate stepped in once again…this time tragically by taking the life of Stonewall Jackson after the Battle of Chancellorsville. However, during the night of Jackson’s wounding, A.P.Hill exchanged his animosity with compassion and tenderly aided Jackson in his moment of need, removing his belt, sword and gloves while resting Jackson’s head and shoulders on his chest and offering him brandy to ease the pain.
In the moments before his death, Jackson also remembered his former antagonist with an honorable statement destined to be his last …”Order A.P. Hill to prepare for action”
Thus ended the feud between two of Lee’s most trusted commanders that in the end, displayed deep respect and admiration for one another …………….