MADISON COUNTY —
On Sept. 20, the Madison County Civil War Roundtable heard author A. Wilson Greene to speak on the death of confederate Lt. Gen. Ambrose Powell Hill (1825-1865).
Hill began his Civil War experience in March of 1861 as a colonel and experienced a stellar rise to the rank of major general in the spring of 1862.
He commanded a fast-moving unit called the Light Division in the Battles of Cedar Mountain, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
During this time, Hill earned the respect of Gen. Robert E. Lee and became one of his most trusted subordinates. He was promoted to corps command in May 1863.
On April 1, 1865, Union troops under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan won the key Battle of Five Forks west of Petersburg, Va. The next day, Grant ordered a massive offensive against Lee’s overstretched lines in front of the city.
On the morning of April 2, while riding through the woods near Petersburg, attempting to contact Maj. Gen. Henry Heth, one of his division commanders, Hill and his courier encountered two soldiers from the 138th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment.
Hill called on them to surrender, but they fired at him and his aid. The general was mortally wounded by Cpl. John W. Mauck, an obscure corporal with an undistinguished three-year service record.
The Bedford Gazette gave this account of how Hill died:
“When Mauk and Wolford were near this swamp, they saw two men on horseback advancing toward the men on the hill. These men had the appearance of officers; when they saw the men on the hill they turned toward where Mauk and Wolford were standing behind a large tree; one of the officers remained behind and the other advanced with revolver in hand and pointed it at these two men, demanding their surrender.
“Mauk and Wolford refused. The officers said they would have to surrender anyhow, as a body of troops was following them, or rather coming in toward Petersburg. The officer still advanced, and fiercely demanded their surrender, with an unmentionable epithet. Mauk replied that he would not do it and said to his comrade, ‛let's shoot them,’ and instantly each fired, Mauk choosing the foremost man, who fell from his saddle dead; the other man fell forward on his horse’s neck and rode off and the dead man’s horse followed.”