Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Hayes, an 1855 graduate of Harvard College, commanded the 18th Massachusetts from August 25, 1862, when Barnes was promoted to Brigade command, until May 12, 1864, when he, himself, was promoted to Brigadier General. The promotion came a week after Hayes received a gunshot wound to the forehead during action at the Wilderness, a wound he not only miraculously survived, but from which he recovered and returned to duty less than three months later. At that time he was placed in command of the First Brigade, Second Division of the Fifth Corps, the Brigade, comprised, in part, by the 10th, 11th, 12th, 14th, and 17th United States Infantry regiments. Hayes, thus, became the only Volunteer officer placed in command of regular army units.
His time in command was brief, as he was taken prisoner toward the close of the battle of Weldon Railroad on August 19, 1864 and, after first being held prisoner at Danville was then carried to Richmond, where he was confined at Libby Prison and Belle isle. While a prisoner, he was made U.S. Commissioner of Supplies, in charge of aid sent from the North to Union prisoners. He returned to the field April 2, 1865, and commanded the advanced brigade of the Fifth Corps, joining in the pursuit of Lee until the surrender of Appomattox. After the disbandment of the Army of the Potomac, he commanded a brigade in the Provisional Corps designed to operate against the French in Mexico, but declined to accept a commission in the Regular Army. He was made brevet major general, U.S.V. March 16, 1865, and mustered out of service Aug. 24, 1865.
Just out of curiosity, and because I had the class biographies in front of me, I did a quick survey of the record of military service for the Harvard class of 1857. I tried doing the same thing with Joseph Hayes’ class of 1855, but the biographies weren’t complete and failed to address military service. However, for the 65 men who entered Harvard Yard in 1853 and were living when war erupted, 21 served in the Union army, four in the Confederate army, while the remaining 40 members saw no military service at all, electing instead to pursue vocations such as the practice of law, medicine, the ministry, or traveling throughout Europe.