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Joseph Russell Hawley


JOSEPH RUSSELL HAWLEY, journalist, soldier and politician, was born October 31st, 1826, in Richmond county, North Carolina, where his father, a Congregational minister, and a native of New York, was then engaged in home missionary work. Some years after he removed to central New York, where he became a near neighbor of Gerrit Smith, at Peterboro, and the boy, gaining his education at good Northern schools, entered Hamilton College, at Clinton, New York, whence he graduated in 1847; studied law, and responding to the invitation of an uncle, David Hawley, a well-known city missionary, at Hartford, Connecticut, went to that city about 1850, and commenced the practice of his chosen profession. At first he had a "hard row to hoe;" but threw himself "body and soul" into the Free Soil movement, and was one of a little band of some sixty (among whom were Dr. John Braddock, Rev. Dr. Patton, now editor of The Advance, Chicago, Illinois, and others) "Free Soilers," who, at every election, for years, regularly went to the polls with open ballots. He was conspicuously active in State conventions, and deservedly acquired the reputation of being an active party man, and a forcible and eloquent speaker on all themes of public importance.

Meanwhile his law business had improved, but his taste for political debate preponderated, and in company with Mr. Faxon, he bought out the Republican newspaper, and commenced in its stead the Hartford Evening Press, of which he assumed the editorship, and gave up the practice of law. The Press, which was thoroughly Republican in its principles, was a decided success, and Mr. Hawley wielded the editorial pen with pleasure and profit until the outbreak of the Civil Rebellion in 1861, that event which so suddenly turned the current of so many men's labors and lives. Upon the receipt of Governor Buckingham's proclamation to the people of Connecticut, Hawley and two others met in the office of his paper, and drew up and signed an informal enlistment paper, as volunteers in the first regiment; and at a public meeting held the same evening, presided over by the Lieutenant-Governor, the list was filled, and the company was formed. Hawley was made first lieutenant in Rifle Company A, First Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, which was mustered into service April 22d, 1861, for three months. By the promotion of the colonel of the regiment soon after, Hawley became captain of his company, and displayed much activity in the organization and equipment of his men, for whom he ordered arms on his own personal credit, from the Sharpe Rifle Factory. He took a fair share of fighting in the battle of Bull Run, July 18th, and his was one of the few companies which did not run. The company being disbanded at the end of their short term of service, July 31st, we next find him as Lieut.-Colonel of the Sixth Connecticut Volunteers, organized August, 1861, for three years' service ; which was assigned, upon its arrival in Washington, to the Department of the South. It was present at, and honorably mentioned in the official reports of the day, in the attack on Fort Wallace, November 7th, under Colonel (after-wards General) Terry. During 1861, '62, the sixth was at Hilton Head-- took part in the reduction of Fort Pulaski, April and March; in the Battle of James Island, June 14th; Pocataligo, October 22d; and in the expedition to Port Royal. Meanwhile, by the appointment of Col. Terry as brigadier, Lieut.-Colonel Hawley had become a colonel. He had command of the sixth during the operations at Hilton Head, Morris Island, and Fort Wagner, in Gilman's campaign against Charleston, in the spring and summer of 1863. He was then placed in command at Fernandina, Florida, obtaining for his men, while there, the breech-loading Spencer Rifle, to the merits of which the War Department were blind until near the close of the war; he commanded a brigade detailed to destroy railroads near the Suwanee river, and also at the battle of Olustee, Florida, February 19th, 1864.. His Florida service terminated May 4th, by the transfer of him-self and command to the army of the James, where he had charge of a brigade in Terry's division, in Butler's attack on Bermuda Hundred. At Chester Station, Deep Bottom, Deep Run, Chapin's Farm near Richmond, New Market Road, Darbyton Road, Charles City Road, and other places where battles and skirmishes occurred during the summer and fall campaign of 1864, Hawley's command was more or less actively engaged. He was commissioned September 17th, 1864, as Brigadier-General of Volunteers; when, in November of that year, and in consequence of threats of violence at the polls, made by the peace men of the North, and alarming frauds discovered, having for their object the stuffing of ballot-boxes in New York City with fraudulent votes, Gen. B. F. Butler was transferred to the command of the Department of the East, he was accompanied by a division of soldiers under Gen. Hawley, consisting of 3000 Connecticut troops. Hawley's headquarters were on the small steamer, Moses Taylor, anchored off the foot of Twenty-third street, New York, and the exposure, fatigue and responsibility of that service, stowed away in close quarters, on board the boats, etc., with half rations, were quite as severe to the troops engaged in it, as most of their experience "at the front." After the election, which, thanks to their presence, passed off peaceably, they returned to the army in the field, and Hawley, again saw fighting at Fort Fisher, North Carolina, in January, 1865. Subsequently, when Gen. Terry was placed in command at Richmond, Virginia, Gen. Hawley was called from his position at Wilmington, North Carolina, as his chief-of-staff, and there the two gallant soldiers, friends in arms, and wearing the honors so worthily won in the fore-front of battle, strove, during the months of 1865, to bring peace out of hostility, evolve order from chaos, and construct a broad base upon which might be erected a genuine democracy, taking the place of that so-called aristocracy which had borne such bitter fruits, not only in the Old Dominion, but throughout the South. They were, indeed, "par nobile fratrum," well fitted for harmonious action, displaying admirable qualities of executive skill, fidelity, military vigor, promptness and patriotism. State and city were governed with "an iron hand in a velvet glove." They occupied as headquarters the residence of the whilom Confederate President, Jefferson Davis; and there, on the 1st of August, 1865, Gen. Hawley was the recipient of a general officer's regulation sword, gold mounted, of rare richness of design, and value at $1150, which was presented to him from the citizens of Hart-ford, Connecticut, in the presence of a large assemblage of loyalty and beauty, of both civil and military circles. On the 28th of September, Gen. Hawley received a commission as Major-General  of Volunteers. The military record of Gen. Hawley was adorned by acts of courage and composure in the most trying circumstances, and by an unfaltering devotion to the cause of justice, humanity and freedom. Capable and cool under fire, urbane in his dealings with all, yet firm as a rock against all enemies to the republic, whether open or covert, and devoting all his energies to the work of suppressing disloyalty, he speedily gained the esteem and confidence of his comrades in the field, and his friends at home. It was not strange, there-fore, that he should have been deemed worthy to guide the home councils of the State, which he had so well represented abroad. He was elected Governor of the "State of Connecticut, from 1866, '67. His administration was successful and honor-able both to himself and the State; but declining a renomination, he returned to his editorial duties, being still as before the war connected with the Evening Press.

In 1867, the Hartford Press and Connecticut Courant were consolidated under the latter title, Gen. Hawley being chief pro prietor and editor. In 1868, he had the honor of presiding over the National Republican Convention which nominated Grant and Colfax ; and during the present year was chosen President of the National Centennial Celebration of the Declaration of Independence, which is to be held at Philadelphia, July 4th, 1876. He was the candidate of the Republican party for United States Senator for the term commencing March 4th, 1873, but was defeated by the coalition of the Democrats and bolting Republicans, who re-elected the present Senator, O. S. Terry.

Gen. Hawley is in the prime of manhood, a man of fine and commanding presence, of great energy and eloquence, and wide and generous culture. He is by nature and disposition a reformer, and will strike his heaviest blows when he has some giant wrong to battle, some monster evil to throttle and destroy. If he lives he will yet be heard from in our country's history, and that on the right side. His late defeat will only in God's good time prove the stepping stone to some higher and better success. There is for him a future of honor and fame, if he wills it.

Source: Men of Our Day; or Biographical Sketches of Patriots, Orators, Statesmen, Generals, Reformers, Financiers and Merchants, Now on the state of Action: Including Those Who in Military, Political, Business and Social Life, are the Prominent Leaders of the Time in This Country, by L. P. Brockett, M. D., Published by Ziegler and McCurdy, Philadelphia Penna; Springfield, Mass; Cincinnati, Ohio; St. Louis, Mo., 1872 

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