John Henry Hobart Ward
|Born||June 17, 1823|
New York City, New York
|Died||July 24, 1903 (aged 80)|
Monroe, New York
|Place of burial|
Community Cemetery, Monroe, New York
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1842–1847 (USA)|
1851–1859 (NY Militia)
American Civil War
John Henry Hobart Ward (June 17, 1823 – July 24, 1903), most commonly referred to as J.H. Hobart Ward, was a career United States Army soldier who fought in the Mexican–American War and served in the New York state militia. He also served as a Union general during the American Civil War.
During the Civil War he was wounded several times, and noted for both his performance in the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg and for his misconduct in the 1864 Battle of the Wilderness. After the war Ward worked in New York's Superior Court, and was also remembered for his death when he was hit by a train.
John Henry Hobart Ward was born on June 17, 1823, in New York City. Both his father and grandfather had died of the effects of wounds suffered while serving in the United States military. After receiving an education from Trinity Collegiate School, he enlisted as a private in the 7th United States Infantry Regiment in August 1842, at the age of 18. While Ward was in the army, the Mexican-American War began. He was present at the Siege of Fort Brown, which was an unsuccessful attempt by the Mexican Army to capture Fort Brown in May 1846. Ward later fought in the Battle of Monterrey, where he was wounded, and was also present at the capture of Vera Cruz. He later married one of the local women of Vera Cruz. During his time in the army, Ward eventually reached the rank of sergeant major. According to historian Ezra J. Warner, Ward left the army in April 1847, while historian Larry Tagg states that he remained until 1851. Ward was next the New York state assistant commissary general, a position which he held from 1851 until 1855, when he took over the role of state commissary general itself. He remained in that position until 1859.
After the outbreak of the American Civil War, Ward used his military experience and political connections to gain a commission as colonel in the 38th New York Infantry Regiment; the unit mustered in to the Union Army on June 3, 1861. On July 21, Ward led the regiment in the First Battle of Bull Run. Part of Orlando B. Willcox's brigade, the 38th New York deployed behind two Union artillery batteries on Henry House Hill. The unit lay prone to shelter from Confederate fire. The regiment later fell back towards the rear under heavy artillery fire. Later in the battle, Ward led the regiment in a charge against Confederate positions on Henry House Hill, along with the 69th New York Infantry Regiment. Pushing back the 5th Virginia Infantry Regiment and the Hampton Legion, the two Union regiments took a foothold on the hill. Not long afterwards, two fresh Confederate regiments from Philip St. George Cocke's brigade arrived and counterattacked, driving the two New York regiments from the hill. Willcox was wounded and captured during the battle, and Ward temporarily took command of the brigade. Willcox's official report of the action praised Ward. The battle ended in a rout, with Union troop fleeing the field in disorganization.
He next saw action in the 1862 Peninsula Campaign in Brig. Gen. David B. Birney's brigade of III Corps. Ward continued to perform well during the Northern Virginia Campaign, seeing more action at Second Bull Run and Chantilly. For his efforts, he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on October 4, 1862, and assigned command of what had been Birney's brigade in the III Corps of the Army of the Potomac. (Birney had succeeded Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, who had been killed leading his division at Chantilly.) Ward commanded the brigade at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
During the Gettysburg Campaign, Ward's brigade was assigned on July 2 by Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles to hold a large area from the Wheatfield Road to Devil's Den. Stretched thin with little reserves, Ward's brigade nevertheless held their ground stubbornly. Regiments were moved to threatened points of the line, especially the left flank. Finally it was driven back by determined Confederate attacks. Ward became temporary commander of the division when Birney assumed corps command following the wounding of General Sickles. Col. Hiram Berdan took command of Ward's brigade. Ward lost 781 officers and men out of 2,188 present, a loss of 35.7%. Ward suffered a wound on July 2 but did not relinquish command.
Ward was again wounded later that summer in fights at Kelly's Ford and Wapping Heights. During the Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864, he was assigned a brigade of Birney's 3rd Division, II Corps, one of the divisions in III Corps before the army reorganization of March 1864. Ward was wounded in the head at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. Removed from command on May 12 by Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock for "misbehavior and intoxication in the presence of the enemy during the battle of the Wilderness," Ward was arrested on June 12. Despite these charges, he was nevertheless honorably mustered out on July 18, 1864.
After the war, he was a civil employee of New York City, serving as a clerk in the Superior Court from 1871 to 1896.
At the age of eighty, Ward died in Monroe, New York, after being struck by a passing Erie Railroad train. Following a funeral in Brooklyn, his body was brought back to Monroe and buried in the city's Community Cemetery.