Term: Hawley, Col. William (1824-1873)
b. Porter, New York, August 19, 1824
d. Buffalo, New York, January 15, 1873
William Hawley was a career soldier who led the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry through some of the Civil War’s best-known battles including, Gettysburg, Atlanta, and Sherman’s March to the Sea.
William Hawley was born on August 19, 1824, in Porter, New York, into a military family. As a young man he enlisted to fight in the Mexican-American War, where he rose from private to sergeant in the 3rd U.S. Artillery. After his discharge, Hawley moved to Lockport, New York. He eventually headed west in 1854 to Madison, Wisconsin, and operated a furniture business with a partner until 1863.
When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Hawley’s military experience was a valuable asset. He organized a company composed primarily of Scandinavians (Co. K, 3rd Wisconsin Infantry) which was mustered into service in June 1861 with Hawley as its captain. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on August 9, 1862, and then to colonel of the entire regiment on March 10, 1863.
Hawley led his regiment in the battles of Winchester, Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Siege of Atlanta, Sherman’s March to the Sea, the capture of Savannah, and the Carolina campaigns. He was brevetted brigadier general for gallantry and soldierly conduct in March 1865.
After a brief period in business in Flint, Michigan, Hawley re-entered the military. In 1866 he was stationed in Virginia, from 1867-1869 in Louisiana and Texas, and from 1869-1872 on the Dakota frontier. In December 1872 Hawley was en route back to the East when he was caught in a blizzard and nearly perished from exposure. Badly frostbitten, he made it to the nearest town. He died two weeks later when he reached Buffalo, New York.
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[Source: Wisconsin State Journal, January 22, 1873; Bryant, Edwin Eustace. History of the Third Regiment… (Madison, 1891)]