Ambrose Powell Hill was born November 9, 1825, in Culpeper, Virginia. Known as “Little Powell,” A.P. Hill graduated from the US Military Academy in 1847. He served in the Seminole Wars and Mexican-American War and was made First Lieutenant in 1851.
In 1861, Hill resigned his commission in the US Army and was appointed colonel of the 13th Virginia Infantry Regiment when Virginia seceded. Hill quickly distinguished himself and was promoted to brigadier general and command of a brigade in the Confederate Army of the Potomac. Hill was known as an effective and highly emotional leader. He was said to get so “worked up” before a battle that he would often become sick. During the war, Hill was often stricken with various illnesses that reduced his effectiveness.
Nevertheless, Hill quickly became one of the highest ranked Confederate generals and performed admirably in the Peninsula Campaign (1862) and Battle of Williamsburg. Hill’s unit, known as “The Light Division,” participated in several decisive battles including Cedar Mountain, Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Chancellorsville—where Hill himself was wounded. After Stonewall Jackson was killed at Chancellorsville, Hill was promoted to lieutenant general and placed in command of the newly created Third Corps of Lee’s Army, which he led in the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863 and at the Siege of Petersburg (1864–1865). Just days before the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, however, Hill was killed by a Union soldier at Petersburg, Virginia.
Today, Fort A.P. Hill in Caroline County, Virginia, is named in his honor. A World War II US Naval ship was also named in his honor.