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Confederate general called Covington home

When James Morrison Hawes died on Nov. 22, 1889, local newspapers made little mention of his passing. But for the 65-year-old Hawes, his last few years as a hardware dealer in Covington belied a key role he played during the darkest years of the country's history.

He not only served throughout the Civil War as a Confederate officer - rising to the rank of brigadier general - he also was the son of Richard Hawes, second and last Confederate governor of Kentucky. James Morrison Hawes was born in Lexington on Jan. 7, 1824, the son of Richard Hawes and Hattie Morrison Nicholas. His father, Richard, was born in Virginia, moved with his family to Kentucky at an early age and became an attorney in 1818. Richard Hawes later became a state representative and then a U.S. representative in the late 1830s and early 1840s before settling in Paris and practicing law.

James Morrison Hawes, meanwhile, received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy on July 1, 1841, and graduated as a second lieutenant of dragoons.

He was assigned to military duty in Texas and, like many later Civil War generals, served as a junior officer during the Mexican War, taking part in several battles including the siege at Vera Cruz.

After the Mexican War, Hawes became an instructor at West Point. In 1850 he traveled to Paris, France, to attend the cavalry school at Saummur, where he learned advanced tactics.

On Feb. 3, 1857, Hawes married Maria Southgate at Christ Church in Cincinnati. Miss Southgate was the daughter of James Southgate and a relative of early Newport pioneer Richard Southgate, first owner of the Southgate House on Third Street in Newport.

In her reminiscences, later compiled and printed, Maria Hawes said she stayed in Paris for a while as her husband was assigned to Army duty in Utah under the command of Maysville native Albert Sidney Johnston.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Hawes was offered a post with the Union. Instead, he resigned his commission and offered his services to the fledgling Confederate Army. He was made a captain, promoted to major on June 16, 1861, and then was named a colonel of the 2nd Kentucky Cavalry. He later became cavalry commander of the Western Department of the Confederacy.

His old commander, Albert Sidney Johnston, had Hawes promoted to brigadier general on March 5, 1862. He served in the battle of Shiloh. He also later served under Kentuckian John C. Breckinridge.

Hawes is mentioned dozens of times in the official correspondence of the Civil War. In one letter dated July 4, 1861, he was mentioned in charge of some 3,500 soldiers at Charleston, Va., and Sept. 18, 1861, in charge of bridge defenses in Kentucky along the Green River near Bowling Green.

He also served in Arkansas, at the battle of Miliken's Bend in Louisiana, in the defense of Vicksburg and the defense at Galveston Island, Texas.

Hawes' name also appears in Union staff reports about Confederate troop movements, such as one in June 1863 in the Union siege at Vicksburg, Miss., and later near Mobile, Ala.

One Confederate staff report had Hawes as one of three brigade officers in western Louisiana. The three had a total of 375 officers and 3,878 enlisted men.

During the Red River Campaign, Hawes led a brigade in the center defense at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads. At the Union siege of Galveston Island, Hawes was ordered to establish earth works and to ''open upon the ships as soon as the guns are planted.''

Later in that attack, Hawes negotiated with Union troops about the surrender of the Confederate base. Negotiating on the Union side was Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace. Wallace was well known in Northern Kentucky as one of the successful architects of the ring of forts and batteries built to defend Covington, Newport and Cincinnati against a Confederate invasion.

Hawes, however, was not without critics. In a letter dated Aug. 9, 1862, Confederate Gen. Braxton Bragg listed Hawes among several officers who ''in my judgment (are) unsuitable for their responsible positions and as far as I can learn, not recommended from here.''

Braggs, however, had many critics of his own and was the subject of much debate about his own abilities.

In the early years of the Civil War, Hawes' wife, Maria, lived for a time in Louisville and then in Clarksville, Tenn.

Hawes' father, Richard, became Confederate governor of Kentucky after the first Confederate governor, George Johnson, was killed at the battle of Shiloh. Richard Hawes accompanied Confederate troops under Braxton Bragg into Kentucky in October 1862, bringing Richard Hawes to Frankfort. But his time at the state capital was short as he fled the state with Confederate troops to live out the war in exile.

Richard Hawes' property in Paris was confiscated and sold by Union officials.

Maria Hawes, meanwhile, fled with the couple's young children to Nashville, Tenn., and later to Huntsville, Ala.; Arkansas; Shreveport, La., and finally into Texas. In Texas she lived in Galveston, San Antonio and Houston.

After the war the couple returned to Kentucky, only to find nothing left of the family homestead in Paris. It was with that background that James and Maria Hawes and their children settled in Covington in 1866.

In Covington, Hawes entered the hardware business. One account from 1869 said he was a partner with Herman Wente in the Hawes and Wente Co. at 3 Pike St., Covington. A city directory in 1874 had the Hawes family living at 71 Powell St., Covington. Powell Street is now called 15th Street and the address is 71 East 15th St.

Hawes' mother, Hattie, died in May 1875. An obituary in the Covington Journal newspaper on May 22 said she was universally known and respected. She was the daughter of George Nicholas, a Revolutionary War officer in Virginia.

Her husband, Richard Hawes, died on May 25, 1877, in Paris. After the war he had been warmly received by most of the people of Bourbon County and had been elected county judge. The Newport-based Kentucky State Journal described Richard Hawes as a ''very eminent gentleman and filled with honor many high positions in his county and state.'' Richard Hawes was buried in Paris.

James Morrison Hawes was their first child.

The younger Hawes apparently stayed out of politics during his years in Covington and kept a low public profile, possibly in part due to the bad publicity caused by his brother, Smith Hawes, who was convicted of mishandling city money from Covington in his capacity as city treasurer.

One thing James Morrison Hawes was well-known for was decorating Confederate graves at Linden Grove Cemetery in Covington. Soldiers' remains from seven graves originally located along Lexington Pike, now called Dixie Highway, were reburied in Linden Grove, in part with financial help from Hawes.

Hawes later became an annual figure at the grave sites during Confederate Memorial Day on June 3.

Hawes died on Nov. 22, 1889, and is buried in Highland Cemetery, Fort Mitchell. His wife, Maria, died in March 1918.

A Kentucky Times-Star account said Mrs. Hawes and her husband had 10 children, with seven still surviving. Among them was a daughter, Clara, who lived with her mother and worked as a music teacher.

James Morrison Hawes made headlines again in January 1925 when the United Daughters of the Confederacy honored him with a service cross medal. A grandson, Albert Carey Hawes, accepted the medal on behalf of his late grandfather.

The study of Northern Kentucky history is an avocation of staff writer Jim Reis, who covers suburban Kenton County for The Kentucky Post.

Publication date: 04-29-02
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