Hardee was born in Camden County, Georgia, on 12 October 1815, the youngest of seven children. He entered the US Military Academy at West Point, New York, in 1834, and graduated in 1838. He accepted a commission in the army, but during the second war against the Seminoles (a group of native Americans and African Americans who had settled in Florida a century earlier) he fell ill and was hospitalised. He met and married Elizabeth Dummett; and, on recovering his health, he was sent to France for a year to study military tactics.
Hardee was promoted to captain in 1844, and served under Generals Taylor and Scott in the Mexican War, during which he was captured and returned as part of a prisoner exchange. He was promoted to major for gallantry in action in 1847, and subsequently to lieutenant colonel. After the war, he led units of Texas Rangers and soldiers before being recalled to Washington DC. There he wrote an official military manual, Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics (familiarly known as Hardee’s Tactics), which become the most widely consulted book of its kind during the Civil War.
Hardee’s wife died in 1853; thereafter he served as the commandant of cadets at West Point, but resigning his commission on the secession of Georgia from the Union in 1961. Instead, he took the rank of colonel in the new Confederate army, and set about attracting the best troops he could find. His successes led to him being nicknamed Old Reliable. He rose to brigadier general and then lieutenant general, showing his considerable military skills at the battles of Shiloh, Perryville, Murfreesboro and Missionary Ridge. He served under General Braxton Bragg with his Army of Tennessee for a while. After taking part in the battles before Atlanta in mid-1864, he assumed command of the military department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. In the final months of the war, Hardee’s troops continued to fight battles in Georgia but the land was steadily taken by the Union, and he surrendered his army in April 1865.
During the war, Hardee had met and married Mary Foreman Lewis, an Alabama plantation owner. With the war over, they set about bringing her plantation back into operation. The family then moved to Selma, where he became president of the Selma and Meridian Railroad. He died in 1873. Further information is available from Wikipedia, The New Georgia Encyclopedia, The Encyclopedia of Arkansas, or The Civil War Trust.
Although not a diary keeper, Hardee’s high-level position, especially during the Civil War, meant that he often appeared in journals written by others. The Civil War Day by Day blog, hosted by the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, includes several such diary entries.
David Coleman, was a young man, of 24 at the time, who had trained as a lawyer. He fought in the Civil War, and after it was over he became a teacher to support himself and his younger brothers, later returning to the practice of law. His diary was kept for a year or so from January 1863, and contains vivid descriptions of military activity and details of daily camp life. Hardee is mentioned half a dozen times. Here is one entry taken from the Civil War Day by Day blog
24 May 1863
‘By invitation I go out and breakfast with Mrs Moore - taking Richard with me - Our walk gave us a good apetite and we enjoyed our breakfast hugely - I was almost afraid we would alarm them these hard times, but they are old and dear friends - who cannot be so easily disturbed –
We go with them all to church - myself walking with Miss Roe & Miss Hardee - And soon after a shady walk we reach the pretty country church –
I enjoyed the service - to hear once more and it might be for the last time the blending of sweet female voices accompanied by a sweet tuned melodeon, brought up pleasant but sad reflections - After we returned Mrs I gave us a delightful lunch - Genl Hardee came in to be with his daughters - It was the first time I had ever met him socially - He is very agreeable and pleasant - a finished polished gentleman - possessing the gentlest feelings, with the stern manliness of the soldier - My short intercourse with him increased my already high opinion of him - He seems to be a tender and affectionate father - May his life be long spared to his country and family.’
Coleman’s diary can be read in full online thanks to a 1999 edition of The Huntsville Historical Review. Here is a second extract from Coleman’s diary, taken from the Review.
19 March 1863
‘Great review today of Genl Hardee’s whole Corps - Genl Joe Johnston, the Commander in Chief, was present - We were drawn up in two lines - Genl Breckinridge in front - Great many spectators present - among many ladies looking bright and hopeful - The Scene was imposing - It made us feel a pride in our Army and our Generals.’
And here is another war diarist -
10 April 1863
‘Rode out to a review of Hardee’s troops to-day - the troops did very well - weather was good but ground dusty - A great many spectators especially ladies - for whom Genl Hardee has given the entertainment - he has several at his house - and this is the second or third time they have come up from Huntersville. The report is that the fight at Charleston is still going on.’