Joseph Roswell Hawley, 1826-1905

Joseph Roswell Hawley, 1826-1905

It is very much in the nascent stages–for starters I have no agent or publisher just yet–but now that 2013 is off-and-running I am about to begin a project I have been thinking about for the past several months: writing a book. Specifically, I will be writing a biography of Civil War general Joseph Roswell Hawley. Hawley was an officer is the 7th Connecticut and eventually became a division commander and brevet major general in the X Corps. Among other places, Hawley fought at First Bull Run (in the 1st Connecticut), Port Royal and Fort Pulaski, Olustee, and the Siege of Petersberg. He and his men also served under Benjamin Butler, guarding the polling places in New York City during the November 1864 presidential election between Lincoln and McClellan.

Hawley was so much more than a military man, however. He founded the newspaper that eventually became the Hartford Courant, and helped organize the Republican Party in Connecticut in the 1850s. He was also an abolitionist who put his money where his mouth was, becoming one of the first to volunteer when war came in April 1861. Some believe he was the first man to volunteer from his home state. After the war he was governor, congressman, and senator of the Constitution State. He also ran the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. His wife, Harriet Ward Foote, was a first cousin of the Beecher family. Yes, that Beecher family. Mark Twain was a family friend. Hawley was active as a public and private citizen in veterans affairs, including commemorations, in the decades after the war. He died in 1905.

If I do my job correctly I will tell Joseph Hawley’s story in all its fullness and not just offer a drum and bugle chronicle of his military career. I believe it is a story worth telling.

I spent the last few months of 2012 outlining the project and seeing which repositories and libraries will have the materials I will need to consult. Over the next 3-4 years I will be spending time in Hartford, Washington, South Carolina, and northern Florida. I am a little nervous but it feels good to finally be starting. To be continued.

(image by Levin Corbin Handy for Brady Studio, Library of Congress)