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P. C. Hains

P. C. Hains

Federal (USA)


Peter Conover Hains

(1840 - 1921)

Home State: New Jersey

Education: US Military Academy, West Point, NY, Class of 1861;Class Rank: 19/34

Command Billet: Battery Commander

Branch of Service: Engineers

Unit: 2nd United States Artillery, Battery M


see his Battle Report

Before Antietam

A shoemaker's son, he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point in the Class of June 1861. He was appointed 2nd and then First Lieutenant, 2nd US Artillery on 24 June 1861 and is credited with firing the first shot at First Bull Run in July. He was transferred to the Topographical Engineers on 24 July 1862.

On the Campaign

He commanded Battery M of the 2nd United States Artillery in Maryland.

The rest of the War

He transferred to the Engineers on 3 March 1863 and was promoted to Captain, Corps of Engineers on 15 July 1863, after Vicksburg. He was honored by brevets during the war for gallantry in action at Hanover Court House, VA (Captain, May 1862) and at the siege of Vicksburg (Major, July 1863).

After the War

He worked on lighthouse construction from 1868 to 1878, including structures off Morris Island, SC and at St. Augustine, FL, and was promoted to Major on 22 September 1870. By 1882, he was the chief engineer on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers, and he designed the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, which solved the capital's problem with its foul-smelling, stagnant swamp. The site today is near the Jefferson Memorial, and Hains Point overlooks the basin and the Washington Monument. He was appointed Lieutenant Colonel on 16 September 1886 and in 1890 designed the national road built from Washington, DC to Mount Vernon, VA now known as the George Washington Memorial Parkway. He was promoted to Colonel on 13 August 1895.

He was appointed Brigadier General of Volunteers on 27 May 1898, served in the Spanish-American War, and was discharged from the Volunteers on 30 November 1898. He was also on the Nicaragua Canal Commission of 1897 and the Isthmian Canal Commission of 1899, and successfully argued for it to be built in Panama. He was appointed Brigadier General, Regular Army, on 21 April 1903 and retired in 1904. He was appointed Major General on the retired list in August 1916.

In September 1917 he was called back to active duty and served on engineering projects and defenses in Virginia and North Carolina. This made him the only Civil War officer to serve on active duty in World War I and the oldest U.S. officer in uniform during that war. He retired again in September 1919.

References & notes

His service from Heitman1 and Cullum2 (his Cullum Number is 1951). Personal details from family history gathered for, now at Arlington Cemetery. His gravesite is on Findagrave.

His son Peter, Jr. (1872-1955) was also an Army officer, with Spanish American War service. His grandson Peter Conover Hains III (1901-1998, USMA '24) was was on the US Olympic pentathlon team in 1926 and the equestrian team in 1932; he retired as a Major General, USA in 1961. Great-grandson PCH IV (1929-2019, USMA '52) retired to Texas as a Colonel, USA. G-G-grandson John Tower Hains is USMA Class of 1983.


7/6/1840; Philadelphia, PA


11/07/1921; Washington, DC; burial in Arlington National Cemetery, VA


1   Heitman, Francis Bernard, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1789-1903, 2 volumes, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1903, Vol. I, pg. 487  [AotW citation 26262]

2   Cullum, George Washington, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the US Military Academy, 2nd Edition, 3 vols., New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1868-79, Vol. II, pp. 825-6; Suppl. Vol. IV/ 131-2; Vol. V/103-4; etc  [AotW citation 26263]