Description: This letter about tactical formations was written in October 31, 1859 to Hardee's friend, then Adjutant General of New York, Frederick Townsend. William H. Hardee had become quite famous in military circles in the 1850s, after the 1855 publication of his Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics for the Exercise and Manoeuvres of Troops When Acting as Light Infantry or Riflemen. This book, known colloquially as "Hardee's Tactics," was the most widely used drill manual of its time. It was updated at the turn of the decade and was used by both sides during the American Civil War.
In this letter from the Military Academy, West Point, William Hardee writes to General Townsend about tactical formations, how companies are “forted” according to the rank of the Captains. He explains how each Captain is assigned a different company, as “In line of battle the most important points are the right, left and center, and the line being always formed into columns with the right, left or center (double columns) in front. One of the three senior Captains by this arrangement will always command the leading division.” The first page of the letter illustrates this formation. Hardee later explains that that such deployment is maintained, so that in the absence of the Captain, the 1st Lieutenant or a Junior Captain can command the company: “He takes the place between the companies not to exercise command but to preserve the continuity of the line and to be in position to spring to the fence when the division [is] broken.” He adds in “unavoidable” cases, “A good soldier while preferring to be commanded by his . . . officers should be none the less ready to obey any officer who shall be appointed over him by the proper authority.” The letter is signed “With . . . respect Your Friend, W. H. Hardee.” In a postscript, he adds “If [he has not] made [him]self understood” that he would be happy to give more information.
William J. Hardee (1815-1873) graduated from West Point in 1838 and spent a career of nearly 30 years in the army. Between the Seminole Wars and the Mexican War, he studied military tactics in France, at the behest of the US Army. In 1853, he returned to West Point as a tactics instructor and wrote his famous tactics manual. Hardee also invented the "Hardee Hat," used on both sides of the War, during his tenure at West Point. When his home state of Georgia seceded from the Union, Hardee joined the Confederate Army. Promoted to Lieutenant General, he fought in a number of major battles, including Perryville and Stones River in 1862, where he fought against his old friend, Frederick Townsend.
Frederick Townsend (1825-1897) was an attorney and gold prospector before beginning his military career in the New York militia. He was named Adjutant General of New York in 1857. He was appointed a Major in the 18th US Infantry in 1861 and fought in several significant battles, including those mentioned above.
Written in ink on four sides of a folded white stationery with an embossed crest of a soldier on top left corners; approximately 10” x 15” when unfolded. Item #A00746.
Condition: Some stains along the perimeter. A larger darker stain on the last page, but text is readable. A thumbnail-size paper loss suggests a rodent bite and affects a few letters of text. Even with faults a great letter.