Abraham Lincoln Promotes to Brigadier General the Future Founding Commander of the Buffalo Soldiers

An uncommon Generals appointment that launched a legendary career in the Old West

Edward Hatch, born in 1832 in Bangor, Maine, rose quickly in the ranks of the Union Army. He was considered by his contemporaries to be bold and to possess an impulsive temperament that well suited a cavalry officer. He first saw action in 1862 at Island No. 10 and later that year at Iuka and Corinth, where he commanded the 1st Cavalry Brigade of the Army of Mississippi. He helped organize and was promoted to Colonel of the 2nd Iowa Infantry during Gen. Benjamin Grierson's cavalry raid through Mississippi during the Vicksburg Campaign. In the Southern Theater, Hatch's rise was meteoric. In less than a year he was made a brigade commander. Then he was placed in command of the entire cavalry of the Army of Tennessee.

On April 13, 1864, Abraham Lincoln promoted Hatch, appointing him to the position of Brigadier General of Volunteers. He was assigned to Maj. Gen. James Harrison Wilson's Cavalry Corp and played an instrumental role in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign, and the defeat of Gen. John Bell Hood and the Confederates in November-December 1864.  As Wilson himself wrote, to Hatch, "more than anyone else, was due the early and exact knowledge which we obtained of Hood's movements from the time he left the Tennessee til he sat down in front of Nashville." Hatch's actions earned his unit the moniker "Eye of the Army."

This is the original of Lincoln's appointment of Hatch to his position of Brigadier General.  Document Signed, Washington, April 13, 1864, appointing Edward Hatch "Brigadier General of Volunteers… from the twenty seventh day of April eighteen hundred and sixty four." Countersigned by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.  Appointments of important Civil War generals signed by President Lincoln are very uncommon.

Hatch, who spent a lifetime in military service, would receive numerous commendations for his service in Tennessee.  And he would continue to serve post-war, principally in the frontier regions of the Old West.  In 1866, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, commanding the Military Division of the Gulf, was "authorized to raise, among others, one regiment of colored cavalry to be designated the 9th Regiment of U. S. Cavalry".  To command this African-American regiment, he looked to Hatch. This 9th Cavalry is better known today as the famed Buffalo Soldiers, a division of black soldiers whose motto was “We Can, We Will. There it was charged with protecting stage and mail routes, building and maintaining forts, and establishing law and order in a vast area full of outlaws, Mexican revolutionaries, and raiding Comanches, Cheyennes, Kiowas, and Apaches. Despite prejudice and the almost impossible task of maintaining some semblance of order from the Staked Plains to El Paso to Brownsville, the 9th established themselves as one of the most effective fighting forces in the Army. The 9th was transferred to the District of New Mexico during the winter and spring of 1875 and 76. Over the next six years they were thrust into what had been a continuous struggle to subdue the fiercely independent Apaches. Under the command of skilled warriors like Geronimo, the Apaches proved to be an illusive and worthy adversary for the troopers of the 9th Cavalry. In a twist of history, Hatch accepted this position which did so much to make his name in history, while George Armstrong Custer, who also considered the post, refused to command a black regiment and turned the post down.