Hugh Boyle Ewing was a lawyer, writer, ambassador and soldier, who served the Union army as a general officer in the Eastern and Western theaters during the American Civil War.
Hugh Boyle Ewing was born in Lancaster, Ohio on October 31, 1826. He was the fourth child and third son of Thomas Ewing and Maria (Boyle) Ewing. Ewing's father, Thomas Ewing, Sr., was a prominent lawyer, and a United States senator, who also served as United States Secretary of the Treasury and United States Secretary of the Interior. Two of Ewing's brothers, Thomas Ewing, Jr., and Charles Ewing, and his foster brother, William Tecumseh Sherman, eventually became general officers in the Union army during the American Civil War.
Ewing received his primary education in Lancaster and then entered the United States Military Academy in 1844. He withdrew from the academy during his final year, after failing an engineering exam.
After leaving West Point, Ewing traveled on an expedition to California to rescue migrants trapped by heavy snows in the Sierra. While there, he unsuccessfully prospected for gold during the 1849 Gold Rush. In 1852, Ewing returned east, studied law and was admitted to the bar. From 1854 to 1856, he practiced law in St. Louis.
In 1858, Ewing briefly moved to Leavenworth, Kansas and joined his brother, Thomas Ewing, Jr., and his foster brother, William T. Sherman (who was by then, also his brother-in-law), in establishing the law firm of Sherman & Ewing. Ewing also speculated in land while living in Leavenworth.
On August 3, 1858, Ewing married Henrietta Young, daughter of George W. Young, a large plantation owner in the District of Columbia. The couple took up residence in Ohio, where Ewing managed his father's salt works. Their marriage produced seven children (Edith, Eleanor, George Washington, Hugh, Henrietta, Thomas, and Marie).
After the American Civil War began, Governor William Dennison appointed Ewing as Brigade Inspector of the Third Brigade of the Ohio Militia on May 6, 1861. Holding the rank of major, Ewing was stationed at Camp Dennison, in Columbus, Ohio, where he engaged in recruiting and training soldiers. In June, Ewing joined Major General George B. McClellan's command in western Virginia, where he participated in the Union victory at Battle of Rich Mountain (July 11, 1861). On August 15, Ewing attained the rank of colonel and assumed command of the 30th Regiment of Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Early in September, this regiment joined General William Rosecrans's forces in western Virginia, and Ewing contributed to the Federal victory at the Battle of Carnifex Ferry (September 10, 1861).
During the winter of 1861 and throughout much of 1862, Ewing held several administrative posts with the army. In late summer, he and his regiment transferred to the Army of the Potomac near Washington, D.C. On September 14, 1862, Ewing led his regiment during the final charge that secured a Union victory at the Battle of South Mountain. That night, he was promoted to commander of the 1st Brigade of the Kanawha Division. Three days later, at the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862), Ewing's brigade was positioned on the extreme left of the Union line. According to commander Major General Ambrose Burnside, Ewing's men "saved the left from being completely driven in" during a Confederate attack. After the battle, Ewing went on sick leave until October 23, when he rejoined his brigade in West Virginia. His troops went into winter quarters, and on November 29, 1862, officials promoted Ewing to the rank of brigadier-general.
At the beginning of the 1863 campaign season, Ewing led the soldiers of the 30th, 37th, and 47th Regiments of Ohio Volunteer Infantry along with the 4th Virginia Infantry to join the Union campaign against the Confederate stronghold at Vicksburg, Mississippi. During that campaign, Ewing served in the Army of the Tennessee, commanded by his brother-in-law, Major General William T. Sherman. After the fall of Vicksburg, Federal troops re-occupied Jackson, Mississippi on July 17, 1863, and Sherman briefly placed Ewing in charge of the city. On July 21, Sherman elevated Ewing to the command of the 4th Division of the 15th Army Corps, and Ewing returned to the vicinity of Vicksburg.
In October, Ewing's division moved east with the Army of the Tennessee to assist in lifting Confederate General Braxton Bragg's siege of Chattanooga, Tennessee. During the Union breakout from Chattanooga, two of Ewing's brigades led General Sherman's initial assault against General Patrick Cleburne's defenders at Tunnel Hill in the Battle of Missionary Ridge (November 25, 1863). Following the successful breakout, Ewing's division moved north with Sherman to relieve Major General Ambrose Burnside's forces that were under siege by Major General James Longstreet at Knoxville, Tennessee. When Longstreet ended the siege on December 4, 1863, after the decisive Union victory at the Battle of Fort Sanders (November 29, 1863), Ewing's division moved to Scottsboro, Alabama and went into winter quarters.
In February 1864, Ewing became commander of the District of Louisville. He served in that capacity for one year. In February 1865, Ewing returned to field duty. He rejoined Sherman in North Carolina, but the war ended before he saw any further action. At the close of hostilities, officials brevetted Ewing to the rank of major general, "for meritorious services during the war," to date from March 13, 1865. He mustered out of service on January, 15, 1866.
After the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson appointed Ewing as the American Minister to Holland. He served in that capacity from 1866 to 1870, when he returned to Ohio. Ewing settled on a farm near Lancaster, Ohio, where he pursued a career as a writer. While living there, he penned The Black List; A Tale of Early California; A Castle in the Air; and The Gold Plague.
Hugh Boyle Ewing died on his farm on June 30, 1905. He was interred at St. Mary Cemetery in Lancaster.
Cite this Entry
"Hugh Boyle Ewing," Ohio Civil War Central, 2022, Ohio Civil War Central. 27 May 2022 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=985>
"Hugh Boyle Ewing." (2022) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved May 27, 2022, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=985
- Ambrose E. Burnside
- Andrew Johnson
- Army of the Potomac (USA)
- Army of the Tennessee
- Battle of Antietam
- Battle of Carnifex Ferry
- Battle of Chattanooga
- Battle of Fort Sanders
- Battle of Missionary Ridge
- Battle of South Mountain
- Braxton Bragg
- Camp Dennison
- Charles Ewing
- Chattanooga Campaign
- General Orders, No. 316 (U.S. War Department)
- George B. McClellan
- James Longstreet
- Ohio Volunteer Infantry
- Siege of Vicksburg
- Thomas Ewing Jr.
- Thomas Ewing Sr.
- Vicksburg Campaign
- William S. Rosecrans
- William T. Sherman