It is a notable thing to survive a major war. Veterans of these wars held in the highest esteem among other veterans — they have experienced things most could not imagine. Every once in a while, you will hear of veterans who served in two major conflicts. For example, due to their relatively close proximity to one another, there were several people who served in both WWI and WWII. For example, Gen. Patton was a tank commander in WWI and would go on to lead the Third and Seventh Armies in WWII.
However, many of us tend to think in terms of centuries and wouldn’t necessarily associate wars from the 1900s with wars from the 1800s. The Civil War was a long ways off from WWI — but the country’s history isn’t that long in general. 52 years prior to the first world war, America was embroiled in the most casualty producing war in its history by far: the Civil War.
Peter Conover Hains served in both of those wars.
Hains did not come from a long line of military men. He was born in 1840, the son of a shoemaker what had very little to his name. Still, he managed to find his way into West Point where he would be classmates with several famous names, including Major General George Custer, who would later be killed in “Custer’s Last Stand” at the Little Bighorn.
The photo on the left above was taken when Hains served as a 1st Lt. with the 2nd Regiment of Artillery of the Union Army, approximately a year into the Civil War. That year, 1862, he allegedly led men into 30 skirmishes and battles, and was commended and awarded for his bravery. It was he who ordered the first shot to be fired in the Battle of Bull Run, and was awarded for actions in the Battle of Hanover Church.
After some promotions, he worked directly under Gen. Grant. It was during the Siege of Vicksburg in Mississippi that many saw Hains had a knack for ingenuity and the creative application of technical military tools to solve problems. He was then transferred to the Army’s Corps of Engineers.
When the war was complete, Hains was tasked with building lighthouses under the U.S. Lighthouse Service, many of which still stand today.
From there, Hains completed a number of duties for the Army throughout the late 1800s. He had married an Admiral’s daughter and they moved as necessary for the military, both nationally and internationally.
Hains finally retired from active duty in 1904, but he wasn’t quite done yet.
He was 77 years old, a retired Major General with extensive combat and peacetime experience, and WWI shook the nation as the U.S. dove in headfirst in 1917. The military needed him back, and he answered the call. He served for a year during the war, staying stateside where he was the chief engineer at Naval Station Norfolk. His service there allowed for a younger officer to deploy overseas and fight in Europe. Maj. Gen. Hains retired (again) in 1918.
He died not long afterward in 1921. As far as anyone knows, he is the only person to have served in both the Civil War and the first World War.
Featured images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.