A Civil War Biography

Alvin Peterson Hovey

Hovey was born on 6 (some sources say 26) September 1821 near Mount Vernon, Posey County, Indiana, the eighth child of impoverished pioneers who had migrated to Indiana to recover lost fortunes. He was educated in the common schools. An orphan at 15, Hovey started working as a bricklayer. He became a school teacher then taught himself the law using books borrowed from a local lawyer. He was admitted to the bar on 25 September 1842 and established a law practice.

He was commissioned a first lieutenant of a volunteer unit in the war with Mexico. The unit, however, never saw action. Hovey was elected to the Indiana Constitutional Convention of 1850. He served as a circuit court judge from 1851 until 1854 when he was named to the Indiana Supreme Court. He served as a US District Attorney for Indiana from 1856 until removed by President Buchanan in 1858. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1858. On 31 July 1861, because of Hovey's military record in the Mexican War and his political connections, he was commissioned the colonel of the 24th Indiana Volunteer Infantry regiment.

The regiment saw service in Missouri then Kentucky where it was organized under Ulysses S. Grant's command. At Shiloh the 24th was part of Lew Wallace's command which made a forced march to the field. For his service at Shiloh Hovey was promoted to brigadier general on 28 April 1862. He commanded a district in Arkansas during the fall of 1862. He commanded the 12th Division XIII Corps during the Vicksburg campaign and was singled out by Grant for his efforts at Champion Hill. In December 1863 Hovey was sent to Indiana to recruit and serve as a liaison between Grant and Governor Oliver P. Morton.

Hovey returned to the front in May 1864 for the Atlanta campaign during which he commanded the 1st Division of John M. Schofield's Army of the Ohio, designated the as XXIII Corps. In June Hovey returned to Indiana to recruit 10,000 new men who became known as "Hovey's Babies" because they all were unmarried. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 4 July 1864. William T. Sherman, assuming Hovey was off on some self-fulfilling political excursion dissolved the division in August 1864.

Hovey did not return to field duty, spending the rest of his military career in Indiana. He resigned in October 1865 and was appointed US minister to Peru that same year. He served in Peru until 1870 then returned to his law office in Mount Vernon. He turned down the Republican nomination for governor in 1872. He was elected to the US House of Representatives from Indiana's 1st district in 1886 and served from 4 March 1887 until resigning the office on 17 January 1889 having been elected governor of Indiana during the previous November election. He served as governor until he died in office 23 November 1891.

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