By John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard
This old time euphemism
has been attributed, by various sources, to numerous individuals, one of which
was Kentucky Adjutant General Samuel Ewing Hill, born on Jan. 30, 1844, in
Morgantown, Kentucky. Hill was appointed,
the 16th adjutant general by Gov. Simon Bolivar Buckner, serving in
the position from Sep. 30, 1887 to Aug. 30, 1891.
Hill was the
youngest of six children of Daniel S. and Malinda Ewing Hill, both of Butler County, Kentucky. In his youth, Sam was raised in Ohio County,
Kentucky, where he received his education in the old Harford Seminary. At the age of sixteen he began working on a
outbreak of the Civil War, Sam’s brother, John, organized Company G, Twelfth
Kentucky Cavalry, and U.S.A. Sam joined
his brother’s company on Aug. 20, 1862, at Owensboro, Kentucky, and was appointed
the orderly sergeant. On Nov. 18, 1863,
Captain John W. Hill, was killed in battle at Knoxville, Tennessee. Sam was elected captain upon the death of his
brother, and was referred to as the “boy captain,” as his commission was given
a few days prior to his 20th birthday.
service Hill attained many accomplishments including: the pursuit of Confederate
Cavalry leader, Gen. John Hunt Morgan during his Indiana-Ohio raid; his company
served under Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside, in eastern Tennessee, 1863-1864; as well
as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman in the Atlanta campaign in 1864. His company participated in Gen. George
Stoneman’s expedition and raid on Saltville, Virginia in 1864, and served in
several other engagements during the war.
It was noted that Capt. Hill never missed a campaign with his company or
spent a day in the hospital. By war’s
end he had received a brevet promotion to major.
Maj. Hill and
his command were mustered out of the service at Louisville, Kentucky, on August
23, 1865. Sam returned to Hartford after
the war and entered the law office of the Honorable Henry D. McHenry. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar in the
spring of 1866, continuing his studies until October of that year, when he was
admitted to the senior class of the Louisville Law School. He graduated in the spring of 1867, receiving
the degree of Bachelor of Laws.
Returning to Hartford he entered into partnership with Judge Jesse W.
Kincheloe, a partnership which lasted until Jan. 1872, when he entered into
partnership with his former mentor, H. D. McHenry, with whom he remained for
several years. On Oct. 12, 1869, Hill
married, Naomi Baird, of Hartford.
into politics and in 1877, was elected state senator from Ohio County, serving
until 1881. His eight senatorial
district was composed of Ohio, Butler and Muhlenberg Counties. In 1885, he was again elected to the same
office and served until 1887. He served
as chairman of the joint committee on education in the Kentucky General
Assembly and was a member of two of the law committees of the state senate. For many years he served as a member of the state
and county Democratic committees. In
1882 and 1887, there had been talk of Hill running for lieutenant governor, it
was not until the 1887 election that he formally announced himself as a
candidate for the position, however he soon withdrew claiming he did not have
the time to campaign.
On Aug. 30,
1887, Simon Bolivar Buckner was sworn in as the 30th governor of
Kentucky, one of his first appoints was that of Hill as the adjutant general. During the Civil War, Buckner had served as a
general in the Confederate Army, while Hill had served on the side of the
Union. At the time of his appointed,
Hill was a state senator. An uproar in
some papers across the state called for Hill’s resignation as senator, at the
time, Hill could legally hold both offices.
Due to the continued pressure from the media, Hill resigned his senatorial
seat on Dec. 1, 1887.
took office a number of feuds had been raging for a number of years in eastern
Kentucky. The governor immediately began
receiving pressure from the citizens and political parties in the state to put
an end to the on-going violence.
Soon after his
appointment as adjutant general, Gov. Simon Bolivar Butler directed Hill to go
to Rowan County to learn the history of the feuds, the current situation and
what could be done to put an end to the fighting once and for all.
Newspapers around the country were
attentive to Hill’s mission and eagerly awaited word of what was happening in
the hills of eastern Kentucky. As time
passed, with no word, journalists and the public were asking,
"What in Sam Hill is going on up there?"
Soon after his investigation of the
situation in Rowan County, Hill submitted his findings and recommendations to
the Governor. [See Hill’s Report to Gov. Buckner.]
tenure as the adjutant general, Hill had faced numerous issues from the feuds
which had plagued the state for a number of years, civil and political
disturbances, and natural disasters. Hill
would make numerous trips to Washington, attempting to acquire Kentucky’s
$600,000 Civil War claim. Additionally,
his office accomplished the publication of the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kentucky Mexican War
Veterans in 1889, and Roster of the
Volunteer Officers and Soldiers from Kentucky in the War of 1812-1815, in
When Hill left
the adjutant general position in 1891, he had left a favorable impression on
the citizens of the state, as reflected in various newspaper accounts:
From The Ohio County News (Hartford, KY), Sep.9,
1891, p. 2.
Our State Capital. Sep. 3, 1891.
. . . Among the retiring state
officials, none are more popular than Adjutant General Hill. He is popular not only with officials, but
with the whole state Guard force, officers and privates. His administration of the affairs of his
department has been characterized by sound judgement at all times. He assumed the duties of his office when eastern
Kentucky was in perpetual feud and turmoil, and several trips he was compelled
to make into that section accompanied by detachments of state Guards before
peace finally took permanent residence there.
The militia fund was low when he entered upon his duties, but by
judicious management and good business methods, he is able to turn over to
Adjutant General Gross the neat sum of ten thousand dollars. The condition of the State Militia has steadily
improved under his administration, so much so that many admiring friends are
heard to say he is the best adjutant general Kentucky has ever had. He and his cultivated and interesting family
move to Lexington the 5th inst. [September], where he will form a
law partnership with ex-treasurer Sharpe.
service as the adjutant general, Hill returned to the practice of law. In 1892, he moved to and set his practice at
Lexington, Kentucky, becoming one of the most prominent figures at the Fayette
1895, he was elected president of the newly organized Twelfth Kentucky Cavalry
Association. In 1897, he was appointed United
States Commissioner by President Grover Cleveland and re-appointed by
Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, an office he held until his
death at the age of sixty on May 30, 1904.
He was buried in the Lexington Cemetery, next to his wife, Naomi Baird Hill. The Hills had three daughters, Elizabeth Hill Lancaster, Mary Lawrence Hill France and Effie Hill Young.
Samuel Hill’s legacy of military
service was carried on by his grandson, Col. Ewing Hill France (Class of 1924),
and great-grandson, Samuel Ewing Hill France (Class of 1946), both graduates of
the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.
Today, the Samuel Ewing Hill home built in 1871, located on Union Street in Hartford, Kentucky, is a historical landmark.