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The Tale of Hawkins' Run

The 9th New York volunteers (Hawkins Zouaves) were a distinguished and successful unit, a US Civil War precursor to later “Special Forces” troops.  Commanded by Colonel Rush C. Hawkins, the Zouaves saw action throughout Virginia and North Carolina in 1861-62.

As the story is told:
In December 1862 Hawkins received orders to have his troops "with all possible haste and alacrity" report to General Burnside and the Army of the Potomac in crossing the Rappahannock river for an assault on Fredericksburg. Landing his troops at Harper's Ferry, Colonel Hawkins immediately undertook a series of forced marches of between 30-40 miles per day (20 miles was the recommended standard at the time).

Upon arrival in Fredericksburg near dusk on December 14th Hawkins, although expecting to be able to rest his men, was commanded to have his unit immediately join the fray in support of Burnside’s beleaguered troops. The results were predictable and their defeat was the final action of the Battle for Fredericksburg as Burnside withdrew the next day attributing their loss, as much as possible, to the Zouaves’ lack of readiness for combat.  

The Civil War was also referred to as "the War Between Brothers" and it is possible that Col. Hawkins was related to the Hawkins family still residing in the South (at that time farmers, albeit a large and well off farming family).  

The local Hawkins family saw their true rise with the birth of George Washington Hawkins in 1848. Although we cannot find record of his serving during the Civil War, it is not unlikely that he was familiar with stories of Hawkins' "Run" from Harper's Ferry to Fredericksburg and later, when he became a wealthy and famous builder in a Virginia run by Northerners and Carpet Baggers, that he had the influence to have a local stream running into the Hazel River named "Hawkins Run" in a tongue-in-cheek commemoration (and back-handed snub to the North) of his "famous" relative's role in the South's victory at Fredericksburg. 

As for Col. Hawkins? His experience with General Burnside may have been the reason that he suddenly became a vocal and outspoken critic of the Union Army’s policies of “promoting to Command rank, men of family name and wealth, without regards to their abilities or fitness for position”.  In 1863 he was charged with insubordination and summarily mustered out of service.  

Despite the circumstances behind his removal, some of his writings on policy later came to the attention of Abraham Lincoln and, in 1865, Hawkins was appointed Brevet Brigadier General in the NY Militia.

In 1872 Hawkins was elected to the NY State Assembly and was an avid rare books and art collector. 

In Oct, 1920 at the age of 89 he was struck down and killed by a car as he was crossing the street outside his 5th Ave home in New York City.