Alexander Hays was born on July 8, 1819, in Franklin, Pennsylvania, and obtained his early education at Venango Academy, Mercer Academy, and Allegheny College. He left college in his senior year to enter West Point, from which he was graduated toward the bottom of the class of 1844. Among his classmates were Simon B. Buckner and Winfield S. Hancock; in the preceding class was U. S. Grant, with whom Hays formed a lasting friendship. In the Mexican War, Hays won a brevet for gallantry but resigned in 1848 to engage in the iron business near Franklin. Unsuccessful here, he went to California in quest of gold and thereafter became a construction engineer specializing in bridge building in western Pennsylvania. At the outbreak of the Civil War he was living in Pittsburgh. He reentered the army as captain of the newly authorized 16th Infantry and as colonel of the 63rd Pennsylvania Volunteers. After a winter of training in the defenses of Washington, the 63rd Pennsylvania took part in the Peninsular campaign in the 1st Brigade of Kearny's division of Heintzelman's III Corps. Hays was brevetted major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel for gallantry on fields from Seven Pines to Gettysburg and was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on September 29, 1862. He was severely wounded at Second Manassas and did not take part in the Maryland campaign. After his recovery he was posted to the Washington defenses, where he remained until June, 1863. At this time Hays was assigned to command the 3rd Division of the II Corps, which he led at Gettysburg with conspicuous gallantry. The following spring, prior to the commencement of Grant's Overland campaign, the III Corps was merged into the II Corps. The three II Corps's divisions became two and because of seniority Hays was reduced to the command of a brigade of David B. Birney's division. On the morning of May 5, 1864, in the tangled Wilderness near the intersection of the Brock Road with the Orange Plank Road, Hays was killed by a Confederate bullet. Posthumously brevetted major general as of the day of his death, General Hays was buried in Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.