James M. Hawes, Confederate army officer, was born in Lexington, Kentucky, on January 7, 1824, and appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1841. He graduated twenty-ninth in his class in 1845 and was posted to the Second Dragoons as a brevet second lieutenant. He received promotions to second lieutenant on April 25, 1846, first lieutenant on January 13, 1850, and captain on December 13, 1855. In the Mexican War he received a brevet to first lieutenant for "gallant and meritorious conduct" at the battle of San Juan de los Llanos; he later served a two-year tour of duty at the cavalry school at Namur, France.
With the secession of the Southern states, Hawes resigned his commission on May 9, 1861, and briefly commanded the Second Kentucky Cavalry regiment before accepting a major's commission in the regular Confederate army. He rose quickly in rank, largely under the sponsorship of Albert Sidney Johnston. On March 5, 1862, Hawes was promoted to brigadier general and assumed command of the cavalry of the Western Department of the Confederacy. After the battle of Shiloh, he was relieved at his own request and received assignment to the command of a brigade under Gen. John C. Breckinridge. He later commanded a brigade of cavalry under Gen. Theophilus H. Holmes and took part in cavalry raids throughout Arkansas. At Pine Bluff, Arkansas, he succeeded Col. Overton C. Young as commander of the First Brigade of Walker's Texas Division, which he led at the battle of Milliken's Bend, Louisiana. On February 11, 1864, Hawes was relieved of command of the brigade at his own request and ordered to report to Gen. John Bankhead Magruder in Texas. On February 16 Gen. Richard Taylor requested that Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith retain Hawes in command of the First Brigade. "I have just made a minute inspection of Hawes' and Randal's brigades of this division," he wrote, "and have never seen any troops in finer condition. . . . General Hawes' brigade is in splendid order. A change would be very unfortunate." The order was not rescinded, however, and Hawes was placed in command of the fortifications and garrison of Galveston Island. Gen. Thomas N. Waul replaced Hawes as commander of the First Brigade.
At the end of the war Hawes engaged in the hardware business in Covington, Kentucky. He died on November 22, 1889, and is buried in Highland Cemetery, Covington.