Hazen was born in Vermont and raised in Ohio. He graduated from West Point in 1855, served in the West before the Civil War, and held several important commands during the war. He returned to the West after the war, then was appointed Military Attache in Vienna by President Hayes, and observed the Russo-Turkish War. He became Chief Signal Officer in 1880. The ill-fated Greely expedition to Greenland fell under his command, and Hazen was highly critical of Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln's inaction and failure to provide rescue. Only seven of twenty-five expedition members survived. Hazen was reprimanded.
Biographical information, including Hazen's West Point diploma and commissions; correspondence from Hazen's military career, including letters from Daniel Webster, James A. Garfield, Abraham Lincoln, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Philip H. Sheridan; papers relating to the court martial of William W. Belknap, the former Secretary of War; family papers including some dating after Hazen's death; photographs, including cartes-de-visite and portrait photographs of Civil War officers and other persons, mostly unidentified; photographs of the Greely expedition to Greenland; stereographs; and publications.
William B. Hazen Papers, 1855-1909, Archives Center, National Museum of American History