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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1839

Vol. II

(Born Mich.)

Henry J. Hunt

(Ap'd O.)


Henry Jackson Hunt: Born Sep. 14, 1819.

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, Sep. 1, 1835, to July 1, 1839, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., 2d Artillery, July 1, 1839.

Served: on the Northern frontier during Canada Border Disturbances, at Detroit, Mich., 1839, — Buffalo, N. Y., 1839‑40, — and Sackett's Harbor, N. Y., 1840‑41; in garrison at Ft. Adams, R. I., 1841‑43, — Ft. Hamilton, N. Y., 1843‑44, — and Ft. Columbus, N. Y., 1844‑45; in conducting recruits, 1844‑45; in garrison at Ft. Adams, R. I., 1845‑46; on

(First Lieut., 2d Artillery, June 18, 1846)

Recruiting service, 1846; in the War with Mexico, 1846‑48, being engaged in the Siege of Vera Cruz, Mar. 9‑29, 1847, — Battle of Cerro Gordo, Apr. 17‑18, 1847, — Skirmish of Amazoque, May 14, 1847, — Capture of San Antonio, Aug. 20, 1847, — Battle of Churubusco, Aug. 20,

(Bvt. Capt., Aug. 20, 1847, for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct
in the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco, Mex.)

1847, — Battle of Molino del Rey, Sep. 8, 1847, where he was twice wounded, — Storming of Chapultepec, Sep. 13, 1847, — and Assault and

(Bvt. Major, Sep. 13, 1847,
for Gallant and Meritorious Conduct in the Battle of Chapultepec, Mex.)

Capture of the City of Mexico, Sep. 13‑14, 1847; in garrison at Ft. McHenry, Md., 1848‑49, — Ft. Monroe, Va., 1849‑53, — and Ft. Moultrie,

(Captain, 2d Artillery, Sep. 28, 1852)

S. C., 1853; on frontier duty at Ft. Smith, Ark., 1853, — and Ft. Washita, I. T., 1853‑56; as Member of Board to revise the system of Light Artillery Tactics, 1856‑57, and 1858‑60, which was adopted for the service of the United States, Mar. 6, 1860; on frontier duty at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., quelling Kansas Disturbances, 1857‑58, — and Ft. Kearny, Neb., 1858; and in garrison at Ft. Brown, Tex., 1860, — and Harper's Ferry, Va., 1861.

 p10  Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66; in the Defense of Ft. Pickens, Fla., Apr. 19 to June 28, 1861; in the Manassas

(Major, 5th Artillery, May 14, 1861)

Campaign of July, 1861, being engaged in the Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, in command of the Artillery on the extreme left; as Chief of Artillery in the defenses of Washington, D. C., south of the Potomac, July 23 to Sep. 13, 1861; in organizing Artillery Reserve of the Army

(Colonel, Staff — Additional Aide-de‑Camp, Sep. 28, 1861)

of the Potomac, 1861‑62; as President of the Board to test rifled field guns and projectiles, and Member of the Board for the Armament of Fortifications, 1861‑62; in the Virginia Peninsular Campaign (Army of the Potomac), Mar. to Aug., 1862, in command of the Reserve Artillery, being engaged in the Siege of Yorktown, Apr. 5‑May 4, 1862, — Battle of Gaines's Mill, June 27, 1862, — Action of Golding's Farm, June 27, 1862, — Battle of White Oak Swamp, June 28, 1862, — Action of Turkey Bend, June 30, 1862, — Battle of Malvern Hill, July 1, 1862, — and various Skirmishes; in the Maryland Campaign, Sep. to Dec., 1862, as Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the Battle of South Mountain, Sep. 14, 1862, — Battle of Antietam, Sep. 17, 1862, —

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Sep. 15, 1862)

Action on the Potomac, Sep. 19, 1862, — and march to Falmouth, Va., Oct.‑Nov., 1862; in the Rappahannock Campaign, Dec., 1862, to May, 1863, as Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the Battle and Operations at Fredericksburg, Dec. 11‑13, 1862, — Passage of the Rappahannock, Apr. 29, 1863, — and Battle of Chancellorsville, May 2‑4, 1863; in the Pennsylvania Campaign, June‑July, 1863, as Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg, July 2‑3, 1863, — and pursuit of the enemy to

(Bvt. Colonel, July 3, 1863,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pa.)

Warrenton, Va., July, 1863; in the Rapidan Campaign, being engaged

(Lieut.‑Colonel, 3d Artillery, Aug. 1, 1863)

in the Passage of the Rappahannock, Nov. 8, 1863, — and Operations at Mine Run, Nov. 28‑30, 1863; in the Richmond Campaign, Apr. 4, 1864, to Apr. 9, 1865, as Chief of Artillery of the Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 5‑6, 1864, — Battles about Spottsylvania, May 9‑20, 1864, — Battles of Cold Harbor, June 3‑5, 1864, — Siege of Petersburg, June 15, 1864, to Apr. 3, 1865, participating

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, July 6, 1864,
for Gallantry and Distinguished Conduct at the Battle of Gettysburg,
and for Faithful and Highly Meritorious Services in the Campaign from the Rapidan to Petersburg, Va.)

in the Assaults upon the enemy's lines, of June 16‑18, and July 30, 1864,

(Bvt. Brig.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services during the Siege of Petersburg,
and in the Campaign Terminating with the Surrender of the Insurgent Army under General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.R. E. Lee)

(Bvt. Maj.‑General, U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services in the Field during the Rebellion)

— Combat of Ft. Steadman, Mar. 25, 1865, — Assault of the enemy's lines, Apr. 1‑2, 1865, — Pursuit of the Rebel Army, Apr. 3‑9, 1865, — and Capitulation of General R. E. Lee, with the Army of Northern Virginia, at Appomattox C. H., Apr. 9, 1865; in command of Camp of Instruction  p11 for Field Artillery, near Bladensburg, Md., June to Aug., 1865, — and of the Frontier District of Arkansas, headquarters at Ft. Smith, Sep., 1865, to Apr., 1866; as President of Permanent Artillery Board, Jan. 30 to Dec. 31, 1866.

Mustered out of Volunteer Service, Apr. 30, 1866.

Served: as Member of Board for the Armament of Fortifications, Jan. 18 to Feb. 6, 1867; in command of Ft. Independence, Mas., Feb. 28 to Apr. 19, 1867, — of Ft. Sullivan, Me., Apr. 30, 1867, to Feb. 5, 1869,

(Colonel, 5th Artillery, Apr. 4, 1869)

— and Ft. Jefferson, Fla., Feb. 28 to Apr. 21, 1869; in command of regiment, headquarters Ft. Adams, R. I., May 20, 1869, to Nov. 30, 1875, and of District of North Carolina, July 28 to Sep. 13, 1870; as Member of Board to prepare Regulations for the Army, July 15, 1871, to May 17, 1872; in command of regiment, headquarters Charleston, S. C., Dec. 4, 1875, to July 27, 1876, and Summerville, S. C., July 27 to Nov. 18, 1876; at Washington, D. C., under orders of Secretary of War, Nov. 20, 1876, to Feb. 2, 1877; and in command of regiment, headquarters Charleston, S. C., Feb. 4 to Apr. 12, 1877 (on leave of absence, Apr. 12 to June 20, 1877), and June 20, 1877, to Apr. 21, 1879,​a and at Atlanta, Ga., to Jan. 6, 1881; and in command of the Department of the South, headquarters Newport Barracks, Ky., Jan. 6, 1881, to Sep. 14, 1883, — Governor of

(Retired from Active Service, Sep. 14, 1883, he being over 64 Years of Age)

Soldier's Home, near Washington, D. C., May 15, 1885, to Feb. 11, 1889.

Died, Feb. 11, 1889, at Soldier's Home, D. C.: Aged 70.

Buried, U. S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery, Washington, DC.

Biographical Sketch.

Bvt. Major-General Henry J. Hunt, the distinguished artillerist of the Civil War, was born Sept. 14, 1819, at Detroit, Mich. He was the grandson of Captain Thomas Hunt, who had served in the Revolution and was one of the original members of the Cincinnati.

When but eight years old, young Hunt accompanied his father, then a lieutenant in the Third Infantry, on the expedition that established Fort Leavenworth on the wilderness frontier; was subsequently sent to school in Missouri; and in 1839 was graduated from the Military Academy in the same class which gave to the army such noted soldiers as Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stevens, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Halleck, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ricketts, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ord, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Canby, etc.

Hunt's first duty in the Artillery, in which he was commissioned, was in suppressing Canada Border Disturbances, following which he was engaged in the usual routine duties of his arm of service till the Mexican War, when he became a First Lieutenant in Duncan's Light Battery, which had turned the tide of battle at Palo Alto. Here Hunt was in his true element, and won for himself and his battery a marked place in Scott's great campaign from Vera Cruz to the capital of the Montezumas. Actively engaged in every battle of that perilous invasion, and being twice wounded in the Storming of Molino del Rey, his conspicuous gallantry and meritorious conduct were rewarded by the brevets of Captain and Major.

After this war, Hunt's next prominent duty was as a member of the Board, 1856‑57 and 1858‑60, to revise the system of Light Artillery Tactics, subsequently adopted for the service of the United States. Previous to the appointment of this Board there was little, save Capt. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert Anderson's translations, in 1839, of the French tactics, followed, in 1845, by "Instructions for Field Artillery — Hospital and Foot." The experience of the Mexican War had shown these to be inadequate to our wants, and their deficiencies had now to be supplied by this Board, all the officers  p12 composing it — Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Barry, Hunt, and Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.French — having had varied and difficult artillery service in the field, and having given much thought to this subject, so vital to the entire Army. Hunt was untiring in his efforts to improve his arm of service, particularly the Light Artillery, both in organization and efficiency. His vigorous pen was never at rest, and he seized every opportune occasion to impress upon the authorities the needs of the artillery. No one had done more than he in this labor of love, which so opportunely bore fruit in the adoption of the tactics of this Board but a year before the Great Rebellion, where they were destined to accomplish so much for the renown of our arms.

Upon the outbreak of the Civil War an additional regiment of artillery was added to the Army, of which Hunt was appointed Major over the heads of many, senior in years but not in artillery experience, — an experience which, with the increment of four years of almost daily battle, made Hunt one of the foremost artillerists of his age. He began his brilliant career in the Defense of Fort Pickens, Fla., after which he was prominent in almost every operation of the Army of the Potomac, from the Battle of Bull Run to the Capitulation of Appomattox. During this event­ful period he was continuously engaged in perfecting the organization and efficiency of the artillery, was President of many important Artillery Boards, and became Chief of the Reserve, and then of the whole Artillery of the Army of the Potomac. It would be beyond the limits of this biographical sketch to detail all of Hunt's varied achievements in the Civil War, the most noted of which were at Malvern Hill, where he brought every battery into success­ful action; at Antietam, where he won the highest encomiums from his commanding general; at Fredericksburg, where, by his concentration of fire, he so skillfully covered the crossing of the Rappahannock; and at Gettysburg, where his watchful eye compassed the entire field of battle, divined the intentions of the enemy, and, at the critical moment of Pickett's desperate charge, hurled his thunderbolt of eighty guns against that devoted, forlorn column, ending the bloody tragedy by the signal triumph of our arms, expelling the invader from our soil, and securing the union of these United States. After this crowning victory Hunt continued as the efficient and trusted Chief of Artillery till the great death-struggle terminated, April 9, 1865. For his gallantry, meritorious conduct, and conspicuous services he was appointed Brigadier-General and made Bvt. Major-General, U. S. Volunteers, and received the brevets in the Regular Army of colonel, Brig.‑General, and Major‑General. Though these distinctions were great, he deserved still greater, for he had rendered services at least equal to those of a Corps Commander. After he was retired for age, Congress did him tardy justice by a bill conferring upon him the rank of Major-General on the retired list, which was unfortunately vetoed by the President.

After the Rebellion, Hunt, at the head of the Fifth Artillery, was the accepted authority in all artillery matters, and was relied upon to defend, by speech and pen, his favorite arm against all assaults. "His," says Capt. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Birkhimer, "was a powerfully analytical and logical mind, capable, apparently, of mastering any subject presented, and following it to first principles; and he never stopped short of this. His attainments were at once great and varied, making the acquirement of additional knowledge comparatively easy. His capacity for correspondence was wonder­ful, and his letters were such as men do not destroy, but file away where they can be got at again, because of the information they contain.

"As a writer it is questionable if he had his equal in the Army. Of him, as of Hamilton, it might have been said: 'If you put yourself on paper with him, you are gone.' His pen was always at the service of a friend, and it seemed to matter little what subject it touched, being equally potent with all. High as this praise is, it is strictly true.

 p13  "His reports and other official communications regarding the organization for and administration of artillery in campaign, its proper function in war and employment on the battlefield, — written during the Rebellion, — have never been surpassed, in either comprehensive grasp of the subject or its practically useful treatment, by any officer in the army. Some of them are masterpieces, and, as time goes on, are destined, in our service, to become classic."

After Hunt's retirement, in 1885, he was appointed Governor of the Soldiers' Home, near Washington city, where he spent his remaining days in administering to the wants of old soldiers, who, with him, had braved so many perils; in still advocating the claims of the artillery; in bestowing the genial sunshine of a kindly nature upon hosts of attached friends; and giving happiness and love to his family circle. He breathed his last February 11, 1889, and the Secretary of War, in his obituary order, says: "It is needless to recite his deeds; the army of to‑day know them; the army of the future will find them in history."

Thayer's Note:

a During this time, he served on the court-martial of Col. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Oliver Shepherd (q.v.).

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Page updated: 15 Jan 14