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Bill Thayer

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 [decorative delimiter] Class of 1822

Vol. I

(Born D. C.)

David Hunter

(Ap'd D. C.)


Born July 21, 1802, Washington, DC.​a

Military History. — Cadet at the Military Academy, Sep. 14, 1818, to July 1, 1822, when he was graduated and promoted in the Army to

Second Lieut., 5th Infantry, July 1, 1822.

Served: on frontier duty at Ft. St. Anthony, Min., 1823‑25, — Ft. Snelling, Min., 1825‑26, — Ft. Crawford, Wis., 1827, — Jefferson Barracks, Mo., 1828, — Ft. Dearborn, Ill., 1828‑31, — Ft. Winnebago, Wis.,

(First Lieut., 5th Infantry, June 30, 1828)

1832, — Ft. Howard, Wis., 1832‑33, — Jefferson Barracks, Mo., 1833, — Camp Jackson, I. T., 1833‑34, — Pawnee Expedition, 1834, — Camp

(Captain, 1st Dragoons, Mar. 4, 1833)

Jackson, I. T., 1834, Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1834‑35, — Expedition to Arkansas River, 1835, — and Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1835.

Resigned, July 4, 1836.

Re-appointed in the United States Army with the rank of

Major, Staff — Paymaster, U. S. Army, Mar. 14, 1842.

Served: on Paymaster duty, at Tallahassee, Fla., 1842, — Washington, D. C., 1842, — Ft. Smith, Ark., 1842‑46, — in the War with Mexico, as Chief Paymaster of General Wool's column on his march through Chihuahua, 1846, and of the Army of Occupation, 1847‑48, — at New Orleans, La., 1848‑49, — Washington, D. C., 1849‑50, — Detroit, Mich., 1850‑51, — New York, 1852‑56, — Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1856‑58, — St. Louis, Mo., 1858‑59, — and at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., 1859‑61.

Served during the Rebellion of the Seceding States, 1861‑66: in Defense

(Colonel, 6th Cavalry, May 14, 1861)

 p291  of Washington, D. C., May‑July, 1861; in command of division in the Manassas Campaign of July, 1861, being engaged in the Battle of Bull Run,

(Brig.‑General, U. S. Volunteers, May 17, 1861)

Va., July 21, 1861, where he was wounded; in the Defenses of Washington,

(Major‑General, U. S. Volunteers, Aug. 13, 1861)

D. C., July‑Nov., 1861; in command of the Western Department, Nov. 2‑9, 1861, — of the Department of Kansas, Nov. 20, 1861, to Mar. 11, 1862, — and of the Department of the South, Mar. 31 to Sep. 3, 1862, being present at the Bombardment and Reduction of Ft. Pulaski, Ga., Apr. 10‑11, 1862; on leave of absence, Sep. 3‑23, 1862; on Military Commission, Sep. 23, 1862, to Jan. 21, 1863; in command of the Department of the South, Jan. 21 to June 3, 1863; on Courts of Inquiry, June 3, 1863, to May 19, 1864; in command of the Department of West Virginia, May 19 to Aug. 8, 1864, being engaged in the Combat of Piedmont, June 5, 1864, — and in several skirmishes on the march to Staunton, June, 1864, — Destruction of the Military Institute at Lexington, June 12, 1864,​b — Action of Diamond Hill, June 17, 1864, — and Combat of Lynchburg, June 18, 1864; on leave of absence and awaiting

(Bvt. Brig.‑General U. S. Army, Mar. 13, 1865,
for Gallant and Meritorious Services at the Battle of Piedmont, and during the Campaign in the Valley of Virginia)

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

orders, Aug. 8, 1864, to Feb. 1, 1865; on Court-martial duty, Feb. 1 to May 9, 1865; on Military Commission for the trial of the conspirators in the assassination of President Lincoln, May 9 to July 6, 1865, — in awaiting orders, July 6, 1865, to Aug. 6, 1866; as President of Special Claims

(Mustered out of Volunteer Service, Jan. 15, 1866)

Commission, Aug. 6, 1866, to Dec. 31, 1867, — and of Board for the Examination of Officers promoted to the Cavalry arm of service, Aug. 16, 1866, to Jan. 16, 1868.

Retired from Active Service, July 31, 1866, under the Law of July 17, 1862, he being over "the Age of 62 Years."

Civil History. — Member of the Board of Visitors to the U. S. Military Academy, 1869.

Died, Feb. 2, 1886, at Washington, D. C.: Aged 84.

See Annual Association of Graduates, U. S. M. A., 1886, for an obituary notice.º

Buried, Princeton Cemetery, Princeton, NJ.

Biographical Sketch.

Bvt. Major‑General David Hunter, born in 1802, was the son of a Chaplain in the United States Army. Little is known of his early life before entering the Military Academy, from which he was graduated, July 1, 1822, and promoted to the Fifth Infantry, with which he served till appointed Captain, Mar. 4, 1833, in the First Dragoons, with which regiment he continued till his resignation from the Army, July 4, 1836. During his fourteen years of service, he was actively engaged, on the extreme Western frontier, in protecting settlements, fighting Indians, and enduring all the hardships and privations of border life.

After the next six years, spent in civil pursuits, the passion for his former vocation so revived that he entered the Pay Department of the Army, Mar. 14, 1842, with the rank of Major, in which position he proved himself a most energetic and efficient officer, particularly during the War with Mexico.

Before the outbreak of the Rebellion, Hunter, believing conspirators designed preventing the journey of the President-elect to Washington,  p292 communicated his fears to Mr. Lincoln, and was one of his escort from Springfield, Ill., as far as Buffalo, N. Y., where, in the pressure of the crowd, his collar-bone dislocated. After Lincoln's inauguration, General Scott assigned Hunter to the charge and protection of the President's house and person, in which duty he was assisted by a body of gentlemen volunteers till the high-wrought excitement subsided.

When active hostilities became imminent, Hunter was appointed, May 14, 1861, Colonel of the newly created Sixth Cavalry, and soon after was placed in command of the right division of the Army of the Potomac, with which he was engaged in the Battle of Bull Run, where he was severely wounded and compelled to leave the field. His gallantry and energy here displayed led to his immediate promotion to be Brigadier-General, U. S. Volunteers, and soon after to be a Major-General.

As soon as he had sufficiently recovered from his wound, Hunter was assigned to duty under General Fremont in Missouri, and Nov. 2, 1861, succeeded him in the command of the Western Department, and on the accession of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Halleck to be its chief, Hunter, Nov. 20, 1861, took charge of the Department of Kansas. Here, having no enemy to encounter, he promptly responded to the call for troops to assist General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant. "To you," said General Halleck, "more than any other man in this Department, are we indebted for our success at Fort Donelson. In my strait for troops to reinforce General Grant, I appealed to you. You nobly and generously placed your forces at my disposition. This enabled us to win the victory. Receive my most heartfelt thanks."

In March, 1862, Hunter took command of the Department of the South, where he showed his determined hostility to slavery by declaring martial law in South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, saying in his order, "Slavery and martial law in a free country are altogether incompatible. The persons in these three states heretofore held in slavery are therefore declared forever free." Though the President annulled this order, considering the time not yet ripe for such extreme measures, Hunter, nevertheless, organized a black regiment, the first in the National service. This exciting the ire of a Kentucky member of Congress, an explanation was demanded of Hunter. In the General's reply, he says, "No regiment of fugitive slaves has been or is being organized in this Department. There is, however, a fine regiment of persons whose last masters are fugitive rebels, men who everywhere fly before the appearance of the National flag, leaving their servants behind them to shift, as best they can, for themselves." When Hunter's response was communicated to Congress, it, instead of rebuking him, authorized the raising of 50,000 negro troops for the war. Of course the Confederate Government vented its wrath by declaring Hunter an outlaw, and decreeing that, if captured, he should be "held in close confinement for execution as a felon." Hunter, soon after, let the Confederates understand that he, as well as they, could play the same game.

From May 19 to Aug. 8, 1864, Hunter was in command of the Department of West Virginia, where he undertook a daring raid up the Shenandoah Valley "to the very walls of Lynchburg," during which he had many encounters with the enemy, and successfully destroyed much property, though it is questionable whether his fiery zeal did not push him beyond the strict lines of customary warfare. Of the severe criticisms made by our own people in this campaign, General Grant said: "I am sorry to see such a disposition to condemn a brave old soldier without a hearing. He is known to have advanced into the enemy's country toward their main army, inflicting a much greater damage upon them than have inflicted upon us with double our force, and moving directly away from our main army. . . . I fail to see yet that General Hunter has not acted with great promptness and great success. Even the enemy give  p293 him great credit for courage, and congratulate themselves that he will give them a chance of getting even with him."

This was the last field service of the old veteran, General Hunter being relieved of his command at his own request; but he was constantly employed upon important Courts-martial, Commissions, and Boards till retired from active duty, July 31, 1866. His long career of distinguished and meritorious services was rewarded by two brevets, of Brigadier and Major-General, U. S. Army.

General Halpine ("Miles O'Reilly"), who, on Hunter's staff, was on close and confidential relations with him, says of the General: "In my whole experience of human nature, and it has been exceedingly varied, the purest, gentlest, bravest, and most honest gentleman I have ever had the means of knowing thoroughly, is the officer in question. . . . David Hunter lives in my memory, and must while my memory lasts, as a character free from any vice, so incapable of any baseness that I have thought four years of life not wasted if only for making me by that experience to realize that such a manhood as his was yet possible in this soiled and dusty world."

Thayer's Notes:

a So Cullum and, possibly following him, Appleton's National Cyclopedia of American Biography. Online, however, a birthplace of Troy, NY is regularly found.

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b The Virginia Military Institute was not completely destroyed, but a great deal of damage was done by Hunter's Raid, much of it militarily unnecessary: see Superintendent Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Francis Henney Smith's letter of June 17, 1864, which also records a decent and gentlemanly act of Hunter's in the very same raid.

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