Gen. Henry Jackson Hunt (USA)

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Henry Jackson Hunt

Birthdate: (69)
Birthplace: Detroit Barracks, Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan
Death: February 11, 1889 (69)
Washington, D.C.
Place of Burial: US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery Washington District of Columbia District Of Columbia
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Wellington Hunt and Julia Hunt
Husband of Mary Bethune Hunt
Father of John Elliot Hunt
Brother of Gen. Lewis Cass Hunt (USA)

Managed by: Private User
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About Gen. Henry Jackson Hunt (USA)

Henry Jackson Hunt (September 14, 1819 – February 11, 1889) was Chief of Artillery in the Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. Considered by his contemporaries the greatest artillery tactician and strategist of the war, he was a master of the science of gunnery and rewrote the manual on the organization and use of artillery in early modern armies. His courage and tactics affected the outcome of some of the most significant battles in the war.

Hunt was born in the frontier outpost of Detroit, Michigan, the son of Samuel Wellington Hunt, a career infantry officer. He was named after his uncle, Henry Jackson Hunt, who was the second mayor of Detroit. As a child in 1827, he accompanied his father on the expedition to the future Kansas Territory that founded Fort Leavenworth. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1839 as a brevet second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Artillery. He served in the Mexican War under Winfield Scott, and was appointed a brevet captain for gallantry at Contreras and Churubusco and to major at Chapultepec. Hunt served with the 2nd U.S. Artillery during the Utah War in 1857 against the Mormons. His permanent (regular army) promotions to captain and major were in 1852 and 1861, respectively.

In 1856 Hunt was a member of a three-man board that revised field artillery drill and tactics for the army. The Instructions for Field Artillery manual written by the three (Hunt, William H. French, and William F. Barry) was published by the War Department in 1861 and was the "bible" of Northern field artillerists during the war. He was a principal proponent of the organizational doctrine that allowed infantry brigades to retain artillery batteries for close-in support, but that moved batteries formerly assigned to divisions and corps to an Artillery Reserve at the army level for more strategic control.

Hunt was also a proponent of artillery practices that reflected his conservative nature. Although acknowledging the power of massed batteries to repel infantry assaults (such as at Malvern Hill or against Pickett's Charge in the Battle of Gettysburg), he urged his gun crews to fire slowly and deliberately and reprimanded them if they exceeded an average of one shot per minute. He believed that faster rates impaired accurate targeting and depleted ammunition faster than could be replenished. A story often told about Hunt was when he exclaimed to a gunner of a fast-firing gun, "Young man, are you aware that every round you fire costs $2.67?" Fast firing also implied to him that the gun crew was not brave enough to stand fast on the battlefield, wanting to get back behind the lines for resupply.

Hunt achieved some fame in the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861, when his four-gun battery covered the retreat of a Union force with a close-in artillery duel. He soon afterward became chief of artillery in the Department of Northeast Virginia, defending Washington, D.C.

As a colonel on the staff of Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, Hunt organized and trained the artillery reserve of the Army of the Potomac and fought with it in the Peninsula Campaign. Throughout the war he contributed more than any officer to the effective employment of the artillery arm. With the artillery reserve at the Battle of Malvern Hill, his 340 guns repelled repeated Confederate infantry assaults with such gruesome efficiency that the Union infantry had little to do. He personally commanded a group of 60 guns that he employed as if they were a single battery (usually Union batteries contained six guns).

On September 15, 1862, the day after the Battle of South Mountain, Hunt was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and McClellan assigned him as chief of artillery in the Army of the Potomac for the imminent Battle of Antietam, where he deployed the Artillery Reserve to great effect. At the Battle of Fredericksburg in December, his gun emplacements on Stafford Heights effectively eliminated any possibility that Gen. Robert E. Lee could counterattack Union forces across the Rappahannock River.

In the run-up to the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, Hunt fell out of favor of Army of the Potomac commander Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker and lost direct command of the Artillery Reserve, reducing him in effect to an administrative staff role. The lack of coordination of the artillery forces that resulted from this snub were well recognized as a contributing factor in the embarrassing Union defeat. Although Hooker restored Hunt's command after three days of battle, it was too late to affect the outcome.

Hunt's most famous service in the war was at the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863. His new commander, Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, had considerably more respect for Hunt and not only gave him great latitude in directing the artillery, but also used him on occasion as his personal representative. For example, on July 2, Meade sent Hunt to visit III Corps commander Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles in an attempt to get his defensive lines to conform to orders. (Sickles' insubordinate movement from Cemetery Ridge, where he had been ordered to defend, to the Peach Orchard caused considerable difficulty for the entire Union defense.) Hunt was unable to influence the irascible political general, but his masterful analysis of terrain and placement of batteries on the ridge were important factors in the Union's eventual success on the second day. His handling of the artillery was conspicuous in the repulse of Pickett's Charge on July 3. With the Union line on Cemetery Ridge under massive bombardment, Hunt was able to resist command pressure that would have expended all his ammunition in counter-battery fire, reserving sufficient amounts for anti-personnel fire in the attack he knew was coming. His orders to cease firing (despite the strong orders of fiery II Corps commander Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock) fooled the Confederates into thinking his batteries were destroyed and triggered their disastrous charge. His concealed placement of Lt. Col. Freeman McGilvery's batteries north of Little Round Top caused massive casualties in the infantry assault. He was rewarded for his service with the brevet of colonel in the regular army. Hunt reported in detail on the artillery's role at Gettysburg.

The rest of the war was an anticlimax for Hunt. He served in Virginia to the end of the war, managing the siege operations of Petersburg in 1864 and 1865. He attained the brevet ranks of major general of volunteers and brigadier general in the regular army.

When the U.S. Army was reorganized in 1866, Hunt became colonel of the 5th U.S. Artillery and president of the permanent Artillery Board. He held various commands until 1883, when he retired to become governor of the Soldiers' Home in Washington, D.C.. He died in 1889 and is buried in the Soldiers' Home National Cemetery.

In addition to Instructions for Field Artillery, Hunt was the author of papers on Gettysburg in the Battles and Leaders series. His brother, Lewis Cass Hunt (1824–1886), served throughout the Civil War in the infantry, becoming brigadier general of volunteers in 1862, and brevet brigadier general of regulars in 1865.

Hunt is featured prominently in the alternate history novel Gettysburg: A Novel of the Civil War by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. He also appears in the sequel novels of the series, Grant Comes East and Never Call Retreat: Lee and Grant: The Final Victory.

Civil War Union Brigadier General. Born in Detroit Barracks, Michigan, which was the military outpost there, he was the son of Samuel Wellington Hunt, an infantry officer. He was named for his uncle, who was the second Mayor of Detroit. He attended West Point where he became interested in service with the new light artillery, graduating 19th in his class in 1839. On the eve of civil war, he held the rank of Major, and had served on a board to revise light artillery tactics.

He was considered one of the foremost authorities on artillery. Under fire at First Bull Run, he acted coolly and competently, using his artillery to turn back a Confederate assault on the left flank that might have finished the beaten Federals. When Major General George B. McClellan took command of the Army of the Potomac, he demonstrated his faith in him by promoting him to Colonel and putting him in charge of the Artillery Reserve, an idea he had masterminded. He returned the favor by continued loyalty to "Little Mac" long after it became politically inappropriate. He served notably on the peninsula, where his Artillery Reserve smashed General Robert E. Lee's assault on Malvern Hill. Promoted to Brigadier General and Chief of Artillery on September 15, 1862, he led his guns into battle at Antietam harassed by uncooperative infantry commanders. At Fredericksburg his 147 guns were used to destroy the town but were unable to push the Confederates off Marye's Heights. In 1863 Major General Joseph Hooker chose to lessen his authority, then suffered a defeat caused in part by the ineffective artillery support of an arm reduced to chaos.
Restored to his command by Major General George G. Meade at Gettysburg, he mustered the 70 Cemetery Hill guns that threw back Pickett's Charge. This action proved to be the height of his career. Under Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant he remained Chief of Artillery until 1864, when he was put in command of siege operations at Petersburg. Throughout the war his attempts to make the artillery an independent branch were hampered by infantry commanders who bitterly attacked him, feeling they should have complete control of the artillery. Though brevetted a Major General, he reverted to the rank of Colonel at war's end. He served with the Regular Army and after retirement became governor of the Soldiers' Home in Washington D.C., where he later died and now rests
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Gen. Henry Jackson Hunt (USA)'s Timeline

September 4, 1819
Detroit Barracks, Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan
February 11, 1889
Age 69
Washington, D.C.
US Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery Washington District of Columbia District Of Columbia