Chester A. Arthur,
President of the U. S.
The approaching retirement of Gen'l McDowell will create a vacancy among the Maj. Gen'ls and one among the Brig. Gen'ls of the Army. I feel it my duty to lay before you the claims of one of the most meritorious of the General officers of the Army of the Potomac to one of the vacancies. I refer to Henry J. Hunt Col. of the 5th U.S. Artillery and a Bret. Maj. Gen'l. He graduated from Mil. Academy in 1839, and served through the Mexican war as 1st Lieut. of Duncan's Light Battery, receiving the Brets. of Capt. and Maj. for his gallantry. When ordered to Wash. in 1861, and entering upon the organization of the A. of P., I selected Hunt, then Maj. 5th U. S. Artillery, to command the Reserve Artillery. He organized the Reserve of 100 guns and commanded them during the Peninsula campaign. At its close I made him Chief of Artillery of the A. of P.; this post he held until the and of the war. The command he thus exercised was quite equal in importance to that of an army corps, and frequently called for more hard work and for greater administrative ability. His work was not confined to administrative duties, but on every battle field of any importance he displayed not merely the habitual gallantry of the soldier, but the highest military qualities of a General of Artillery.
My opinion was that he was as good a Chief of Artillery as it was possible to have, and I doubt whether he had his superior in the field in any European Army. Remaining in the Artillery he abandoned those chances, certainties rather, of promotion which accrued to those Artillery officers who accepted higher commands in the Infantry and Cavalry than their own arm afforded; consequently, although he is longer in the service than other possible candidate, men once his juniors now rank him as Colonels.
I am confident that your Excellency would not consider it just to ignore the services of such an officer, because his devotion to his own arm and his admirable services therein, gave his juniors the opportunity of outranking him.
He will soon reach the age fixed for compulsory retirement, and this is the last chance for his attaining the substantial recognition of his services by promotion. Should he not be promoted now, the record will show that the man who commanded the Artillery of the Army of the Potomac from South Mountain to Appomattox, who rendered extraordinary services in so many campaigns and on so many fields, who sacrificed his hopes of advancement to his sense of duty to his own arm, will end his life as a retired Colonel! Again, I think that there is now no General officer on the list made such as a reward for his services in the Artillery and it would appear to be a proper recognition of the gallantry and efficiency of that arm of service to appoint Col. Hunt -- essentially an Artillery officer -- to one of the vacancies about to occur. As the earliest and only surviving commander of the Army of the Potomac, I venture to ask your Excellency's favorable consideration upon my most earnest appeal in behalf of its Chief of Artillery, whose only reward, thus far, has been an empty Brevet; and I make this appeal as a measure of justice to the Army which I had the honor to organize and to command when it first met an enemy in battle.
I have the honor to be, most
respectfully and truly your
Fxcellency's ob't serv't,
Geo. B. McClellan.