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Wed, 07.21.1802

David Hunter, Abolitionist born

David Hunter

David Hunter was born on this date in 1802. He was a white-American soldier and abolitionist.

He was born in Washington, D.C. He graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1822 and saw action in the Seminole War (1838-42) and the Mexican War (1846-48).

A strong opponent of slavery, after the outbreak of the American Civil War, he joined the Union Army. He became a colonel and was severely wounded at Bull Run.  In March 1862, Hunter was appointed Commander of the Department of the South.

After the successful campaign at Fort Pulaski, he began enlisting Black soldiers in the occupied districts of South Carolina.  He was ordered to disband the 1st South Carolina (Black infantry) but got approval from Congress for his actions. Hunter said: "The persons in these three States, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina heretofore held as slaves, are therefore declared forever free."

President Lincoln ordered Hunter to retract his proclamation, and Jefferson Davis and the Confederate Army were furious when they heard of Hunter's actions.  Hunter also served on the court-martial of Fitz-John Porter and the committee that looked into the raid at Harpers Ferry.  After Lincoln was assassinated, he escorted his body to Springfield. President Andrew Johnson invited him to be a member of the nine-man military commission to judge the conspirators who assassinated President Lincoln. The trial began on May 10, 1865. Along with Hunter, the military commission included generals Lewis Wallace, Robert Foster, August Kautz, Thomas Harris, and Alvin Howe. Joseph Holt and John Bingham were the government's chief prosecutors.

The prosecution did not reveal the diary taken from the body of John Wilkes Booth. The diary made it clear that the assassination plan was dated April 14.  The defense surprisingly did not call for Booth's diary to be produced in court. On June 29, 1865, Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, George Atzerodt, David Herold, Samuel Mudd, Michael O'Laughlin, Edman Spangler, and Samuel Arnold were found guilty of the conspiracy to murder Abraham Lincoln.  Surratt, Paine, Atzerodt, and Herold were hanged at Washington Penitentiary on July 7, 1865.

Surratt was the first woman in American history to be executed.  David Hunter died in Washington on February 2, 1886.

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