David Hunter, whose maternal grandfather, Richard Stockton, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in Washington on July 21, 1802. Cullum's Register states that "little is known of his early life before entering the Military Academy," from which he was graduated in 1822. Serving on frontier duty in what was then the Northwest—stationed at Fort Dearborn (Chicago) from 1828 to 1831 —he met and married the daughter of the city's first permanent resident, John Kinzie. He resigned in 1836 in order to speculate in Chicago real estate, but six years later returned to the army as paymaster with the staff rank of major. In 1860 Hunter, then stationed at Fort. Leavenworth, Kansas, initiated a correspondence with the newly elected President Lincoln, which won for him an invitation to travel on the inaugural train to Washington in February, 1861. Almost immediately he became a prime example of Lincoln's inability—at that stage of the war— to select officers for high command, for he was made the fourth ranking volunteer general. Hunter's Civil War record ranged from his order abolishing slavery in the Department of the South in March, 1862 (repudiated instantly by Lincoln) to his burning of the buildings of the Virginia Military Institute in 1864, following which he retired rapidly into the mountains of West Virginia. He had previously presided at the court-martial of Fitz John Porter—"organized to convict" as it was said—and would win the additional distinction of presiding at the trial of the Lincoln conspirators, Judge Advocate General Joseph Holt evidently feeling that he had a kindred spirit who could be depended upon to exclude all testimony favorable to the defense and unfavorable to summary execution. His confidence was not misplaced. Mrs. Surratt and three others were hurried to the gallows. Hunter accompanied the body of President Lincoln to Springfield. Hunter's field service embraced the First Manassas campaign, where he was wounded; the battle of Secession-ville, during which he unsuccessfully attempted to take Charleston; and the battle of Piedmont, after which he yielded up the Shenandoah Valley to, General Jubal Early, who promptly marched on Washington. In 1866 he was retired as colonel of cavalry with the brevets of brigadier and major general, U. S. Army. Thereafter he lived in Washington until his death on February 2, 1886; he was buried in Princeton, New Jersey.
Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.