Peter Hunter, City’s Only Living Civil War Veteran Wanted to Fight Spaniards
Submitted by Martha J. Kounse
Joined Union Army in Greenup, age of 16 years
“There is something about a soldier that is fine, fine, fine.”
The writer who penned those words covered the nation’s defenders in all wars, but he must have specifically had in mind, those veterans of the civil war. For around them was and is a halo of romance, rugged individuality, a bit of humor and perhaps a touch or two of blarney.
The ill-trained troops of the Revolution made possible the birth of a nation but those who served in the Union forces of the Civil war preserved a nation. And the daily passing of these veterans, along with those courteous, courageous members of the Confederate army-gallant even in defeat-will remove their last living testimonies of another romantic chapter in American history.
Peter Hunter of North Fifth street, tall, strong-voiced but a bit crippled by advancing infirmities of age, is Ironton’s last living veteran of the Civil war. And his history is one of patriotism, one of the reckless abandon of youth, the wild search for adventure and the blazing of trails that led to today’s rapidly developing America. He was 89 years old last week, received a happy remembrance from the Elk Lodge, in which he is a a life member, and hasn’t a worry in the world.
Though Peter Hunter’s memory flash visions of mounted infantry moving against confederates, the campaign against Gettysburg and the culmination of a three-day battle there river romance, the steady development of transportation.
Mr. Hunter was born in Maple Grove, WV on 9 March 1849. His grandparents were plantation owners of Eastern Virginia. Even though the family owned slaves, it was a house divided for Peter Hunter, his brother Joseph and his father-in-law Frank DeMaro, fought with Union forces, while his brother Sam joined the Confederates and was fatally injured in the Vicksburg siege. He was a cousin of the famed General Early of the Confederate forces.
Peter Hunter joined the Union army at the age of sixteen years at Greenupsburg, now Greenup, KY. He was assigned to Company K of the 53rd Kentucky Mounted Infantry and went into training at Lexington where ‘Hard tack, sou belly and coffee’ was the daily menu and a small four man tent was his home. Veterans were paid at the rate of $13 a month. “It was funny to watch us tumble from those tents at Roll Call,” reminiscences the aging veteran. He served for duration of the war under Colonel True, was ‘in’ on the history-making at Gettysburg and was discharged at Louisville. His life continued along its adventurous course for he immediately entered river service, as mate pilot and captain on tugs plying between the Kanawha River, Ohio River and Mississippi. He was united in marriage to Amelia DeMaro on November 8, 1877. She died twelve years ago. The family first resided in Ashland, then moved to Ironton and Mr. Hunter has been one of the city’s distinguished residents for well over a quarter century.
He remembers George and Bill Bay at the time they operated a store at Indian Guyan. Then they entered the river trade and among their boats were the J.C. Crosley, Falcon, the side-wheeler Scioto and others. The last boat operated by Mr. Hunter was the Corwn Hill but he still has a yearning for the river and not so many summer’s go launched upon an impromptu boar trip that had relatives in a three-day flurry until he had been located.
Followed Colorful River Career After the War
But even after the Civil War, then river service, failed to completely satisfy his yearning for action. He attempted to enlist for the Spanish-American war, was temporarily accepted and traveled as far as Ft. Thomas before being turned back due to his age and his family. He did have son, Henry, in that war and in 1917 has a son, James Hunter in the World War. His has been a patriotic family, and there comes a feeling of sorrow as he looks back upon the years and realizes he is the last of his ‘buddies’. The last Ironton wearer of the ‘little brown button’ that mark of service given every Union soldier by a grateful nation. All these G.A.R. Button were made from metal poured from rebel cannon, and ever veteran listed it among his most prized possessions. First Mr. Hunter wore his with John L. Ziegler, Post 92, G.A.R. at Kenova, being a charter member of that organization. Then he transferred to Dick Lambert Post of Ironton.
Mr. Hunter is the last of the Virginia family of Hunters, his parents and all his brother and sisters having preceded him in death. Two sons, Sam and Edgar, are dead, but four sons and one daughter, Mrs. Mary Hunter Sloan of Ironton and James Hunter of Ironton — of Columbus, John of Vermillion, Ohio and Charles, now in the east, are living.
Source: The Ironton Tribune, Sunday March 13, 1938