|James Kendall Hunter|
We do not have much information regarding the early years of James K. Hunter, his childhood, upbringing or education but it appears that he inherited his father’s sense of business. In 1850, he was still living with his parents, working as a laborer. Ten years later, James K. Hunter was a substantial land owner in his own right, listing $3800 real estate and $1660 personal property in the 1860 Morgan County Census. On January 20, 1859, ready to support a wife and family of his own, he married Mary “Polly Ann” Clevenger, the 14 year old daughter of Pleasant Clevenger and wife Margaret Hamilton, in Morgan County, Kentucky. This marriage lasted only a few months. In absence of records we are only able to speculate what happened to Mary but it is entirely possible that she died, perhaps from complications of pregnancy or childbirth.
James K. Hunter did not mourn the loss of Polly Ann for very long and soon was courting Edy Howard, the 17 year old daughter of Dyer Howard and Celia “Sealie” Adkins. There is no record for this marriage, but by June of 1860, James K. Hunter was living with his new wife Edy and four month old daughter Almarinda, in District One of Morgan County, near Gordon Ford in Horseshoe Bend of Licking River.
The following year, the dark clouds of war soon overshadowed Hunter’s happy home life. In early fall of 1861, James K. Hunter began raising a company of volunteers for the Confederate Army. James H. Morgan, a Morgan County resident who later had to flee from the rebels and live as a refugee in Greenup County, stated that, “about Oct 1, 1861 James Hunter, in Company with some others took affiants gun from him. Hunter was then in the Rebel service, & from the information I had was a Captain in the Rebel Army.” A good portion of Hunter’s men came from the Middle Fork District in Morgan County, KY. He was joined in his recruiting efforts by his brother-in-law Peter M. Fannin, husband of his sister Nancy.
On October 21, 1861, the company was enlisted in the Confederate service at West Liberty by Andrew Jackson May. Two days later, federal troops under General William "Bull" Nelson captured West Liberty and the Confederates were forced to beat a hasty retreat to Prestonsburg. It was here, on October 25, 1861, that James K. Hunter and his men were sworn into the service by Lt. R. B. Howard. His company became Co. B of the 5th KY Mounted Infantry, commanded by Colonel John S. Williams. Hunter was elected Captain, Henry T. Stanton, a young lawyer from Maysville , 1st Lieutenant, and both Joseph Adkins and Peter M. Fannin, 2nd Lieutenants.
The following month, after the Battle of Ivy Mountain on November 8, 1861, the Confederates retreated into Southwestern Virginia, while the 5th KY Infantry encamped at Pound Gap. After nearly a month, Confederate forces, including the 5th KY Infantry, under command of Brig. Gen. Humphrey Marshall, re-entered Eastern Kentucky and slowly proceeded down the Big Sandy Valley. By December 1861, a camp was set up at Hager Hill, in Johnson County, near Paintsville where more recruits were received and supplies were gathered. Captain James K. Hunter arranged to have 122 hogs driven to camp which he sold to the CS Government for a whopping $1,151.76 on January 4, 1862.
|Receipt for $1,151.76 for 122 hogs|
What happened next was unexpected and is truly inexplicable. Within a matter of days, Captain Hunter deserted his men and his regiment and returned home to Morgan County. Why he did not simply choose to resign instead of deserting his men is hard to explain. Was he pressed by some urgent matter, was he physically unable to withstand the rigors of campaigning and military life, or did he become disillusioned with the Southern cause? Or were his actions due to pressure by his family who were, for the most part, Union supporters? After all, during the course of the Civil War, no less than three of James K. Hunter’s brothers, four nephews and one brother-in-law enlisted in the Union Army.* His father Francis was also known to be a loyal man. Unfortunately, the records are silent and void of any reasonable explanation.
|Company Muster Roll, Co. B|
5th KY Infantry (CS)
Dec. 31, 1861 - Apr. 30, 1862
Head Quarters 18th Brigade
Camp Buell Feb 13 1862
James K. Hunter of Morgan county Ky having come into camp and taken an oath of allegiance to the Government of the United States and entered into bonds to remain a true and faithful citizen. (He) thereof is hereafter considered as under the protection of the Federal Army and will in no way be molested so long as he shall remain at home a peaceable citizen.
By order of
Col. J. A. Garfield
W. H. Clapp
A. A. G.
|Garfield's order dated Feb. 13, 1862|
Another child was welcomed into the family who was named Jefferson Davis Hunter. The first name is an interesting choice but in absence of an exact birth date it remains unclear if the child was named before or after his father’s desertion from the Confederate Army.
At the beginning of August 1862, the State of Kentucky was threatened by a massive Confederate invasion under Generals Bragg, Kirby Smith and Humphrey Marshall.
On September 17, 1862, Marshall’s men, including Hunter’s former regiment, the 5th KY Infantry, arrived in Morgan County, and, “marched thru West Liberty with a brass band and drum and fife in great pomp.” The soldiers received a warm welcome. James K. Hunter, however, may have looked upon this spectacle with mixed feelings. Captain Joseph Adkins, who was now commanding Hunter’s Company B, promptly stopped at Hunter’s home and arrested him, and, according to Davidson Davis, “forced him of as a prisoner much against his will.” James M. Gray, Hunter’s neighbor, stated, “that he was present at J. K. Hunters and seen him taken off under an arrest by some of Capt Adkins Company of Gen Marshals.” F. C. Walsh later saw, “a portion of the soldiers of the Confederate Army as they passed through West Liberty. James Hunter, was with a lot of soldiers I saw He was acting with them but in what Capacity, I did not hear any one say; don't know that he was captain.” Jackson B. Ward and Benjamin F. Crawford stated that Hunter was taken “away by the Rebels a prisoner”.” Jesse K. Howard noted that, “Men under Colonel May of the Rebel army arrested James K Hunter and took him off to the Rebel Army and he was then dismissed and allowed to Come back home.” Eyewitnesses such as Davidson Davis and James M. Gray added that Hunter was gone “some ten or twelve days.”
After his return to Morgan County, James K. Hunter went into the horse trading business with Jesse K. Howard. At the end of 1862, Hunter and Howard proceeded to Greenup County and lodged at Seymore Harding’s hotel in Greenupsburg, waiting to board a steamship to Cincinnati. According to Harding, “They had some horses they told me they were taking them to Cincinnati to sell them.” A similar trip was undertaken about mid-February 1863.
During a third trip at the end of March of 1863, Hunter was recognized in Greenupsburg by some Morgan County refugees, among them James H. Morgan, who notified Provost Marshall William C. Ireland of his presence. “I am informed by refugees from Morgan Co. that James Hunter was a Captain in the Rebel Army, and was commanding a Co., at the battle of Middle Creek on Big Sandy, “noted Ireland. It was also stated that Hunter had, “raised a Company, and went into the rebel service“, during the Confederate invasion of Kentucky in the summer of 1862. “Went off and was gone until a month or so ago.”
Ireland decided against an immediate arrest of Hunter and Howard and instead, addressed a letter to Enoch T. Carson, Collector of the Port of Cincinnati and the United States, on March 21, 1863. “Not being advised as to who is in military command at your city, I write you, knowing that you will place this in proper hands. There is now at this place two men waiting for a boat to go to your city. James Hunter, and Jesse K. Howard. They have 4 horses, and a gray (?), that they say they are taking down to Sell … I would have arrested them here, but have no forces at my command, and no safe place to keep them. I would arrest notwithstanding, but for the fact that they are going to your city where they can be properly cared for. If they are arrested, and if proof of the facts stated is required, I will forward testimony.” He added a physical description of Hunter and Howard. “Hunter, is about 28, or 30 years of age, dark hair, dark whiskers, about 6 feet high. He resides I understand in Morgan Co. Ky. Is a son of Frank Hunter who is said to be a Union man … Howard, who is with Hunter, is a large man - weighing say 180 lbs. dark hair, age about 30 years … Both wear soft black hats. Howard, has some hair on chin of rather (?) sandy color.”
Apparently unaware of the trouble that was brewing, Hunter and Howard boarded the next steamship at Greenupsburg with their horses and proceeded to Cincinnati. Upon their arrival on March 25, 1863, both men were promptly arrested and their horses seized, upon orders of Colonel Eastman. Hunter and Howard were then taken to the barracks on Columbia Street in Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Provost Marshal William C. Ireland made every effort to locate witnesses for this case but believed that, “it would not be safe to go to Morgan Co.” Despite the apparent hurdles, Ireland managed within three weeks to obtain the affidavits and statements of 15 witnesses. On March 31, 1863, James K. Hunter’s father Frank stopped at Ireland’s office with two affidavits in his pocket in favor of his son while on his way to Cincinnati. Ireland did not seem to be completely satisfied, however, and continued to search for witnesses. The last affidavit in Hunter’s case was taken on April 8, 1863.
It appears that Jesse K. Howard was soon released and was allowed to return to Morgan County. Provost Marshal Ireland noted that, “They say Howard, who is with Hunter, has never been in the Rebel Army but is a sort of tool for Hunter.” James H. Morgan noted that, “I have known Jesse K. Howard for several years and so far as his Loyalty is concerned within my own knowledge I cannot say but this much I can say - I have never heard of his Taking any part whatever in this Rebellion so far as truth or veracity is concerned I have never heard him doubted.” James Walsh, a private in Co. D, 14th KY Cavalry (US), knew Howard well and characterized him as a “notorious rebel & sympathizer” but as far as he knew or believed he had never been in arms.
In regard to James K. Hunter, Greenup postmaster Joseph Pollock stated, “that a short time after the Federal forces under Genl George Morgan passed through this place, he had a talk with several men, some of whom were members of the 22nd Ky Infantry, & others Tennesseans … These men informed me that they learned as they passed through Morgan Co. Ky, that a man by the name of Hunter, was trying to get recruits for the Rebel Army. I do not remember that they gave his given name, but I learned from them (?) that he was a son of Frank Hunter of Morgan County, and that he had been before that time in the Rebel Army.”
US Brig. General George W. Morgan had entered West Liberty with his 7th Division, Army of the Ohio, on September 28, 1862, only 11 days after Hunter had been taken off as a prisoner by Captain Adkins of the 5th KY. As witnesses had stated, Hunter did not return home until some ten or twelve days later. Since Hunter was most likely still absent from Morgan County during the time Federal Morgan’s troops passed through the county, it would only be natural for people to speculate or assume that he had re-joined the Confederate Army and make statements to that effect to the Union troops. But return he did shortly thereafter and “since that time he has been attending to the ordinary avocations of life and not in the army,” as was noted his neighbor James M. Gray.
Interestingly, the initial statement by an unnamed witness to Provost Marshal Ireland that Hunter “Went off and was gone until a month or so ago”, which would fix his date of return to Morgan County to mid to late February of 1863, does not appear in any of the witnesses’ affidavits. Furthermore, it was easily discredited by Seymore Harding’s testimony who had seen Hunter and Howard in Greenup at his hotel at the end of December 1862 and again in mid- February 1863, on their way to Cincinnati to sell horses.
|Seymore Harding affidavit, March 29, 1863|
The overwhelming majority of the witnesses testified in Hunter’s favor, stating that, once he returned to Morgan County, after being captured by Captain Adkins and taken off as a prisoner, Hunter had remained home and attended to his own business. Davidson Davis noted that Hunter,“has since been at home or attending to his ordinary business of life and that he has frequently heard said Hunter say that he never intended to violate his bond that he had given. “Jackson B. Ward also added that “from all I have been able to See or hear of him he has been guilty of no disloyal acts or Conduct.”
Additionally, on March 31, 1863, Robert F. Prater, a soldier of Company B, 14th KY Cavalry (US) was questioned and cross-examined in Cincinnati, in reference to the loyalty of James K. Hunter to the Government of the United States.
An excerpt is given here:
Robert F. Prater first duly sworn deposeth and sayeth:
Question 1st. ~ What is your age. Where do you reside and what is your occupation.
Answer. Twenty Three years of age. I reside in Morgan County, Ky. Soldier in the United States Army.
Question 2d. ~Are you acquainted with James K. Hunter and how long have you been acquainted with him
Answer - I am acquainted with James K. Hunter and have known him for five years.
Question 3d. ~What is said James K. Hunter's reputation.
Answer - His reputation as far as I know is good.
Question 4. ~What do you know of his loyalty since February 7th 1862.
Answer. As far as I know he has been loyal ever since.
Question 5. ~Do you know of his having raised a company for the Rebel army since February 7th 1862.
Answer - He has not raised a company that I know of
Question 6. What portion of the time since February 7th 1862 have you resided in the same vicinity with defendent
Answer - About Six months
7 Question . ~Have you been in his vicinity since the 1st of september 1862
Answer - I have
8 Question ~ Do you know of defendent having raised a company for the Rebel army during the month of August 1862 or at any time since
Answer - He has not that I know of my reason for so stating is that I have frequently been through the neighborhood where he resides as a scout as a soldier during the fall and winter of 1862 and he was at home
The records do not disclose whether the charges of disloyalty against Hunter were dropped or not but in view of the testimony in favor of his case it seems unlikely that he was held by the authorities for very long. It may be noted that James K. Hunter’s name does not appear on any Confederate military records after his desertion in 1862 which lends added credibility to the statements made by witnesses who testified on his behalf.
Hunter returned home and during the remaining war years, two more children were added to the family - daughter Arvilla, born abt. 1864 and son William D., born ca. 1865. George Montgomery, born in March of 1866 and Laura B., born abt. 1868, soon followed.
After the end of the Civil war, James K. Hunter rose to prominence in local affairs. In 1869, we find James K. Hunter as a resident of the newly formed Elliott County, KY. On April 5, 1869, the county seat was laid off on a one acre plot in Martinsburg that had been generously donated by Hunter. On the same day, a committee composed of James K. Hunter, G. W. Stamper, W. H. Vansant, Travis Horton and A. Ison met at Hunter’s home for the purpose of dividing the county into five districts, or voting precincts.
On May 25, 1869, the first session of court conducted in the new county was convened Hunter’s steam mill on the bank of Little Sandy River. James K. Hunter served as the first Elliott County Judge and his mill was fixed as the permanent meeting place for both county and circuit court until a more suitable place could be found and provided.
The 1870 Elliott County Census reveals that Hunter had made it through the Civil War financially unscathed. He was a merchant in Martinsburg and owned $8000 worth of real estate and $12,200 personal property. During the same year, on July 3, his daughter Mollie Belle Barbour Hunter was born. Hunter seemed at the height of his personal and professional life and was considered an influential citizen. Two short years later, tragedy struck when James K. Hunter was killed by a fall from his horse. The exact circumstances of his death remain unknown. The 1873 Elliott County Tax List shows Judge James K. Hunter as deceased. His final resting place is in the Old Sandy Hook Cemetery. His 29 year old widow Edy Hunter, who was left to raise 7 small children, joined her husband’s side 44 years later, on August 23, 1916, one day after her death at Sandy Hook of cerebral hemorrhage.
|Eda "Edy" Hunter Death Certificate|
*James K. Hunter’s Family Members in the Federal service
Nephew - James M. Vansant, Co. B, 14th KY Cav (US) – son of J.K. Hunter’s sister Lavisa Susan
Nephew - Sylvester Green Hunter, Pvt., Co. B, 14 KY Cav (US) – son of J. K. Hunter’s sister Emerine
Brother - Squire Henderson Hunter, Pvt., Co. C, 40th KY Inf. (US)
Nephew - James M. Hunter also Pvt., Co. C, 40th KY Inf. (US) – son of Squire Henderson Hunter
Brother-in-law - Lewis A. Thornbury, Sgt. Maj. in Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)– husband of J. K. Hunter’s sister America. Lewis A. Thornbury was a brother of Captain Martin Thornsbury, Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)
Brother - Kenas F. Hunter, Pvt. Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)
Brother – William Thomas Hunter, Pvt. Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US)
Nephew – Martin Hunter, Pvt. Co. D, 39th KY Inf. (US) – son of J. K. Hunter’s brother Sylvester D.
Compiled Service Records, Confederate and Union
Confederate Citizens files
Union Provost Marshal Records
Article researched and written by Marlitta H. Perkins, December 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication without express written notice by the author is strictly prohibited. © 2012. All Rights Reserved.