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10/4/07 - Gilford Physician Appointed Ass't Surgeon in NH 12th Regiment

Written by Diane Mitton

In May 1850, when barely 18 years old , Charles W. Hunt, Sergeant, was issued an order by Stephen Ayer, Company Commander, to call to assemble for parade at the home of Charles Swain, with arms and equipment required by law for military duty, the men of the First Company of Riflemen of the NH Tenth Militia.

Twelve years later, not quite 30 years old, he wass appointed Assistant Surgeon of Company G of the NH Twelfth Volunteers and was on his way to Washington DC. He would not see his 31st birthday.

Charles William Hunt was born in Gilford, NH on December 8, 1832, the son of Thomas Jefferson Hunt and Julia A. (Blaisdell) Hunt in the home on Old Lakeshore Road built by Abel Hunt, now known as the Cartway House, and home to seven generations of Hunts. For a time he taught school in Gilford. Hunt then, having graduated in 1856 from Hanover, practiced medicine in the Gilford - Laconia area until the reality of the approaching war between the states made his years of militia training take on a new significance. Feeling was running high in New Hampshire and once the order for the establishment of fighting units became a fact, regiments were formed at a rapid rate, not least in Gilford where an entire company enlisted within a few days in August 1962.

The NH Twelfth was mustered in Concord in September 1862. An amusing incident is recorded by Alvah Hunter in his book, A New Hampshire Boyhood. Attempting to enlist in Co. G of the Twelfth although he was not yet 16, he made it past Laconia having convinced the recruiting officer that he was older and could play the fife -sort of - and departed for Concord. However, when he went for the final inspection of the muster officer and his physical examination and saw that it was Dr. Hunt, he knew his "goose was cooked". Dr. Hunt had taught him in Gilford and knew his age and as expected, he was soon on his way back to Laconia.

The Twelfth Regiment departed Concord on September 27, 1862 prepared to take place in the defense of Washington. In addition to Charles Hunt, it is quite possible that his brother, Thomas E. Hunt was on the train with him as he served as a hospital steward in the same regiment. Hunt took part in the battle at Chancellorsville which was a tragic loss for the Union and for the Twelth. His commanding officer, Colonel Potter had high praise for his "fearless devotion on the field". "I think," said Potter, "it may be said of him that no man ever suffered because of his neglect or indifference. He stood manfully at his post of duty; and when the crumbling walls and kindling flames of the Chancellor House, then crowded with suffering humanity, added a new terror and agony to the scene, his heroic efforts to rescue and save his wounded comrades, even after he was taken prisoner" deserved the highest praise. In a letter home after the battle, Hunt says, " ..but soon the alarm was given that the house was on fire. Then I made up my mind to meet death, for I could see no way to avoid it."

It is possible that Hunt was returned to his regiment in a prisoner exchange as he is again on the field with the Twelfth at the Battle of Gettysburg. The History of the New Hampshire Surgeons in the War of Rebellion" by Granville P. Conn says, "After the battle at Gettysburg, when he was again on the field of death, he remained two or three weeks laboring in the field hospital, where, following his exhausted condition from the days and nights on the field, he contacted, it is thought, the disease of which he died, lamented by all who knew him". Within days, Hunt died of typhoid fever at Point Lookout, Md., a federal encampment, as well as a terribly overcrowded prison for confederate prisoners of war located at the mouth of the Potomac. The 2nd, 5th and 12th the three NH regiments that had suffered the most in the field arrived at Point Lookout in August, 1963. Hunt continued in his weakened condition to provide care for both Union and Confederate soldiers. He succumbed to fatigue and fever on August 24, 1863.

Hunt's family commissioned an oil portrait of Charles William Hunt in his military uniform which was later given to Gilford's Thompson-Ames Historical society by the family and can be viewed in the Military exhibit area at the Meetinghouse.

Thompson-Ames Historical Society is interested in acquiring photographs and information about Gilford families and history. If you have stories about your family that you would like to see preserved for future generation, you may contact us at 527-9009 or at thomames@worldpath.net . We would like to talk with you . You may also visit our website at www.gilfordhistoricalsociety.org.