Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Abigail Hunt Snelling

 

Was the daughter of Thomas Hunt, a Revolutionary officer and a native of Watertown, Massachusetts. Her father had entered the American army as a volunteer, but soon received his commission as a regular officer and was in the expedition against Ticonderoga, commanded by Ethan Allen, one of the small band who made themselves masters of Crown Point. He was with General Wayne at Stony Point, and in 1794 went with him in the campaign against the Indians. In 1798, he received the promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel, First Regiment Infantry, and was placed in command of Fort Wayne, remaining until the death of Hantramack at Detroit, when Lieutenant-Colonel Hunt succeeded to the command and became the colonel of the regiment and in command of the post at Detroit, afterwards succeeding to that at Mackinaw.

Abigail Hunt was but six weeks old when the family arrived at Mackinaw. When she was but seven years of age, her parents left Mackinaw on their way to St. Louis by way of Detroit. On their journey they stopped for a short time at Fort Wayne, where Colonel Hunt's eldest daughter was married to the surgeon of the post. Dr. Edwards. Colonel Hunt took command of the garrison at the mouth of the Missouri, eighteen miles above St. Louis. This was about the time of the Burr conspiracy, and a court-martial was held there to try Major Brurr, who was supposed to be a party to the conspiracy, but who was acquitted.

Lewis and Clark arrived at this post from their exploring expedition, causing the greatest excitement and curiosity owing to their costumes made entirely of skins and furs. The captain in one of the companies of Colonel Hunt's regiment at that time was a man by the name of Pike, who afterwards became famous as General Pike, and was selected by the government to explore the upper Mississippi, being absent on this expedition almost two years.

In 1809 Colonel Hunt died, and six months later followed the death of Mrs. Hunt. The eldest son resided in Detroit, and after the death of his mother, he removed the family to Waltham, Massachusetts, to reside with their maternal grandfather, Samuel Wellington. This brother later became Colonel Henry J. Hunt. When the War of 1812 was declared, no one among the officers then in the service was more distinguished than one Captain Snelling. When General Hull arrived with his army at Detroit early in July, Dr. Edwards, who had married Colonel Hunt's eldest daughter, joined General Hunt's army at Dayton, and with him was John E. Hunt, so that the sisters were again brought together.

Here Captain Snelling was introduced to Miss Hunt by Major Edwards, and in a very short time they were engaged. On the 13th of August, Miss Hunt was married to Captain Snelling by a chaplain in General Hull's army. Captain Snelling had quite distinguished himself in the fight at Brownstown under General Hull. Three days after their marriage, the British landed at Springwells and Captain Snelling with others was humiliated by having General Hull retire before the enemy, and it is reported that when an aid asked Captain Snelling to help him plant the white flag, he replied with indignation: "No, sir, I will not soil my hands with that flag." General Hull was so panic-stricken that he surrendered the fortress without even demanding terms, and words cannot express the disgust and indignation of these brave soldiers as they stacked their arms to be taken over by the British. Colonel Hunt was permitted to remain in Detroit as a prisoner, accompanied by John Hunt, but Captain Snelling and his family were placed on board a boat which was to convey General Hull and his command as prisoners of war to Erie, where they were turned over to the British guards.

Mrs. Snelling and the women were taken care of by the captain of the boat with promises that they should rejoin their husbands at Fort George, but it was some time before they were reunited. One of the strange incidents of war was that a British officer who had been most cruel and unkind to Captain Snelling, whose courteous treatment in contrast to that which he had received, so embarrassed and humiliated him that he apologized, and they became fast friends. Captain Snelling was one of the most unbending patriots, and at one time when the troops were in Montreal, the order was given for hats off in front of Nelson's monument, the guard knocking off the hats of the prisoners, but on an officer attempting such with Captain Snelling he received the quick warning, "At your peril, sir touch me." Later he received the apology of the officer in question. The married officers were soon paroled and sent to Boston, where Captain Snelling and his wife remained until he was ordered to Plattsburg to join General Hampton's army.

Their eldest child, Mary, was born when Mrs. Snelling was but sixteen years of age. Captain Snelling rapidly rose in distinction, and was on the staff of General Izard as Inspector-General, stationed at Buffalo. On peace being declared Snelling was made Lieutenant-Colonel of the Sixth Infantry and ordered to Governor's Island, and later to Plattsburgh, where he remained four years, when the order came to start for the upper Mississippi by way of St. Louis. Their family then consisted of Mrs. Snelling and three children, her youngest sister, and one brother, a graduate from West Point, Lieutenant Wellington Hunt, also a married man. Mrs. Snelling's sister, Eliza N. Hunt, married a man by the name of Soulard, a French gentleman. The following summer, Snelling received his colonelcy and was placed in command of the Fifth Regiment and ordered to relieve Lieutenant-Colonel Leavenworth, who had been promoted to another regiment, and Captain Snelling conducted his regiment to within eight miles of the Falls of St Anthony, where Fort Snelling, Minnesota, now stands.

Enroute he held councils with the Indians of Prairie Little Du Chien, where he found Governor Cass. Their first occupation in their new home was the building of the log barracks and fort which were to form the homes and protection of the regiment and its officers. These rude quarters were papered and carpeted with buffalo robes and here Mrs. Snelling's fifth child was born. It was a two years' struggle before the post was completed.

In June, 1823, the first steamboat made its appearance on the upper Mississippi, and caused great excitement among the troops. A French gentleman brought letters of introduction to Mrs. Snelling from friends in St. Louis, being invited by the Colonel to remain as long as it was his pleasure. He found it most agreeable, as Mrs. Snelling spoke French fluently. At one time this post was visited by General Scott, and he ordered the name of Fort St. Anthony, which it then bore, changed to Fort Snelling in approval of Colonel Snelling's labors. In 1825 the family left Fort Snelling and visited Mrs. Snelling's brother. Lieutenant Wellington Hunt, in command at Detroit. In 1826 Captain Thomas Hunt, then residing at Washington, wrote his sister to send her two eldest children to him to be educated, and her eldest daughter, Mary, was sent with Captain and Mrs. Plympton who were going to that city. In 1827, the regiment was ordered to Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, and during the winter Colonel Snelling went on to Washington on business, and was there when his daughter Mary died, the effects of a cold taken at a ball.

As Colonel Snelling was obliged to remain in Washington for some time, Mrs. Snelling with her three children joined him there, and a few months after her arrival Colonel Snelling died. After his death she lived on her farm near Detroit, later removing into the city. In 1841, Mrs. Snelling married Rev. J. E. Chaplain, the grandson of President Edwards, who was appointed principal of one of the branches in the Michigan State Institution. Mrs. Chaplain's son, James Snelling, was with General Worth and took part in the battle of Palo Alto, and other battles under General Taylor. The later years of Mrs. Chaplain's life were spent with her daughter, Mrs. Hazard, in Cincinnati.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.

 

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