William H. Hunt

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William Hunt
United States Minister to Russia
In office
August 23, 1882 – February 27, 1884
PresidentChester A. Arthur
Preceded byJohn W. Foster
Succeeded byAlphonso Taft
29th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
March 7, 1881 – April 16, 1882
PresidentJames A. Garfield
Chester A. Arthur
Preceded byNathan Goff Jr.
Succeeded byWilliam E. Chandler
Judge of the United States Court of Claims
In office
May 15, 1878 – March 11, 1881
Appointed byRutherford B. Hayes
Preceded byEbenezer Peck
Succeeded byGlenni William Scofield
Attorney General of Louisiana
In office
GovernorWilliam Kellogg
Preceded byAlexander Pope Field
Succeeded byHiram R. Steele
Personal details
William Henry Hunt

(1823-06-12)June 12, 1823
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedFebruary 27, 1884(1884-02-27) (aged 60)
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Political partyRepublican
EducationYale University
Military service
Allegiance Confederate States
Branch/service Confederate States Army
RankConfederate States of America Lieutenant Colonel.png Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War

William Henry Hunt (June 12, 1823 – February 27, 1884) was the United States Secretary of the Navy under President James Garfield and briefly under President Chester A. Arthur.


Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Hunt studied law at Yale. He finished his professional training in his brothers' office in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he was admitted to the bar in 1844. Hunt opposed secession and favored the Union cause. He was nevertheless drafted into the Confederate Army and commissioned lieutenant colonel. However, he managed to avoid involvement in military operations until Admiral David Farragut captured New Orleans.

In March 1876, Hunt was appointed Attorney-General of Louisiana, and in July of that year he was the Republican candidate for this office. Both parties claimed victory in the election, but Hunt lost the position when President Rutherford B. Hayes recognized the Democratic government of the State. As compensation, the President appointed him Associate Judge of the United States Court of Claims, May 15, 1878. He served in this capacity until he became President Garfield's Secretary of the Navy in 1881.

Secretary Hunt rendered invaluable service by reporting that the Navy, grossly neglected after the Civil War, was no longer able to protect Americans abroad. He appointed the first Naval Advisory Board which undertook the work of rebuilding the Navy, emasculated by public apathy and lack of funds. After Vice President Arthur succeeded Garfield in the presidency, he retired Hunt from the cabinet by appointing him Minister to Russia on April 7, 1882.

Hunt died February 27, 1884, while representing the United States in Saint Petersburg, and is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.


Two ships in the United States Navy have been named USS Hunt for him.


This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.
  • The United States Court of Claims : a history / pt. 1. The judges, 1855-1976 / by Marion T. Bennett / pt. 2. Origin, development, jurisdiction, 1855-1978 / W. Cowen, P. Nichols, M.T. Bennett. Washington, D.C.: Committee on the Bicentennial of Independence and the Constitution of the Judicial Conference of the United States. 1976.
Legal offices
Preceded by
Alexander Pope Field
Attorney General of Louisiana
Succeeded by
Hiram R. Steele
Government offices
Preceded by
Nathan Goff, Jr.
United States Secretary of the Navy
March 7, 1881 – April 16, 1882
Succeeded by
William E. Chandler
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
John W. Foster
United States Ambassador to Russia
August 23, 1882 – February 27, 1884
Succeeded by
Alphonso Taft