Jul. 21, 1937 West Hazleton Luzerne County Pennsylvania, USA
Second Lieutenant, Company H, 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry, GAR
Hazleton Plain Speaker; Friday, May 29, 1936: 'But Three Civil War Vets Remain Here To Take Part in Memorial Exercises:' 'Each Favored With Long Span of Life' Three members of Robison Post No. 20, Grand Army of the Republic, of this city, survive to observe Memorial Day in this community tomorrow, when the graves of those who have gone on for their reward will be decked with flowers in memory of their lives on earth. The surviving members of Robison Post, namely, Adjutant Alfred W. Gabrio, of 533 Peace street, this city; Captain John Cunius, of Drums, and Isaac Yocum, of 673 Alter street, city, each has attained a 'grand old age,' for Adjutant Gabrio observed his ninetieth birthday last February 3; Captain Cunius was 95 years old last October 26; and Isaac Yocum reached his eighty-eighth birthday last August 9...
Although stricken some time ago with a slight stroke, Captain John Cunius despite his advanced age, appears contented and still very much interested in Memorial Day and affairs pertaining to ex-service men's activities. He vividly remembers incidents of the days, when he fought in the Civil War and prizes highly his equipment from the battle days, which he keeps in a specially built case.
Captain Cunius enlisted in Co. H 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry at Mahanoy City, October, 1862, and saw almost continuous service until the close of the Civil War. During his service he was promoted to second lieutenant of his company. Although never wounded, he took part in over 80 engagements, many of which were the fiercest of the war, among them being the Battle of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, Winchester and Cold Harbor. His activities were confined almost entirely to Virginia and North Carolina. On Feb. 26, 1863, on a scouting party in the Shenandoah Valley, at a point near Natural Bridge, Comrade Cunius' company was surprised by the sudden appearance of the cavalry and beat a hasty retreat. It was at this point that the horse on which Comrade Cunius was riding, stumbled, throwing its rider directly into the path of the pursuing cavalry, which passed over him. There were hoofs to the right of him, hoofs to the left of him, hoofs to the front of him and hoofs to the rear of him, but not a single hoof touched him. He was picked up by the enemy and found that his shoulder was dislocated by the fall from the horse and he was taken to a camp hospital, where his injury was cared for, thence to Mt. Jackson Hospital, where he remained about ten days. He was then taken to Libby prison, where he was confined for a little over two months, when he was exchanged and joined his company again at Winchester.
Soon after his company was given the command to move southward where they joined Sherman's Army. It was here that they learned of the possibility of a great decisive battle to be fought somewhere in Pennsylvania, as both the Union and Confederate forces were gathering in great numbers and both armies had been marching almost parallel, northward for miles seeking the most advantageous place for the final struggle. By forced marching the 13th Pa. Cavalry was only a few miles from Gettysburg, when the news came of Lee's surrender.
Comrade Cunius has all his equipment, saddle, bridle, spurs, carbine, sword, pistol, canteen, cartridge belt, and even the sack in which he carried his rations. One interesting part of his equipment is the pistol which contains three shells, placed there by himself on the battlefield at the surrender of Raleigh, N.C. While in the act of placing these in the chamber, Comrade Cunius was watching the Confederate flag being lowered from its standard on the capitol building and replaced by the Stars and Stripes.
Shortly after returning from the war, he became affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and has been a member in good standing ever since, a period of almost seventy years, during which time he has been a faithful and ardent worker. Captain Cunius is one of Butler Valley's staunches and best loved citizens and is greeted by hosts of friends at every turn. This in a large measure is due to the pride and interest he has always taken in social and civic activities, the most outstanding of which has been his ceaseless and untiring devotion to the Valley's Memorial Day services. For over 40 years as the annual day approached, he has called together a band of little girls and drilled them in a service so unique and touching that it has brought tears to the eyes of those who witness it. The little girls kneeling beside the sacred mounds, the tolling of the bell, the dipping of the flags and the tenderly placing of fragrant flowers upon the grave of each comrade seemed to awe the great gathering into a silence so deep that only the sounding of the taps and the firing of the salute could bring them back to the stern realities of life, and to the neighboring church to hear the Memorial Day address.
After he passed the ninety-year mark in life's journey he felt that the activities of Memorial Day should be borne by the younger blood and when this fact became known his friends arranged for a suitable token to express their gratitude for his promotion of the high ideals of citizenship, love of country and undying patriotism. The result was the presentation of many beautiful floral tributes not only from individuals, but from the community at large. Silk flags and a gold G.A.R. badge and buttons were presented by the company of little girls whom he had drilled for the last time, with the following inscription placed on the badge: 'Presented to John Cunius by the Memorial Girls.'
Comrade Cunius had been a member of the Lt. Stahr Post, G.A.R., of Conyngham, until a few years ago, when the depleting ranks made it necessary to disband. He then joined Robison Post 20, G.A.R. of this city, with which unit he is still affiliated.