Joseph Hunter McArthur was born in the old French town of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, on February 15, 1825. His father, John McArthur, was of Scotch ancestry. He was a native of Vermont, but went early in life to Staunton, Virginia, where he edited a magazine, one of the first published in the United States. Like many a Scot, he was of a roving disposition. Coming to Missouri, he embarked in business, and soon afterwards was married to Mary Ann Linn, who had come to Ste. Genevieve with her brother, Dr. Lewis F. Linn, a man of note in the history of the West. Of the eight children born to them, Joseph Hunter was the youngest.
Mary Ann Linn was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her grandfather, Colonel William Linn, was with Washington at Braddock's defeat, and later made a perilous trip to New Orleans for powder to be used in the defense of Fort Pitt. This journey was made with flat-boat, cordelling all the way, and required six months for its accomplishment. Her father accompanied the Lewis and Clark expedition to the Rocky Mountains. They were brave, loyal men, who left to their descendants the heritage of a good name.
In 1836 the father of Joseph H. McArthur died, and his mother, still a young woman, left with four small children, bravely faced her responsibilities. Soon after she took her little family to Wisconsin, where the territorial government was being organized. The first session was held at her house, and her half-brother, General Henry Dodge, was the first territorial governor. After several years' residence in Wisconsin, the young McArthurs were sent back to Missouri to school. Here, at Ste. Genevieve, Joseph and his brother William p36had the rare advantages of an educational academy conducted by Professor Joseph Herlich, a native of Switzerland, and a ripe scholar.
Through the individual efforts of Mrs. McArthur, General Andrew Jackson, then President of this country, and a warm personal friend, appointed the elder son, William Pope, to the Naval Academy, and the younger, Joseph Hunter, to West Point. Both completed the required courses with honor to themselves and gratification to their friends. After his graduation, William was sent to Florida, where the Seminoles were carrying on a warfare. He was afterward ordered to the Pacific Ocean, and made the first survey of California and Oregon, which is still a standard reference. His promising career was cut short by his death, which occurred on his homeward voyage. He was buried on the Island of Toboga, in the Bay of Panama, where the government erected a monument to him.
Joseph Hunter McArthur graduated from West Point in June, 1849, and was immediately ordered to Benicia Barracks, California, where he remained a year, then was recalled to New York and for a time was on duty at Governor's Island. While here he married Miss Julia Woodworth, the beautiful and accomplished daughter of Samuel S. Woodworth, author of "The Old Oaken Bucket", and was almost immediately ordered to Texas with recruits and supplies. He continued to serve on frontier duty, with the exception of a year or two of recruiting service in Boston, until the breaking out of the Civil War, when the command was disbanded by General Twiggs. His regiment was the old Second Cavalry, Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Albert Sidney Johnston; Lieutenant Colonel Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Robert E. Lee. This regiment contained more men who loomed gloriously up into prominence during the war, and whose names are now a part of the imperishable records of the history of the nation, than any regiment of men in any war, perhaps, in the world.
p37 Captain McArthur joined his family now at San Francisco, and started for Washington, where he renewed his oath of obligation, and he reported for duty just after the first battle of Bull Run. He was assigned to the duty of mustering in and drilling a regiment of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Rush's Lancers at Philadelphia, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, Rush being Colonel. This regiment was finally employed on police duty in Washington, and Captain McArthur petitioned to be transferred back to his own regiment, the Second Cavalry of Regulars. His request was granted, and he joined the regiment, then a part of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan's command, which was entering upon the memorable Peninsular Campaign. The record of the old Second Cavalry was never more brilliant. Only the skeleton of it remained when the army was recalled, Captain McArthur, the only officer not killed or wounded.
In the dreadful swamps of Chickahominy, this brave officer met a foe far more cruel and relentless — typhoid or swamp fever — and lay dangerously ill in hospital in Washington. Immediately upon convalescing he reported for duty, had a relapse, and came out at last with a wrecked constitution, and facing the unwelcome truth that the strenuous life of a soldier was over for him. He was engaged in recruiting service for a time, and was on duty at various government posts, but his health steadily failing he was permanently retired with the rank of Major.
The death of Mrs. McArthur, in 1874, was a great blow to him. She had been a brave and uncomplaining companion through all the hardships of frontier life, and a ministering angel in his hours of suffering. He accompanied her remains to San Francisco, and laid her to rest by the side of her mother.
To Major McArthur and his wife were born seven children: Selim Woodworth, February 20, 1853, at Phantom Hill, Texas; Frederick William, January 3, 1856, at Ft. Mason, Texas; Lewis Linn, January 23, 1858, at Boston, Mass.; p38Benjamin Russell, July 8, 1860, at San Francisco, California; Mary, November 13, 1864, at Dodgeville, Wisconsin; Joseph Hunter, March 23, 1866, at Dodgeville, Wisconsin; Julia, January 12, 1869, at San Francisco, California. Of these only one survives.
The climate of California not agreeing with him, Major McArthur returned to his home in Chicago. Here, on December 17, 1879, he was married to Miss Frances L. Covert, daughter of Deacon Stephen Covert, of LeRoy, New York, and niece of the Rev. John Covert, a clergyman and educator well and favorably known throughout West, who made him a devoted wife.
Major McArthur was a member of the Reformed Episcopal Church, a secret and faithful attendant upon its services, and an earnest and consistent Christian everywhere. One by one the ties that bound him to life were severed. The death of three of his children, two sons of great promise and an idolized daughter, cast a deep sorrow over his declining years; and finally, weary of his burden of suffering, he closed his eyes in the last sleep on January 23, 1902.
He was a loving husband, a devoted father, a true and loyal friend.
Of a positive nature, and a man of strong convictions, he possessed a tender heart that ever responded to the call of suffering and sorrow. His memory will long be cherished by those who knew him best.
He left a widow and one son, Dr. Lewis L. McArthur, a prominent surgeon of Chicago. Few of his old companions in arms are left — nearly all have responded to the roll call on the other side of the river.
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