Application for Presidential Pardon for Bugg Hunt

While John Edwards' Application for Presidential Pardon was being processed by the federal government, Daniel Hunt heard about Edwards' application and decided to apply for a presidental pardon for Bugg Hunt. He was able to obtain 300 signatures of men living in Smith and Putnam counties on the petition. In addition, the then governor of Tennessee, William B. Bates, signed the bottom on one of the petitions.

Three petitions and a copy of the US Circuit Court Minutes were submitted 24 September 1886 to the Office of the Pardon Attorney.

Below is a copy of the preamble to the Pardon Petition

To the President of the United States.

The undersigned citizens of the State of Tennessee respectfully represent and show your Excellency that at the October Term of the Circuit Court of the United States, for the Middle District of Tennessee, held at the City of Nashville Bug alias H. G. Hunt was jointly indicted with John Edwards upon a charge of Robbing a United State mail coach near Cookeville in Putnam County and that a severance was had upon said indictment and said Bug Hut was tried at said term of said Court and convicted & sentenced to five years imprisonment in prison at Chester Ill. Petitioners further represent that said Bug Hunt was a man of no means and after his arrest & imprisonment was unable to hunt up person by whom he believed he could prove that at the time of said robbery, he was not there but distant from the scene of the robbery several miles and as the result of his inability to procure said evidence he was convicted and sentenced as aforesaid.

They show that said Bug Hunt was arrested and confined in prison for about one year before he was tired and has now been confined before & since his conviction for about your years and that he has a helpless family at home in Smith County and believing that he has been sufficiently punished, they respectfully petition the President to pardon & revert?? the remainder of his term of imprisonment. They respectfully refer your Excellency to the Hon. D. M. Key they Judge who tried the cause & to the record in the case for the facts connected therewith.

A copy of the US Circuit Court Minutes is given below.

L. M. B.

Middle District of Tennessee:

At a Circuit Court of the Unites States began and held in the federal court room in the City of Nashville, on the third Monday, begin the fifteenth day of October in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and eighty three and of the Independence of the United States the 108th year.

Present the Honorable D. M. Key U. S. Judge presiding.

On the sixth day of November, and during said term a judgement was rendered in the words and figures, to wit:

United States No 3843 vs Bugg Hunt } Indictment for Robbing U. S. Mail.

Came the United State District Attorney, and the defendant, in proper person; and the said defendant being charged upon the Indictment, pleads not guilty thereto, and for his trial put himself upon the Court; and the said Attorney for the United States doth the like, and thereupon came a jury of good and lawful men, to wit: H. S. Mayer, J. W. Braiden, Wm. Austin, G. W. Randolph, Robt. Finnigan, Jacob Binkley, S. M. Wilson, B. F. Carver, Geo. W. Blake, W. J. Aldrich, J. C. Cooper and C. B. Austell, who being elected tried and sworn well and truly to try the issues joined, after hearing part of the evidence were respited until tomorrow morning at 9 o'clock.

On Nov. 7"-1883, the following was entered on the minutes.

United States No 3843 vs. Bugg Hunt } Came again the U. S. Attorney.

and came again also the jury of good and lawful men heretofore empannelled herein, who after hearing further evidence, the argument of counsel and the charge of the Court, upon their oaths do say: that the defendant is guilty in manner and form as charged in the Indictment.

On Nov. 24" 1883, the following was entered on the minutes:

United States No 3843 vs. Bugg Hunt }
Came again the U. S. District Attorney and the defendant in proper person, and the defendant, by Attorney, moved the Court for a new trial herein, which motion was by the Court overruled.

It is now considered by the Court that the defendant be confined in the Penitentiary at Chester, Ills. for five years. And it appearing to the Court that the defendant is now serving a term of imprisonment in the Penitentiary of the State of Tennessee for an offense committed against said State;

It is ordered that he be taken to said Penitentiary at Chester, Ills. at the expiration of the term of his present imprisonment in said State Penitentiary and that the time that shall elapse between this date and the expiration of his sentence in said State Penitentiary, shall be credited on this sentence of five years, in the Penitentiary at Chester, Illinois.

And that the defendant forfeit and pay to the United States the costs hereof and that fi fa issue.

Middle District of Tennessee:

I, Lewis T. Baxter, Clerk of the Circuit Court of the United States for said District, do hereby certify that the foregoing is a true, perfect and complete copy of the judgment of said Court rendered in the above entitled cause.

Witness my hand and the seal of the said Court at Nashville, in said District, this 24th day of Sept 1885.

Signed. Lewis T. Baxter
Seal of the Court.

The 15 October 1886, the petition for pardon was officially referred to the US District Attorney Augustus H. Garlandand it was filed on 18 October 1886.

District Attorney Garland instructed Ernest Pillow, the US Attorney for Middle Tennessee to look into the matter and report back. District Attorney Pillow wrote to Judge David M. Key for additional details of the case. On 4 November 1886, Judge Key with the following letter.


Nashville, Tenn. Novr 4 1886

Ernest Pillow Esq.
District Attorney


H. G. Hunt, generally known as Bug Hunt, was tired and convicted of assailing a mail coach and rifling the mail. He, at the same time, robbed its passenger. He had two confederates. His guilt was clearly established and he was ably defended. He, at the time of trial, was a convict in the state penitentiary, undergoing a sentence of imprisonment for perjury, two years of which sentence were expired. I sentenced him to the penitentiary for five years, but directed that he remain in the custody of the state of Tennessee until the expiration of his sentence under the state court and that his sentence of five years be credited with the time he should remain in the state penitentiary. This virtually gave him three years under the sentence I pronounced. In my opinion, his sentence was lenient, under the circumstances of his case and we fact has transpired, so far as I know or have heard, to indicate that he is deserving of pardon.

His father is an old gentleman of very respectable reputation, and I presume that the application for pardon is signed and forwarded largely out of sympathy with the old gentleman who feels his son's disgrace and confinement very keenly.

Very respectfully,
D. M. Key

After reading Judge Key's opinion, consulting the trial Docket entries, and inquiring about the details of the case, District Attorney Pillow offered the following opinion.


Nashville, Tenn. 22 Nov 1886

Hon. A. H. Garland
Washington D. C.


I have the honor to reply to your letter of the 18 Oct 1886 relative to the petition for pardon of "Bug" Hunt that I have consulted Judge D. M. Key who presided at the trial, and whose communication herewith enclosed, that I have also looked to the Docket entries in the case are abstract of which is herewith enclosed that I have made due and diligent inquiry with the facts of the case and while the case tried & prosecuted by my predecessor, and before I came to the office, I learn that the character of the Defendant is that of a fearless and desperate man, that he has been the terror of his neighborhood, and that if released the apprehension is that he would immediately return to his habits of deprivation on the innocent citizenship of the country. I have failed to find or even hear suggestion from any source a single reason why he should be pardoned but the rather that he should be forced to undergo the punishment which has been meted out to him so mercifully by Judge Key who has given expression to the sentiment that no reasons appear to him why the Executive clemency should be exercised in Defendants behalf and we shall not presume to differ from him in this Judgment.

With Greatest Respect
Ernest Pillow
United States Attorney

After reviewing all the documents, President Cleveland denied Hunt's petition for pardon. He remained in the Illinois Southern Prison until he had finished serving his time. He was released 4 May 1888 and returned to his home in Smith County, Tennessee.