The history of the United States Government Arsenal located upon Rock Island is exhaustively narrated from its inception in another portion of this work. Consequently it is not the intention of the writer of this sketch to touch upon any phase of that history except the period covered by the regime of the present Commandant of Rock Island Arsenal, Colonel Stanhope E. Blunt, a man whose executive ability has been demonstrated of a high order.
Stanhope E. Blunt was born in Boston, Massachusetts, September 28, 1850. His father was Colonel Charles E. Blunt, Corps of Engineers, United States – Army, who graduated from the Military Academy at West Point in 1846. His mother before her marriage was Miss Penelope Bethune English. Both his father and mother were born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Colonel Blunt’s forebears were among the earliest colonists in America. His paternal ancestors , rank among the original settlers of Massachusetts, who, as history records, arrived there from England about 1634.
As a boy Colonel Blunt attended the public schools of his native city, Boston, and later the high school at Oswego, New York, from which he graduated in 1868, and thus he was well qualified for entrance to West Point. Upon the completion of the prescribed course of four years at the military academy, he graduated from that institution in 1872 with the rank of second lieutenant, and with the honor of being third in his class.
Upon his graduation he was at once as-signed to duty in the Thirteenth Infantry, and in the course of a short time was promoted to a first lieutenancy. He served with his regiment in the states of Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico from June 14, 1872, until November 1, 1874, when he was transferred to the Ordnance Department. From the date of his assignment to ordnance service until 1885, Colonel Blunt was stationed at various posts in numerous capacities. He was for a time instructor in mathematics, and also in ordnance and gunnery at West Point. He was afterward stationed for different periods at Frankfort, Springfield and Watervliet Arsenals; served as chief ordnance officer and inspector of rifle practice at head-quarters’ department in Dakota, and as inspector of small arms practice for the army.
On November 1, 1885, Colonel Blunt was assigned as aide-de-camp to General Sheridan, and served in this capacity until the death of that warrior-hero, which occurred August 5, 1888. In March, 1897, he was detailed commandant of Rock Island Arsenal, where he has since remained. At the time Colonel Blunt began his tenure as commandant, the Arsenal was little more than a magnificent possibility. It had potential greatness but that greatness was undeveloped. To the new commandant was given the power to transform the possibility into a reality. How well he has accomplished that task can be best appreciated by those who have seen it grow in importance from a small manufacturing plant employing a few hundred men to a mammoth plant employing thousands; who have seen the discontinuance of the antiquated application of direct water power and the installation of huge dynamos, driven by huge turbines; who witnessed the straining of every facility and the astounding output during the Spanish-American War, and lastly the acquisition of the Arsenal’s latest industry, the small arms’ plant, whose location at this point was due largely to the efforts and ad-vice of the commandant. These achievements clearly show that the man was not merely content to sit quietly by and allow events to pursue their course without lifting a hand to shape those events. He is pre-eminently a man of action. Let credit be given where credit is due and praise where praise is meet. To Colonel Stanhope E. Blunt is certainly due great credit and unstinted praise, for certain it is that he is the active and important factor in the Arsenal’s development. That he has had able assistants is true, but upon his shoulders rested the weight of responsibility as commandant, and his ability was so thoroughly recognized that his suggestions in regard to improvements for the Arsenal were given a ready hearing by his superior officers.
November 18, 1873, Colonel Blunt was wedded to Miss Fanny Smyth, of Oswego, New York, the city of her birth, her parents being Charles and Catherine (Colt) Smyth. Both were of English descent; the father tracing his ancestry from the early settlers in Albany, New York, and the mother tracing her progenitors to the first pioneers in Connecticut. To Colonel and Mrs. Blunt three daughters have been born, the Misses Katherine, Evelyn Bethune (named after her maternal grandmother’s French ancestors,) and Frances Smyth Blunt. These young ladies have received a most careful and comprehensive education, and take an active part in the social life of the Tri-Cities.
But it is not alone for his pronounced executive ability at the Rock Island Arsenal that Colonel Blunt has won prominence. As an authority on military tactics, and as a writer upon technical subjects pertaining to martial affairs he has long since been accorded commendation and recognition. His books, “Rifle and Carbine Firing,” and “Firing Regulations for Small Arms” have reached the almost incredible number of sixteen editions.
Colonel Blunt is a member of several patriotic and military societies, among which may be mentioned the Society of Colonial Wars, Sons of the Revolution, Society of War of 1812, Society of Foreign Wars, Society of American Wars, Naval Order of the United States, and the Loyal Legion.
How sincerely Colonel Blunt’s efforts toward the up building of the Arsenal, not only by the people of the Tri-Cities, but by the authorities at Washington as well, is demonstrated by the high tribute paid him by Sena-tor Allison, when he declared that “Rock Island Arsenal, during the few months of the late Spanish War, more than returned in advantage to the country the great cost of its construction; and unquestionably, in a war of any magnitude and duration, this cost would again be repaid many fold.”
Such is the career of Colonel Stanhope E. Blunt. Added comment or fulsome eulogy would be futile and would only detract from the impression created by the simple, dignified life of the man himself. A man of few words and many deeds, courteous in his bearing toward all, is Colonel Blunt; in fine a thorough gentleman; a vigorous executive and a typical soldier.