Monday, January 16, 2012

150 Mill Springs

January 19th marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Mill Springs aka Fishing Creek, Kentucky. This Battle would mark the first blow against the Confederate defensive line in Kentucky, the rise of George Henry Thomas to the National stage, and the death of a Confederate General. Much could be said about this engagement, but we will look at the story of one of the dead.
As the Battle began to turn sharply agains the Confederates the engagement began to center on a struggle for a line along a 8 foot high split rail fence defended by first the 4th Kentucky Infantry (US) and then reinforced by the 2nd Minnesota Infantry, on the other side was the 15th Mississippi and 20th Tennessee Infantries. The 15th had stuggled the longest and the ground lay strewn with the Mississippians in a final bid to try to take the position the 20th Tennessee pitched into the fray. The fighting along the fence was brutal with men being shot and bayonetted at point blank range. The Confederates however were unable to mount the fence and drive their blue clad foes back and first the 15th Mississippi broke and fled across the frozen cornfield they had advanced across earlier that morning and then after one final try Col. Joe Battle ordered his Tennesseeans to withdraw as well, but on the regiment's right, 1st Lieutenant Bailey Peyton, Jr. was not willing to let the fight go and ordered his Company A, The Hickory Guards to charge forward again. Yelling "Come on Hickory Guards!" the Nashville based company followed into a hail of bullets, which was more than they could stand. Company A halted and then fled to the rear, but not Lieutenant Peyton. The charge had carried him to within about 10 yards of the line and now with his men retreating the 29 year old officer stood alone facing the Federal line. A call was made for him to surrender he answered by opening fire with his pistol and the stunned Federals, wounding a Lieutenant in Company I of the 2nd Minnesota. He continured to fire until Pvt. Adam Wickett pushed his musket through the fence and fired. The buck and ball charge struck Peyton full in the left side of the face, killing him instantly and ending the fighting on that part of the field. Peyton's body along with his commander, General Felix Zollicoffer, would later be transported through the lines to Nashville. Peyton would make his way back to his home town of Gallatin for burial.
Bailey Peyton was an example of the reckless and highly motivated first round of Confederate soldiers that enlisted in 1861 and also an example of the division that was witnessed in many Tennessee families during the war. Young Peyton's father was an ardent Unionist and a well respected citizen, having served as an officer in the War with Mexico, as a State Represenative, as US Minister to Chile, and a famed juror. His son had against his wishes supported secession and joined the Confederate Army. Now the elder Peyton buried his rebel son, who disappointed him by his choice but took comfort in the fact that his son had not died a coward.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Creighton and Crane, 7th Ohio

I have developed a special affinity for the 7th Ohio over the last few years, mainly from telling their story at the Battle of Ringgold Gap. This past Fall, after learning that my favorite Band was playing a headline show in Cleveland, decided to visit Cleveland and find the graves of Colonel William Creighton and Lieuteant Colonel Orrin Crane, both as you may remember were killed at Ringgold. This trip to Cleveland turned into an adventure as I landed as the city received its first snow of the year and soon turned into a Winter Wonderland. I was armed with my somewhat trusty GPS and managed to find my way, very slowly, to Woodland Cemetery where they are buried, not far from a monument to the 7th Ohio. Creighton and Crane had both been members of the Cleveland Greys before the war and had become good friends, they went to war together, and they died together. Its only fitting that they now rest side by side.
I also made a short trip to the Western Reserve Historical Society Museum and learned a little more about the men of the 7th Ohio. The region was largely settled by immigration from Conneticut, so a New England sense was exhibited here, and a very dedicated Abolitionist mindset took hold with many of the inhabitants of the area. So a little more comes out about the men of the 7th.

2011 Wrap Up

2011 proved to be a very busy year with work at CHCH and at home. At work it was the regular slate of programs and tours but with the addition of being our "reenactor coordinator" for the new park movie, basically recruting young skinny guys for the film, the end product will be good, telling the story of the battle from the soldier's perspective instead of the Generals. I have also been pegging away at my book on Hood's Tennessee Campaign, its always funny that I seem to find all sorts of other things when Im in the midst of a bigger project.
Finally, not to make it seem like it has been all work, but I did a lot of traveling this past year, A LOT. I attended the 150th Anniversary of Manassas and managed to by the end of the year visit every NPS Civil War Battlefield in the East. My last trip was the week before Christmas and had a definite Chattanooga theme, visiting the graves of Col. William Creighton and Liet. Orin Crane of the 7th Ohio in Cleveland, then visiting the park near that small, south central Pennsylvania college town to see the monuments for the troops of Geary's Division, and finally visiting the grave of young Lieutenant Edward Geary. A whrilwind trip to wrap up a whirlwind year. I hope to make a few postings about these stops in the next few days.


Well one of my resolutions for this year is to bring some life back into the blog. Between work and writing a book, there has been very little time to devote here, but I think I have found a solution, so we shall see. Hope everyone has a great 2012!