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.

2 comments: said...

Hi and thanks for very interesting information that can be found on your Army of Tennessee.
While I am writing to you I thought I'd check with you if there's room for link exchange on your site.
I am the owner of A Brief History of the American Civil War (
Sincerely, Ann

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