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7. Thomas Peake - the Civil War

Thomas Peake, son of William Peak and Lucinda Edelen, was born in Nelson County near Holy Cross on March 24, 1843 and was raised on the farm northeast of New Haven15. He was baptized at Holy Cross Catholic Church, but the church records for that period were destroyed by fire. Thomas was living at home with his parents during the census years of 1850 and 1860. Government records give his personal description in 1861 as five feet, eight inches tall, with dark hair, dark complexion and gray eyes.

When the Civil War broke out in late 1860, the state government of Kentucky attempted to remain neutral, but both armies recruited heavily and successfully in the state in the early months. Later, as the Union army occupied most of the state, recruiting became difficult for the Confederates. Thomas Peake enlisted in the U. S. Army at Camp Graves on Nov. 4, 1861, enrolling in Company G of the Tenth Kentucky Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He joined the army with his close friend, Andrew Elmore. Thomas' cousin John F. Peak, son of James Edward Peak of Washington County joined the regiment also. The roster of the 10th Kentucky, particularly Co. G, shows many of the familiar Kentucky Catholic names: Mudd, Ballard, Cecil, Mattingly, Edelen, Miles, Hagan, Spalding and others17. It is interesting to note that back in St. Mary's County, Maryland, sons of the same families were joining the Confederate army1.

The 10th Kentucky, under the command of John M. Harlan, was outfitted at Camp Crittenden, Lebanon, Kentucky, and mustered into service on Nov. 21, 1861. The regiment was recruited largely from Washington and adjoining counties25. A description of the heady atmosphere of the early days of the war is presented in the Washington County, Kentucky Bicentennial History, 1792-199225, taken from the reminiscences of W. C. McChord. He describes the opening of a Union meeting at the Springfield fairground with a prayer which included an entreaty that the Almighty should "take each erring rebel by the nape of the neck and the seat of his breeches, and shake him over the fires of perdition, which may have been heated seven times hotter than was prepared for thy servants Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the days of old,...until these rebellious and sacrilegious souls may, like the prodigal son, return to the Union..". This was followed by a speech and exhortations by ex-Governor Charles Wycliffe for the young men to volunteer to "save the country". He also describes the 10th Kentucky, marching to Springfield to attend a picnic in their honor at the fairgrounds: "...one thousand men four abreast, came winding itself like some great monster along the road, with Colonel Harlan and his staff at their head."

The regiment was placed in the Corps of Gen. George Thomas, under the brigade command of Col. M. D. Manson17. It left Lebanon on Dec. 31, and participated in the Battle of Mill Springs (Logan's Crossroads) on Jan. 19, 1862. From there Pvt. Thomas Peake and the 10th Kentucky marched via Stanford, Danville, and Bardstown to Louisville, from which they went by steamboat down the Ohio and up the Cumberland River to Nashville17. From Nashville they marched to southeastern Tennessee, engaging in the destruction of an important railroad bridge, and from there they moved south to take part in the capture of Corinth, Mississippi. During the summer of 1862 the 10th Ky, attached to Gen. Buell's army, engaged in operations in Alabama and Mississippi, losing two companies assigned to guard a bridge at Courtland, Alabama. These units were captured by a Confederate cavalry force on July 25, 1862. The incident proved a source of some embarrassment for the 10th Ky, as Gen. Buell used it as an example of "disgraceful neglect" in his General Orders No. 37, dated Aug. 1, 1862, which he ordered read to every company and detachment of his army. It states, in part, "The guard at Courtland Bridge, consisting of Companies A and H, 10th Kentucky, under the command of Captain Davidson, was completely surprised and captured but with trifling loss on the morning of the 25th...by a force of irregular cavalry." Buell combined this with other incidents to reinforce his message: "The general submits these examples to the reflection of the troops. He reminds them that neglect and bad conduct on the part of guards brings dishonor upon them and may even jeopardize the safety of an army." Reports of the incident by sources closer to the 10th Ky give a very different account of the capture of the two companies, stating they were overpowered by the Confederates, fought bravely, and surrendered only after further resistance had become useless17.

In August the regiment was garrisoned at Winchester, Tennessee, when it was ordered back to Kentucky with Buell's army to defend against the invasion of the state by the Confederate forces under Braxton Bragg. The army marched northward in pursuit of the Confederates and arrived in Louisville in time to secure the city from attack. The 10th Kentucky arrived in Louisville on Sept. 25, 1862, hungry and somewhat demoralized25, but the army was revitalized there with food, rest and the issue of new clothing and equipment before resuming the campaign. The 10th Kentucky was present but not committed to combat at the battle of Perryville on Oct. 8, 1862. The regiment, then part of the 1st Division of General Schoepf, was positioned behind General Sheridan in the center sector, placed in line where the Springfield road crossed Doctor's Creek25. The heavy fighting occurred to their front and left. Following the Battle of Perryville the army followed in pursuit of the Confederates out of the state, and the 10th Ky marched on to Gallatin, Tennessee.

On Dec. 7, 1862 the brigade of which the 10th Kentucky was a part was engaged in a battle with the cavalry forces of Gen. John Hunt Morgan at Castalian Springs, Tennessee. Following this, Morgan embarked on a raid into Kentucky, and the 10th Ky, now brigaded with the 4th and 13th Kentucky, 10th and 74th Indiana, and 14th Ohio regiments, followed by railroad and forced marches to protect the railroad from Morgan's troops. On Dec. 29 they fought an engagement against Confederate forces under Gen. Basil Duke on the Rolling Fork, about 10 miles east of Elizabethtown. The Confederates were defeated and, according to brigade reports, fled precipitously, some going up the river as far as New Haven. This was as close to home as the men of the 10th Ky would be for some time.

Following Morgan's retreat from Kentucky, the 10th Ky returned to Tennessee and fought several skirmishes with Confederate cavalry. The regiment was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland, under Gen. William Rosecrans, and participated in the sweeping movement pushing Bragg's Army out of central Tennessee. They fought engagements at Hoover's Gap, Fairfield, Tullahoma, and Compton's Creek17. At Tullahoma the 10th Ky, fighting in rain and mud, helped drive the rebels out of their fortifications25. Bragg's Confederates were eventually pushed into and out of Chattanooga by Rosecran's movements, which culminated in the great Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia. At this time the 10th Ky, commanded by Col. William Hayes and later by Lt. Col. Gabriel Wharton, was in the brigade of Col. John Croxton.

The Battle of Chickamauga was fought over a two day period, on Sept. 19 and 20, 1863, and the 10th Ky was heavily engaged from start to finish16. Around 9:00 AM on the morning of Sept. 19, Col. Croxton's brigade was ordered to engage and capture a Confederate brigade which had crossed Chickamauga Creek near Jay's Mill and was unable to return. This was the first serious fighting of the Battle of Chickamauga. In actuality, several Confederate brigades were in the area, and the resulting fighting was fierce. At the left of the brigade line, the 10th Ky first exchanged fire with a Tennessee cavalry brigade, who retreated under the fire. A little later the brigade line was attacked on the right by a brigade of Georgians, and the 74th Ind began to retreat in confusion. Croxton then ordered the 10th Ky to rush from the left to the right of the line to stop the attack, which they accomplished under fire. More troops were brought into the area on both sides, and the fighting continued for several hours. Croxton's brigade, with the 10th Ky, withdrew about 11:00 AM when they were out of ammunition.

The brigade was ordered back into action around noon, when they engaged and put to flight a brigade of Arkansas troops. A little later in the afternoon they came under heavy attack from a Georgia brigade and, after marching all the night before, missing breakfast, and fighting for nearly five hours, Croxton's men were finally pushed back by the Confederates. They found support from another Union force, and their fighting was over for the day.

The battle of Chickamauga was decided the next day, Sept. 20, when a large force under Gen. James Longstreet attacked and destroyed the weak center of the Union line. The bulk of the Union army, including the commanding general, fled in retreat to Chattanooga. Amid the throngs of fleeing soldiers, Croxton managed to reform his brigade's line to face the onslaught of the victorious Confederates. With the 10th Ky stationed alongside a battery of the First Ohio Light Artillery, they managed stop the attack in their immediate front, from Henry Benning's Georgians. However they were soon outflanked and overwhelmed. Col. Croxton was seriously wounded and the brigade split in half, with the 10th Ky moving north to join that part of the Union Army still remaining on the field of battle.

The only section of the Union line to hold that day was the left, under Gen. Thomas. It was with Gen. Thomas at Snodgrass Hill that the 10th Ky. ended its day's action, fighting off attack after attack by the Confederates trying to dislodge Thomas' remaining troops. The Union force could not be budged, but they withdrew from the field during the night to join the rest of the army at Chattanooga. Thus, the 10th Ky was in the first brigade committed to battle at Chickamauga, and among the last units to leave16.

Of the 471 men available for duty at Chickamauga, the 10th Kentucky suffered 166 casualties, including Thomas Peake15. At some point in the two days of fighting, Peake was wounded and, as described by him, he was lost in the woods for several days while making his way to the rear. He feared then that he would die of his wounds before receiving attention. His fears were put to rest by an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, who assured him that he would be saved18.

A more routine assessment of Peake's wounds is contained in the Surgeon General's report15, which states that he received gunshot wounds to the right arm, thigh and leg, described as flesh wounds, but serious. The Oct. 8, 1863 edition of the Cincinnati Daily Commercial listed the Union casualties of Chickamauga30, describing Thomas Peake's condition as "severely wounded". Other Company G casualties included Joseph Ballard, James Waters, and John M. Clark among those mortally wounded, William Hayden, Lemuel Ferrill, Edward Avis, and Company Commander Capt. James M. Davenport severely wounded, and James Blandford and Miles Pius Kelty slightly wounded. The evacuation of the Union wounded became a desperate operation as the Confederate armies descended on the retreating Union troops. As described by 2nd Lieut. Isaac Royse of the 115th Illinois30: "The danger of the situation becoming known to the wounded..., what was very nearly a stampede to the North began on the 23rd (of September). Every man at all capable for the journey, and very many so badly wounded that to attempt it was at the imminent risk of life, scrambled for a chance to get away. Hundreds with arms and legs bandaged...took to the road afoot. And thus the crowds streamed over the pontoon bridge and up the slopes of Walden's Ridge. The jolting of the ambulances and wagons was excruciating to the badly wounded, but regardless of the cries of pain, the procession moved on." "The next day's march brought them down into the Sequatchie Valley, and late on the third day they were at Bridgeport, Ala.", where there was a long wait for railroad transportation to the Nashville hospitals. Thomas Peake was among those transported to Nashville, where he arrived at the hospital on Sept. 25, 1863, and after recovery he was sent home for a lengthy recuperation. He was erroneously reported a deserter on Jan. 24, 1864, while at home on medical furlough.

Another casualty at Chickamauga was Thomas Peake's cousin, John F. Peak, who suffered a fracture of the middle finger of the right hand and was also sent to the hospital in Nashville. The injury and its complications were apparently severe as he was not released for duty until late December of 1863 (see John F. Peak).

Thomas Peake was slow in returning to duty, doubtless due to the serious nature of his wounds. He rejoined his unit on Mar. 22, 1864, and in May, 1864, the brigade started on the Atlanta campaign in northern Georgia. From May to August the 10th Ky participated in engagements at Resaca, Adairville, Calhoun, Kingston, Kennesaw, and many other points, culminating in the fall of Atlanta17. During this campaign, the regiment found itself in a desperate situation on the north bank of the Chattahoochee River, north of Atlanta, where it held off an entire brigade alone until reinforcements arrived25. Illness proved as formidable a foe as the rebels at all stages of the Civil War. Thomas Peake missed a part of the Atlanta campaign as he was reported sick and hospitalized in Aug., 1864.

In its last combat action at Jonesboro, just south of Atlanta, the 10th Ky made a charge which General Absolom Baird said "was one of the most magnificent on record". They were the first to break the rebel lines, and on entering the rebel works, they captured the 6th and 7th Arkansas regiments25. After the capture of Atlanta, the 10th Ky was sent for detached duty at Ringgold, Georgia in September, 1864, and in October it was stationed at Chattanooga. From there the unit was sent back to Louisville and, having completed their three year enlistments, Tom Peake and the rest of the regiment were mustered out of service on Dec. 6, 1864.

After completing his military service, Thomas Peake returned to Nelson County. The disbanding of the regiment did not mean the end of hostilities for the 10th Kentucky. An officer and comrade-in-arms in Tom Peake's Company G, Lt. Charles E. Spalding, was searched out by some of John Hunt Morgan's Confederate guerrillas in December of 1864 and gunned down in an orchard at Tom Blandford's home in Washington County25. Strong resentments lingered, and similar violent incidents were common in Kentucky in the years immediately following the war.

On Feb. 6, 1866, Thomas Peake married Theresa Elizabeth Culver15. The wedding was performed by Fr. James Martin at St. Thomas Church, and was witnessed by George Bryan and Thomas Thornbury. Theresa Elizabeth Culver, daughter of Jacob Culver and Mary Ellen Thornberry (see Culver Family in Appendix) was born June 30, 1845, and baptized Aug. 17, 1845, at St. Catherine's Church in New Haven, with Julia A. Ball as sponsor. The Peakes lived for a time in Larue County, where they are listed in the 1870 census, but had returned to Nelson County by 1880. Thomas and Theresa Elizabeth went on to have eight children: Robert D. Peake, born Dec. 11, 1867; John O. Peake, born Nov. 19, 1870; Gabriel T. Peake, born Dec. 7, 1873; Mary R. Peake, born Oct. 22, 1877; Annie L. Peake, born May 11, 1880; Alice V. Peake, born July 25, 1884; Frances N. Peake, born Oct. 18, 1885; and Florence E. Peake, born Sept. 14, 1888. Government records relate that they lost their house with its contents in a fire sometime around 1880.

A number of Thomas Peake's business transactions are recorded at the Nelson County Courthouse. In 1876 he received a deed for 70 acres of the Rankin's Run farm from his family12 (see William Peake), and also in 1876 he and his wife transferred property to Samuel Culver. In 1879 Thomas and his wife conveyed property to his brother-in-law, Stephen Duvall. Thomas is recorded transferring property to Katherine Greenwell in 1881, and in 1883 Thomas and Theresa conveyed property to Thomas Ballard. In 1885 they transferred property to G. M. Clark. On Oct. 2, 1893 a lien on the 70 acres at Rankin's Run was released, the papers being signed by Thomas Peake12.

In later years Thomas Peake applied for and received a Veteran's Pension. As an elderly man he always walked with the aid of a cane18. He received his last pension payment of $25 on Nov. 4, 1915, dying of influenza shortly thereafter on Dec. 28, 1915. He was treated for his ailment by Dr. Edward Mudd of New Haven, who also signed his death certificate. The records state that Thomas Peake was buried in New Haven. The pension was then passed on to Theresa Peake, who collected it until her death on Apr. 30, 1920.

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