Colonel 13th (afterwards 25th) Missouri Vols. (Infantry), September 1, 1861; killed at Pittsburg Landing, Tenn., April 6, 1862.
THE Rev. William B. 0. Peabody, D. D., of Springfield, Massachusetts, was the son of Judge Oliver Peabody of Exeter, New Hampshire, and was born July 7, 1799. He married Eliza Amelia White, daughter of Major Moses White, who served in the army through the Revolution. Rev. Dr. Peabody was settled in Springfield, Massachusetts, in October, 1820, and remained with the same parish until his death, which took place in 1847. He was well known as a preacher, essayist, naturalist, and poet, and was universally respected for the pure and elevated character of his daily life. Those who remember the Springfield of forty years ago speak of Mrs. Peabody as lovely in person and manners, full of energy and public spirit, and taking a leading part in all the schemes for doing good which were in vogue at that day.
Their eldest son, Howard, died in infancy. The rest of the family consisted of one daughter and four sons, of whom Everett was the oldest. He was born in Springfield, June 13, 1830. There is little to be told about his childhood. He was a tall, athletic boy, fond of outdoor sports, and excelling in them. He was particularly skilful as a swimmer. Once, while swimming across the Connecticut, at Springfield, he was taken with the cramp when half-way across. One of his schoolmates swam out to him with a plank, by the aid of which Everett reached the shore. It is a curious circumstance that this schoolmate (since dead) was in the Rebel army at Shiloh, and afterwards said that as he was marching into the Federal camp he saw Everett's body on the field, and recognized it at once.
Everett was remarkably quick to learn, and was regarded as the most gifted boy of the family. He was fond of poetry, and would repeat page after page of Scott's poems, which were great favorites with the household. His father had a strong desire to send him to college, but had not the means to do so. Assistance was at last volunteered in such a manner that he could not refuse; and in 1845 Everett entered as Freshman in Burlington College, Vermont. He remained there but a year, and in 1846 entered Harvard as Sophomore.
At first his standing was very high, — so that one of his letters expresses the hope that he shall prove to be among the first eight scholars; and although he afterward seemed to care less about his rank, he had a part at Commencement when he graduated. He was fond of fun and frolic, and was rusticated, in 1847, for helping to make a bonfire on University steps. He was sent home to study with his father, and was at home when his father died, — his mother and only sister having died three years before. He finished the term of his suspension in the family of Rev. Rufus Ellis, then of Northampton.
While in college he never was a plodding student, but learned with singular ease and facility. I remember his asking me once to hear him recite a lesson of several pages, which he had been studying for half an hour; and I was surprised to hear him give the substance of page after page, having evidently fixed in his mind every point of importance in the lesson clearly and distinctly, while he troubled himself little about the precise phraseology. He had at this time acquired a good deal of facility in French and German, and had a great deal of miscellaneous information. His wit and love of fun made him a favorite companion at social entertainments; and he enjoyed such things himself, although not to excess.
During his last winter vacation, he made a visit to Philadelphia and Washington, and in the latter place gained an acquaintance who seemed to fascinate him a good deal, — Colonel Baker, then in Congress, and subsequently killed at Ball's Bluff. Colonel Baker confided to the young man a project of taking a party of fifty or a hundred men to California, for two years' service in the mines. Everett was delighted with the prospect of adventure involved in such an enterprise, and wrote home to his friends for aid and advice; but the project ultimately failed.
He graduated in 1849, and at once found employment at engineering on the Boston Water-Works, under Mr. Chesborough. Soon afterwards, he obtained a leveller's place on the Cleveland, Columbus, and Ashtabula Railroad. He thus describes his first experience of outdoor life: —
"February 3, 1850.
"Thank Heaven, I can support myself now; and if it is a pittance I live on, it is at least earned by my own right arm, which does not snarl and tell me I am extravagant, whenever I ask it therefor. And so au diable with money matters. Well, it's glorious, after all, going about in these old woods, with trees which seem to have borne the brunt of the tempests for a thousand years. Huge shafts, with buttress-like roots, and a flowering of Nature's own mosaic. Though our feet are wet and our hands cold, though we anticipate the sun and work like hodmen, there 's a luxury in it which I can feel, but not analyze. You might not think it poetry, but it is, — this wading through the swamps watching the clouds. We have nothing at the East to compare with these glorious clouds. We left off work last night about a mile and a half from the tavern where we now are. I started, along with about six of the party, and trudged through the swamp for a mile and a half or two miles, and then found ourselves four miles from the tavern, in a driving snow-storm, dark, and the walking not fit to be called walking. We came home very much fatigued."
This was the beginning of a Western residence of more than ten years, with but a few short visits to the home of his youth. He was successively employed on the Pacific Railroad (St. Louis), the Maysville and Lexington, Kentucky, the Maysville and Big Sandy, the Louisville and Frankfort, — always as assistant or resident engineer, but with always increasing salary and responsibilities.
At this time he was in splendid physical condition. His frame was large and powerful, his health was always good, and he was almost always very light-hearted and careless about the future. Except that he had a very strong ambition to rise in his profession, I never saw a man who troubled himself less about what the morrow might bring forth. At this time, the Hon. James Guthrie told the Hon. Edward Everett, if I remember his words correctly, that he thought Everett Peabody was "the best field engineer in the West." He was soon after appointed Chief Engineer of the Memphis and Ohio Railroad, with a salary of three thousand dollars. At a later period, — for everything connected with Western railroads was then fluctuating and uncertain, — he was employed as engineer of the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and then of the Hannibal and St. Joseph's (Missouri) Railroad. Here he remained for three years.
Up to this time his letters to his brothers, which were numerous, showed simply the professional enthusiasm which might have been expected from his energetic and buoyant nature. As he grew older, however, the wearying effects of rough border life began to tell upon him, and the desire for home and for cultivated society became stronger and stronger. One of his brothers was married about this time; and his many letters to his new sister-in-law showed a tenderer side of his nature, and exhibited a plaintive longing that was almost pathetic. For a man of education and cultivated tastes to find himself at twenty-seven the permanent resident of a "boarding car" at the unfinished extremity of a new railway track, in the midst of an unbroken wilderness, in the dead of winter, was rather a dismal experience. The following letters speak for themselves.
"Boarding Cars, February 20, 1858.
"This Sunday evening, wearied out by a day of the most listless laziness, I can think of nothing to do, unless it be to write to you, my dear The heading of this letter may puzzle you. As it is well to have the snow off the track before we pull the engine wide open, I will explain.
"A train of cars is kept at the end of the track, and pushed forward as the track progresses. These migratory dwellings contain cars for the accommodation of the men who work, — a car for cooking and one for eating, and at the end of the train, a blue car, with a peaked roof, contains my office, one end of which is decorated with bunks and shelves, which serve as sleeping apartments. An I were skilful, I would delineate, in a few rapid strokes of the pen, the inside hereof; but the gift of sketching is denied me, and the mere statement that it contains a drawing-table, a stove, a desk, and the aforesaid shelves, would seem to go as far as words can do in describing.
"The aforesaid cars are now on an embankment about forty feet high, and the snow stretches away to the north and south. The trees are black and dreary-looking, and the wind goes howling by. Bitter cold it is, too, outside. But I have finished my frugal repast of bread and butter, and do not purpose exposing my cherished nose to the night air again. Mr. Kirby, one of my assistants, is reading the 'Autocrat' by my side . . .
"What a great thing a locomotive is, — a sort of Daniel Webster reproduced in iron. I always feel like taking off my hat, when I see one come elbowing up. During the past week I have been renewing my acquaintance with the levers, and getting able to ride the beast again. It gives one a singular consciousness of power to feel the machinery, and to know that the whole thing is under your control; that you can say to it, Thus far, or, Do this, or, Do that,— and it is done.
"But after all, vague reminiscences come back to me of ancient sleigh-rides, of pretty faces snuggling close to your side, of muffs held up before faces to keep off the wind, and gentle words. A good dash across the Neck would be glorious now. It seems to me the only case where our stiff Puritanic rigidity is overcome, — possibly by the still stiffer rigidity of the weather, — and where people seem 'to let themselves out' for fun and frolic generally, in our old home-land.
"Naught of that in this Western land. The fun and frolic is almost entirely men's fun; and, heavens! how much we would give for one good romp in the old land! There is fun enough, and wit and nonsense enough, out here; but, after all, it is hard and angular, and lacks entirely the refining influence which womankind infuses into man's life. But the weird sisters weave, and Atropos sits ready. Let her sit. I mean to get back before she takes the final suit, and see if I can't find youth and life again in the 'auld countree.'"
"Why do you attack me so ferociously about a mild remark, that you Eastern people don't know how to love? You don't.
"I have no doubt you think you do. I have no doubt you think that this love — which, as you yourself say, becomes such a part of your nature that you don't show it, and, you might add (if it were not doggerel), know it — is strong passion and devotion; but it isn't. So far as it has any character, it is more habit than anything else. You lead — not you particularly, but all the Eastern people — two lives: one, the outside life of society (which is hypocrisy); the other, the life of love, family, or otherwise, which is real: and you have plenty of support for both, and very little care for either. But wait until you only have support for one, the outer, and none at all for the other, the inner. Wait till you have to treasure up memories of each little act of affection, in place of having the realities about you daily, and you knowing all the time that these very realities exist, and you can't get at them. Did you ever read of Tantalus, of Ixion, and the other reprobates? Wait till distance blinds you to the faults, and exalts the virtues, of your friends, and you love them with a love the more absorbing and complete because it finds no response in daily life, and because it is all your inner and real life. Then, my dear, you won't call me a truculent border ruffian.
"Pshaw! what nonsense for me to write this stuff for you to laugh at! I love my friends, and that, you know full well, that gave me leave or (if I might correct Shakespeare) provoked me to speak of it."
"Bloomington, Mo., December 16,1858.
"I have returned from a scouting expedition after game, cold, angry, and generally ill-humored. A 'Merry Christmas' to you all at home there.
"I send you a song which we shall sing to the tune of 'Benny Haven's, Oh!' at our Christmas supper.
'Our fires are blazing cheerily,
Our loaded tables groan,
The wine is circling merrily
Among us here alone.
But our thoughts are wandering sadly
To the days of long ago, —
To the days when we so gladly
Saw Christmas wassail flow.
'And the long years, whose passing
Hath left its many stings;
And the young hopes, whose glassing
Mirrored such noble things;
And the struggles we have fought through,
The sorrows we have borne,
And the objects we have sought, too,
All to our minds return.
'Our weary exile bearing
Far from those loved before,
Our hearts shall still be sharing
Their pleasures as of yore.
Then fill up bumpers, brothers;
As Christmas takes its flight,
We drink this toast together
To those at home to-night.'
"(A poor song, but mine own.)"
Early in 1859 Everett became partner in a firm organized for the purpose of building the Platte County Railroad, in Missouri, and he was appointed Chief Engineer, with complete control of the work and a salary of $3,000 per annum. He expected to make an independent fortune out of the contract, and would undoubtedly have done so, had he lived. His residence now became St. Joseph, Missouri. His employment involved a good deal of travelling, through a beautiful country, and an occasional attendance on the Legislature, as lobby-member, which he found less agreeable than instructive. His worldly prospects were bright. "I should not be surprised," he wrote, "if in two or three years each of us (there are three) should have an annual income of $20,000 or $25,000 from the road." His health and strength were in admirable condition; he described himself as "strong as an ox, and with vitality enough for a dozen of our young men of Boston." When, in the following summer (1860), he made his long-desired two months' visit at home, I noticed that, wherever we went, his commanding physique always attracted attention. He was six feet and one inch in height, and weighed two hundred and forty pounds. His motions were slow and steady, and his manners quiet and grave.
Such were his condition and prospects at the outbreak of the Rebellion. The following letter is the first record of his views upon the subject.
"St. Joseph, March 24, 1861.
"I received yours this morning. It will always be better to direct letters here than to any place whence I may happen to write you
"We have been fighting a gallant battle here for the Union, and have whipped our opponents at every point. We had a convention, called by the Legislature, for the purpose of carrying us out of the Union, filled with men who declared 'that the present grievances did not justify secession'; and we carried the State on that basis by a vote of sixty thousand majority. That convention has decided in favor of a national convention; and if one is held, we shall send the right kind of men, — men ready to compromise on some basis of settlement which will, in time, bring back the seceding States, and restore the Union. See that you do the same thing. If you drive the Border Slave States from you, and crush out us Union men who are fighting the battles here, there will be separation, and undoubtedly, sooner or later, war. We are satisfied here with Lincoln's Inaugural and Cabinet; but we have very little respect for a party which places him there to settle matters, and then ties his hands by passing no bills to give him the necessary power; which passes a high-tariff bill (to which we have no objections), and then provokes the violation of it by neither closing the Southern ports nor giving power to collect revenue outside of them.
"I am growing terribly bored with having nothing to do, and growing rusty. I shall have to pitch out somewhere before long. I shall probably make a trip out as far as Laramie this summer, in case nothing happens to prevent; and if I could get a good opening in any part of the world, I would wind up affairs here and start. Love to all.
This letter shows that his residence of twelve years in the Border States had exerted the natural effect on his views, and that he looked on national affairs with the eyes of a Missouri Unionist, not of a New England man. The next letter shows him carried already far on by the enthusiasm of the war.
"St. Joseph, May 16,1861.
"Dear —, — Yours received this morning. The reason of my long silence is, that I made a trip — starting about April 10th — up to Fort Randal, a thousand miles up the Missouri River, and only returned about ten days ago.
"Everything has been in a state of excitement here, and about ten days ago was drifting toward thorough anarchy. I think the operations in St. Louis did no particular harm, and Harney's proclamation does a wondrous deal of good. He is a citizen of Missouri, and has the power to do what he says he will; and it is well known here that when he undertakes to do a thing he is apt to do it very roughly. Everybody knows him to be a pro-slavery man, and this takes, to a certain extent, the sting away from any exercise of authority he may make. Altogether an excellent appointment.
"Of course all business is dead. If I can get into the Regular service, in a high position, I shall join the army. I cannot yet tell whether I can muster influence enough to command a majority or a captaincy, but shall probably try and see what can be done.
"We apprehend, at present, no difficulty; and if we have one, it will not, I think, be lasting. I trust not.
"There is little to write about, except politics. The real issue in this State is between our damnable secession State government and old Harney; and as the Union men and Disunion men are each afraid of the other, and our State government is powerless, both from lack of money and of arms, I think that Missouri will be apt to be quiet, Harney's sword being thrown into that scale.
"I shall look to you presently, perhaps, to help me in my military views."
The following letter shows his first summons to military service. The volunteer corps here indicated was subsequently organized, and he was appointed its Major. It became the nucleus of the Thirteenth Missouri, and he was commissioned as its Colonel, to rank as such from September 1, 1861. After the capture of the regiment at Lexington, its number was given to another corps, and it was ultimately reorganized as the Twenty-fifth Missouri.
"HEAD-QUARTERS, DEPARTMENT WEST,
ST. LOUIS ARSENAL, May 31, 1861.
"SIR, — I am directed by Brigadier-General Lyon, commanding, to request you to repair at once to Fort Leavenworth, to confer with the commanding officer there in regard to the organization and equipment of a reserve corps in your city.
"I am, sir, very respectfully,
"Your obedient servant,
"CHESTER HARDING, JR.,
"A. A. G., 1st Brig. Mo. Vols.
“To E. PEABODY, Esq., St. Joseph, Missouri."
Major Champion Vaughan wrote soon after to General J. H. Lane: "There is no man in Northern Missouri so well calculated to give you all useful information as Major Everett Peabody, to whom I would urge upon you 'an attentive ear' in all matters he has to communicate. In the great crisis now upon Missouri, I believe no man is so likely to take hold of the helm with a manly resolution as Major Peabody, who combines in a happy degree those qualities which the occasion and the times demand."
Major Peabody's own letters now afford almost a continuous narrative:—
"CAMP LANDER, August 27, 1861.
“Dear —, — I am ordered to Kansas City, and expect roughness.
"I shall send home, in the course of a day or two, my contract with the Platte Railroad Company; and in case I go up, which is very likely, I want to have the rest of you take what I have made, and use it to the best advantage for all three.
"Good by, old fellow. I have a sort of presentiment that I shall go under. If I do, it shall be in a manner that the old family shall feel proud of it.
"LEXINGTON, September 24, 1861.
"Dear —, — Finding nothing to do at Kansas City, I moved down about eight hundred and fifty men to this place, on the 4th. On the 7th I started southward with Colonel Marshall (First Illinois Cavalry) in command, towards Warrensburg. After progressing, in his fashion, eighteen miles in two days, he returned here, leaving me in command of about nine hundred infantry and three hundred and fifty cavalry, with two six-pounders, and directed me to make a reconnoissance toward Warrensburg. I marched seventeen miles, and reached there at five in the evening.
"The rumors I had been hearing were, before twelve o'clock at night, reduced to certainty, — that the main body of the Missouri forces, under Price, Jackson, and Raines, were upon us, some twelve thousand strong. They were within five miles when I commenced my retreat, burning bridges, and delaying them as far as possible. I was none too quick; for, two hours after I arrived here, our pickets were driven in, and skirmishing began, and was continued during the night; they (mostly mounted) having made a forced march of thirty-five miles by a circuit, to cut us off.
"The next day (12th) we were attacked, first having severe skirmishing with their van, and afterwards a three and a half hours' cannonading, — we behind some hasty intrenchments; at evening they retired. We lost four killed and twenty-five wounded; they, about fifteen killed and thirty-five or forty wounded.
"From this time we worked assiduously at the trenches, which, however, were unfortunately situated, being below the top of the hill, so that the inside could be only partially protected by traverses from the cannonading and sharpshooting, and having no water inside the lines. Still we did the best we could. Colonel Mulligan, of Chicago, was in command (a good officer and a brave one), with a total of two thousand seven hundred men and about one thousand head of mules and horses; but seven hundred of our men were armed only with horse-pistols and sabres.
"On Wednesday last (18th), after constant skirmishing in the interval, the main attack commenced, and continued without intermission until five o'clock Friday evening, when Colonel Mulligan surrendered. During all that time our men had not in all a full meal of food or a pint of water to the man; of course there was no sleep. The enemy were receiving large reinforcements, and at the time of attack claimed to be thirty thousand strong, and were, I think, fully twenty thousand. Still we should have held out two or three hours longer, had it not been for cowardice or treason on the part of one of the Home Guards officers, (a butcher or stage-driver, I believe,) who, after one charge had been repulsed, and just as another was coming on, put out the white flag. Colonel Mulligan supposed it to be hoisted by the opposite side, and sent to General Price to know the meaning; and vice versa. Meanwhile they had surrounded us in enormous quantities, and were even in our ditches. The surrender was unconditional, and as the place had been kept eight days (ample time for reinforcements), and as, owing to the exhausted state of the men, we could not have held out over night, I am not certain that we could have done better. The loss is about equal, —between forty and fifty killed. We have one hundred and five wounded.
"On the second day of the three days' fight, toward evening, I had had some hot words, about a company of mine, with an officer of the Irish Brigade, and we had drawn our sabres, but postponed it at Colonel Mulligan's request; and I went off to look after the company, which had just charged a building outside the intrenchmcnts, occupied by their sharpshooters, and had taken it. I went through a very cross-fire from their sharpshooters, down to the building, just in time to find the building recharged by the enemy in overwhelming force. I brought up the retreat, and I tell you it was hot; but I got into the intrenchments safe, and was passing along, giving directions, when I was struck with a spent ball in the breast, which knocked me down, and seemed to deprive me of any power to move. I waited about half an hour, but did not recover, and the boys then undertook to carry me to the hospital. We had gone about ten yards when one was struck in the thigh, and dropped. Another came, and about five yards farther along I was struck by a slug, which went in behind the ankle, and passed round, lodging in the middle of the foot, about three fourths of an inch below the surface. It has been extracted, and I am doing well; although from the muscles and nerves concentrated in that place, and the lack of attention, it has proved a most painful wound.
"My men have been released, and sent home; some one hundred and thirty officers still here. If released on parole, I shall probably visit you, as I can do nothing in any way for three or four months to come.
"Fremont's proclamation has destroyed the chance of Missouri's remaining in the Union. Men are flocking in here by thousands. You will have to look to Virginia for success.
"The enemy had twelve or fifteen pieces of artillery; we had four. I have been highly complimented by both sides."
“ST. LOUIS, October 20, 1861.
"Dear —, — I am at last able to sit up and move about a little on crutches. The swelling is almost out of the foot, and the wound nearly healed up. I shall be able, in five or six weeks, to walk about freely, I think. Of course it is a great bore, but one must bear it.
"I ought to have written to you before, but I have had my room full of visitors, from the time I waked up in the morning till midnight; and as I knew others were writing, I neglected it.
"I have sent my officers up to St. Joseph, where I shall go when I have recovered sufficiently to move about. Those not on parole, and my friends in St. Joseph, are taking measures to reorganize the regiment; and there is, I believe, every prospect of my being released (or rather exchanged), being well, and being in command of fifteen hundred men in six weeks or two months, which will not be unsatisfactory. So you see the prospect is not gloomy.
"I have heard, comparatively, little of home affairs. Frank Huntington, who is here, tells me that the last time he saw you he thought you were looking quite unwell; and I have been fearful lest your infernal city life was gradually sapping your strength. I trust you are better now, and only urge care.
"As to affairs here, I place little confidence in General Fremont's catching Price. I think the object of Price's movement is to draw from St. Louis the whole strength of the Union forces, and entice them as far away as possible, so as to prevent reinforcements to the scattered squads of men at Ironton, Cape Girardeau, Bird's Point, Cairo, and Paducah.
"It is impossible to look into the future; but I augur little success here, unless Price gives Fremont battle, and that, as I have said before, I do not believe he will do. But we have been grossly and shamefully neglected. My men — four months or more in the service — have not received any clothing or pay, nothing but arms and ammunition; and my case is the rule rather than the exception.
"We are looking to Virginia now, with great anxiety and hope mingled. If a big blow is struck there shortly, it will simplify our task amazingly.
"Kindest love to all at home. Write constantly, and believe me,
"Yours, as ever."
"ST. LOUIS, November 26, 1861.
"Dear —, — I returned yesterday from St. Joseph, where I have been reorganizing my regiment, and received all your letters in a bunch. I cannot tell you how thankful I feel for the evidence of sympathy shown by you at home, for my poor boys, who have done more arduous service, fought better and suffered more than any other men in the service.
"Fortunately now everything is changed. We have received the only complete outfit for a regiment and for four companies of cavalry ever issued from the Western Department, and my boys are rallying back with a cordiality and kindness that make me feel proud of myself.
"The regiment was thoroughly disorganized and demoralized by the delays of the department in regard to payment. The recruiting officers flocked to St. Joseph like crows to the carrion, and induced about a hundred of my boys to join other regiments.
"About two weeks ago I went to St. Joseph, and all these boys applied to come back. The present prospect is that I shall rendezvous here. I have now about five hundred men, and we only commenced recruiting ten days ago.
* * * * * * *
"l am a nondescript animal, which I call a triped, as yet, but I trust in a short time to be on foot once more.
"Give my very best thanks for the presents you have sent me to the kind ladies who wrought them. Tell them that these evidences of kindness are intensely felt by those who receive them in the far West. You in Massachusetts, who see your men going off thoroughly equipped and prepared for the service, can hardly conceive the destitution and ragged condition of the Missouri volunteers in past time. If I had a whole pair of breeches in my regiment at Lexington, I don't know it; but I learned there that bravery did not depend on good clothes.
"I am sorry I have not written to you before, but I have been so busy I have not thought of it. Best love to all, and believe me,
"Yours, as ever."
"ARMY OF WEST TENNESSEE,
12 miles southwest Savannah, and 18 from Corinth, Miss.,
March 31, 1862.
"DEAR FRANK, — In camp again, with a good regiment and well equipped. We are in General Prentiss's Division (twelve regiments), and I command the leading brigade. As we are the left centre division, we expect rough work. I have a fine brigade; my own regiment at the right, the Twelfth Michigan, Sixteenth Wisconsin, and Eighteenth Missouri forming the balance. We arrived here on the 28th, and have a very pleasant camp, — the boys as lively as crickets, and everything working smoothly. It is funny to be called General; but the boys are all delighted, and I think will do good service at the proper time. The enemy is supposed to be about eighteen miles from us. We have an immense army, — how large we have no means of knowing; they say, however, one hundred and twenty odd regiments, and they are arriving at the rate of two or three a day.
"As I wrote you before leaving, I have left my contract with Judge Krum of St. Louis. In case I go under, my old assistants, Kilby and John Severance, can give you all the necessary information in regard to the property involved. Say to them all at home, that if we have good luck I shall win my spurs. Love to all.
This was the last letter received from him. Shortly after the battle of Pittsburg Landing, he was reported to be severely wounded, and one of his brothers set out to go for him. He heard of Everett's death at Cairo, but went on to the battle-field, to make arrangements for bringing the body home.
The newspaper narratives of the battle are very contradictory; but after careful study, the facts appear to be as follows. Everett felt that the army was in great danger of a surprise, and sent to General Prentiss on Saturday afternoon for permission to send out a scouting party. Receiving no answer, he sent it out without permission, on Sunday morning, between three and four o'clock. This party met the Rebel column advancing, and fell back, skirmishing.
Everett had his brigade in line before the attack in force came; this was distinctly stated to his brother by officers of the brigade. The Twenty-fifth Missouri mustered six hundred on the day after the battle, which it certainly could not have done, unless the retreat had been made in good order.
While the brigade was forming, General Prentiss rode up to Everett, and reprimanded him as follows: "You have brought on an attack for which I am unprepared, and I shall hold you responsible." He replied, "General, you will soon see that I was not mistaken." As a reply to the reprimand, the remark seems not precisely appropriate, and appears rather intended to remind General Prentiss of some previous conversation, in which Everett had in vain endeavored to induce the General to prepare for an attack like this. Viewed in this light, the answer seems decisive, and is another proof that, if he had been in higher command, the attack would have been differently received.
The right of the division, under General Prentiss, was captured en masse. Colonel Peabody's brigade received an attack which it could not support; and when he found it was giving ground, he rode to the front, and exposed himself recklessly, to keep the men from retreating. His Major, an old Texan ranger, did the same, and was also killed, receiving eleven wounds; while Everett received five, namely, in the hand, thigh, neck, body, and head.
He was apparently killed about fifteen minutes after the attack struck his line. The Colonel commanding the left regiment of the brigade has since testified that an orderly came from Everett to ask him if he thought he could hold his position. He replied that he thought he could. The orderly returned to his post, but presently came back once more with the statement that Colonel Peabody was killed. He was placed in a position where a chivalrous officer was devoted to almost certain death, and he behaved just as his friends would have predicted in such an emergency.
The following letter brought the announcement of his death.
"CAMP PRENTISS, IN THE FIELD,
NEAR PITTSBUBG, TENNESSEE, April 8, 1862.
"FRANK PEABODY, Boston.
"DEAR SIR, — I have but a few minutes to write, and will devote them to performing one of the most painful duties that have devolved on me during this war.
"Your brother, Everett Peabody, Acting Brigadier-General, and commanding the First Brigade of General Prentiss's division, was killed on the morning of the 6th of April, while gallantly urging forward the men of his brigade. The ball that killed him entered the upper lip, and passed out of the back of the head. A more gallant officer or truer gentleman has not laid down his life for his coon try.
"General Prentiss's division was the first in the fight, and it sustained severe repeated shocks during the day. The men fought with desperation, but were overpowered on the first day, and had to yield some ground to vastly superior numbers.
"Yesterday, the 7th, the enemy gave way, and General Grant, being reinforced by General Buell, has routed the enemy completely. The enemy, however, in the retreat, took all the effects of officers and soldiers. They have not left anything of the General's (E. Peabody) that I can find that I could send to you as a memento, — his sword, pistols, saddle, everything, gone. We will bury him this evening in his own camp, and will mark the place."I was his aid until after he fell. In haste,
"I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
"GEORGE K. DONNELLY,
Captain Co. I, 25th Mo. Vols."
His officers buried him in a gun-box, placing at his head a board with his name, and below it the couplet: —
"A braver man ne'er died upon the field;
A warmer heart never to death did yield."
His body was afterwards carried to Boston, where the funeral arrangements were taken in charge by the Governor of Massachusetts, May 16, 1861 [sic]. It was conveyed thence to Springfield, where, on the following day, in presence of an immense concourse, it was laid beside the remains of his mother, in the beautiful cemetery which his father had designed and planned.
His strong, simple, generous, manly nature reveals itself perfectly in his letters. He died under circumstances where continued life would have been certain to bring further distinction and usefulness; and he singularly fulfilled the prediction contained in a song which he had written, years before, for an anniversary of the Boston Cadets: —
"And if the army of a foe invade our native land,
Or rank disunion gather up its lawless, faithless band,
Then the arm upon our ancient shield shall wield his blade of might,
And we '11 show our worthy brethren that gentlemen can fight."
SOURCE: Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Harvard Memorial Biographies, Volume 1 p. 161-78