Monday, February 7, 2011

Colonel Everett Peabody: Savior of the Union Army at Shiloh?

Everett Peabody was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on June 13, 1830, the second of six children descending from William Bourne Oliver Peabody and Elizabeth Amelia White Peabody.  He attended Burlington College before matriculating to Harvard where he graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1849.  He worked in railroading in Massachusetts before moving to Missouri where he was employed by the St. Joseph Railroad and later the Platte County Railroad.  
Peabody was living in St. Joseph, Missouri with his wife Susannah Amanda Ratliff Peabody, whom he had married in March 1858, when the civil war erupted.  He joined the cause and was mustered in as Major of the 13th Missouri Volunteers.  He was wounded and later captured in the September 13-20, 1861 “Siege of Lexington, Missouri”, an engagement between union forces and pro-confederate Missouri State Guards.  After being exchanged  Peabody took remnants of the 13th Missouri and formed the 25th Missouri Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  
In March 1862 the 25th Missouri was assigned to Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss’s 6th Division of the Army of the Tennessee and directed to report to Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River.  The 25th was brigaded with  the 21st Missouri, 12th Michigan and the 16th Wisconsin.  Peabody, who was now a colonel, assumed command of the brigade. 
In early March 1862 union forces under Major General Charles F. Smith and later Major General Ulysses S. Grant were assembling at Pittsburg Landing in preparation for a march on the railroad town of Corinth, Mississippi.  There were 5 divisions of the Army of the Tennessee encamped at Pittsburg Landing in March 1862 with Peabody’s Brigade in one of the most advanced positions.  By early April there were indications the confederate forces had left their stronghold at Corinth and were marching to intercept the union troops.  The union high command at Pittsburg Landing downplayed the reports of their pickets and skirmishers and were, for the most part, unprepared when the Army of  Mississippi under Albert Sydney Johnson attacked early in the morning of April 6, 1862.
Peabody was not one of those misled by his superiors including Benjamin Prentiss and W. T. Sherman's lack of concern.  Before dawn on April 6, 1862 he sent forces from his brigade on an early morning reconnaissance to feel out the confederate position.  This forward group ran into the confederates in Fraley Field & the Battle of Shiloh was started.   Peabody's diligence provided an early warning system for the rest of the union command which enabled them to form lines of battle and counter the confederate attack.


Peabody was wounded several times in the early morning phase of the Battle of Shiloh, the mortal wound occurring close to where his mortuary monument now rests on the battlefield.  Following his death his remains were taken to Springfield, Massachusetts for reburial in the Springfield cemetery.        

                                                          (Headstone photo courtesy of Angie Robinson)     

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