John James Peck

John James Peck was born in Manlius, New York, on January 4, 1821; received his elementary education in the local schools; and was graduated from West Point in 1843. Exactly one-third of this class's thirty-nine members, including U. S. Grant, later became general officers in either the Federal or Confederate armies. After some garrison duty Peck served with great distinction in the Mexican War and was brevetted both captain and major for gallant and meritorious conduct. He resigned from the army in 1853 and at once commenced upon a financially rewarding business career in Syracuse, his wife's home. In the interval before the outbreak of the Civil War, Peck promoted a railroad, organized and managed a bank, served as president of the board of education, was twice nominated for Congress, and was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1856 and 1860. On August 9, 1861, President Lincoln appointed him a brigadier general of volunteers, and in the course of the Peninsular campaign of the following spring he directed the 2nd Division of Keyes's IV Corps. On July 25, 1862, he was promoted to major general to rank from July 4, and commanded all Union troops in Virginia south of James River until September. The following spring, while commanding at Suffolk, Peck rendered his finest service to the Union cause by beating off the two Confederate divisions of John B. Hood and George E. Pickett, who were under the command of the celebrated General James Longstreet, in their attempt to envelop and capture the town. He was badly injured in this encounter, and after his recovery he directed affairs for a time in North Carolina, where little of consequence in a military sense occurred. On July 5, 1864, General Peck was assigned to the command of the Canadian frontier in the Department of the East and regulated intercourse with the British provinces until he was mustered out of service on August 24, 1865. He then returned to Syracuse and in 1867 organized the New York State Life Insurance Company, serving as its president for the remaining years of his life. Peck's health had been much undermined by illness and injuries received in two wars, and on April 21, 1878, he died at the comparatively early age of fifty-seven. He was buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.