Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

PEAKES, JAMES B (1841-1914)

Santa Cruz Surf (May 8, 1914)

James B Peakes
James B. Peakes

Death of Jas. B. Peakes
A Veteran of the Civil War and a Popular Landlord for Many Years

J. B. Peakes, after many months of breakdown passed away last night at the age of 73 years. Up to within the last year or two Col. Peakes was as erect of stature and as quick of step as in his prime, but has been evident to his friends for some time that he was fighting against odds. His career is outlined in Harrison’s history of this county, from which we quote.

J. B. Peakes had three and half years of army life, during which time he was engaged in may red hot encounters, from which as Job of old exclaimed, he "barely escaped by the skin of his teeth." Mr. Peakes was born at Martha’s Vineyard, Mass, Oct. 18, 1841, of Scotch and English ancestry. Six years later he moved with his parents to Maine, where he attended and was just on the threshold of manhood when the war of the rebellion was inaugurated.

He enlisted in the First Maine Cavalry in 1861 and, as above stated as at the front for three and half years. During this time his regiment saw more service and lost more men than any other cavalry regiment in the federal forces. The muster roll showed that during the war 4,250 men were recruited for this regiment.

The first engagement in which Mr. Peakes participated was at Middletown in the Shenandoah valley under Banks. Without going into details of the engagement, it is enough to say that he was with a detachment which held the entire confederate forces in check until Banks made his escape. So warm had been the conflict that every horse belonging to the troops had been shot. He with 30 others, was captured here and confined at Lynchburg and Belle Isle, and the hardships endured are best told by the fact that he weighted 156 pounds when confined and 85 pounds when released.

He was at the first battle of Fredericksburg, after which he was detailed as an orderly under Gen Kilpatrick. He was at Gettysburg, Deep Bottom and the firing of the Petersburg mine, and participated in some lively skirmishing before Richmond. Within about five miles of Richmond his regiment was surprised by superior confederate forces, and in four minutes lost 45 men and 72 horses. In addition to this his regiment was engaged in a large number of battles while he was on Gen Kilpartrick's staff. He was captured a second time and confined in Libby prison for seven days when he was paroled. The last capture was by guerrillas, and he was condemned to be shot, but saved from this fate by the intervention of a member of the band more humane than the rest.

When the war terminated he went to Boston and engaged in contracting and building until 1872. For the four years following this date he was in the hotel business and in 1876 came to Santa Cruz, Cal.. and assumed the management of the Kittridge house where he remained for 12 years. He took charge of the Pacific Ocean house, but sold out after 18 months management of this hostelry and for a time had the Pope house.

Mr. Peakes was married April 9, 1867 to Miss Olive Dyer of Bangor, Me, a charming and estimable lady, who has been and is prominent in social circles of Santa Cruz. The had one son W.D. Peakes, now deceased.

W.S. Peakes, the popular and efficient mail carrier, is a brother.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (May 10, 1914)

James B. Peakes

As the 8th day of May went out so did the life of another veteran of the Civil war. For months Jim Peakes heroically struggled to regain his health. Always patient, continually hopeful until it was certain he must surrender, then resigned to the mandate from which there is no appeal, he peacefully laid down the burden and rested at the age of 72 years.

Well as he was known in the city, it is my belief that few knew the hardships he bore while a soldier. He was quiet and reticent relative to his service and experience. To his intimate comrades he was free to talk, and his story was one that proved the mettle that was in the man.

He served three years in the first Maine cavalry, a regiment that saw more hard service than any other cavalry regiment in the army of other Potomac. He was captured twice, served his first term of five months in Libby. His second term as a prisoner was in Andersonville for eight months, where he endured all the hardships and tortures of Dane’s Inferno. A picture of him as he was when exchanged may be seen at the office of the Santa Cruz Title Co., where it has been for some time. No person who looks at the picture would ever suspicion that Jim Peakes ever looked as it does. Amidst all his sufferings and starving did he waver in his loyalty to the cause he fought for! When the sun of hope went down, as it did so often, he did not murmur or whine, but heroically braced himself to endure another and another day until release should come. Often when we were alone, has he gone over his experience and the miseries he endured. As the years went by, time mellowed his feelings toward the people who had charge of that awful holocaust of death. He was always a gentleman in his deportment and address. A patriot without boasting, a hero without vanity and a sufferer from hard usage without complaint. He paid his full share toward preserving our country one and undivided.

In his death we lose a faithful comrade from Wallace-Reynolds post, and I come to lay upon his grave a flower of friendship, a word of mourning and deep sympathy for the faithful and sorrow stricken wife. In life we honor the patriot, in death we forget his foibles, cherish his memory and imitate his virtues.

"Lights out."

W.V. Lucas

Funeral of an Old Soldier

Monday afternoon from his home on Union St. was held the funeral of the late James B. Peakes. Services were under the auspices of the Wallace-Reynolds Post G.A.R., Rev. Leslie B. Briggs of the Congregational church officiating. Today the body will be shipped by Wessendorf and Staffler to Mt. Olivet Cemetery for burial.

Notes from Phil Reader

James Bosworth Peakes died May 9, 1914, 72 years 6 months 8 days. Peakes was a hotelman who married B: Oct 18, 1841 on Martha's Vinyard Island, Mass. His father was Nathaniel Peakes, his mother Mary Bosworth from Taunton Mass. Informant: Olive S. Peakes, (San Francisco) cemetery.

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