|An Unsung Hero - Col. Thomas
Ochiltree was born October 26, 1839 in Livingston Alabama and in the same year his family
moved to East Texas.
While growing up, Indian raids in East
Texas frequently and in 1850's, the Texas Rangers were called in frequently because the US
agreed via peace treaty to protect the frontier, but were never permitted to provide
continuous service. Service in the Rangers ranged from three to six months under
As a young man, Thomas Peck served under
the command of Johnny Walkers' Texas Rangers. During his stay in the service of the
Rangers, he gained valuable knowledge of Indians and military strategy that proved useful
in later years.
At 17, in 1856, he served as clerk and
sergeant at arms in the Texas House of Representatives and also studied law. Because
of his young age, a special act of legislature had to be passed to admit him to the bar
association. He practiced law with his father, William Beck, at Marshall and
Jefferson, Texas. During 1860-1861, he edited the newspaper,
"Jeffersonian". With the outbreak of the Civil War he enlisted in the
Confederate States of America and served as the 1st. Sgt. of Co. E, 1st Texas Infantry
Regiment , Hood's Texas Brigade. E Company was organized at Marshall Texas, Harrison
County in April 1861. It was ushered into service in New Orleans for one year service.
They eventually arrived at Richmond Virginia in July and put on scouting duty. After
a few minor engagements, Sgt. Ochiltree returned to Texas and was commissioned as a Lt.
By November 1863, he was acting as adjutant
of the camp for POW's near Tyler Texas. Shortly after, he was promoted to captain
and served in the Texas Division in Louisiana under commander Johnny Walker.
April 1864, he was stationed at Camden
Road, Arkansas, and become Assistant Adjutant General to General Maxey. Maxey's
command, composed of the 1st. Brigade (an all Texas outfit) and the 2nd Indian Brigade
which consisted of the Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole Indians.
Lacking men and equipment, General Maxey
swung into full-scaled guerilla operations in Arkansas and Oklahoma. During this
time, the Quantrill Raiders came under his command. In March, 1865 Ochiltree was
transferred along with General Maxey to Texas. Toward the end of the war, he was
serving on Maxey's staff as a colonel in the 2nd Texas Cavalry Division.
After General Lee surrendered, Ochiltree
declared himself a general and tried to continue the war in Texas but failed and fled to
Europe. As a result of his stay in Europe, he engaged in newspaper work once again
writing for the New York News. After his return to Texas, he worked for the
Houston Daily Telegraph.
For three years, 1870-1873, he served as
commissioner for emigration for Texas. Late in 1873 he served as US Marshall for the
Eastern District of Texas. From 1883-1885, he represented the Galveston district in the US
Congress. After his tenure in congress, he retired to the stock market in New
York. He died in Virginia in 1902 and is buried in New York City.
Colonel Thomas Peck Ochiltree led a full
life..He lived his dreams that most don't and some never do. He was not a student of the
books, so to speak, but he made up for formal learning by living his humor, originality,
and native kindness. He was welcomed as a guest of Royalty in Europe. Yet it
were impossible to envy this minion of fortune, if you know him, for somehow or other, his
very personality impresses you with the idea that he is the one fittest to have the crown
of many good things which an apparently capricious, fate, sometimes presses upon a brow
never bent to receive it.