Copyright notice

This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Printer-friendly page

Peyton, John Lewis

by William S. Powell, 1994

15 Sept. 1824–21 May 1896

John Lewis Peyton, european agent for the state of North Carolina (1861–65), lawyer, and author, was born near Staunton, Va., the son of John Howe and Anne Lewis Peyton. One of his great-grandfathers, Colonel William Preston, died of wounds received some years before at the Battle of Guilford Court House. Peyton attended the Virginia Military Institute and was graduated from the University of Virginia in 1844 with a law degree. He was practicing at Staunton when Secretary of State Daniel Webster sent him to Europe on a secret mission to England, France, and Austria. Image of John Lewis Peyton, from National Cyclopaedia American Biography, vol. 4, [p.89], published 1895 by New York, J. T. White company. Presented on Internet Archive.

During the period 1853–56 Peyton lived in Chicago, where he contributed to a number of periodicals and was assistant editor of W. W. Dannenhower's Literary Budget. He also was active in the National Guard with the rank of lieutenant colonel. At the recommendation of Stephen A. Douglas, President Franklin Pierce appointed him federal district attorney of Utah but because of ill health he declined the post and in 1856 settled again in Staunton. As a Whig he supported the Bell-Everett presidential ticket in 1860. An opponent of secession, he considered the election of Abraham Lincoln to be no cause for alarm. Following the secession of Virginia, however, he helped organize and largely equip a regiment of which he was made colonel, but because of physical infirmities he was unable to serve.

In the late summer of 1861, while drilling troops, he was appointed North Carolina's agent abroad by Governor Henry T. Clark and on 26 October sailed by way of Bermuda from Charleston aboard the Confederate man-of-war, Nashville. He landed at Southampton on 21 November and joined other Confederate agents and English sympathizers of rank and influence in London. They promptly set about to secure support and recognition of the Confederacy from Great Britain and felt that they might have succeeded if the home government had been more supportive at a critical time. Peyton remained in England at the end of the war and retired to the Island of Guernsey. He declined to renounce his claim to American citizenship in order to accept appointment to office in Guernsey and in 1876 returned to Staunton. Peyton was widely published, writing on such a variety of subjects as the trade of China, recollections of the Far West, and a history of Augusta County, Va.

He was married in 1855 to Henrietta, daughter of Colonel John Washington of Lenoir County, N.C. She was a niece of Governor William A. Graham and an aunt of Congressman William A. B. Branch. The Peytons were the parents of an only son, Lawrence Washington Howe. John Lewis Peyton died at his home, Steephill, near Staunton.


S. Austin Allibone, A Critical Dictionary of English Literature, vol. 2 (1899).

DAB, vol. 7 (1934).

Nat. Cyc. Am. Biog., vol. 4 (1895 [portrait]).

John Lewis Peyton, The American Crisis; or, Pages from the Note-Book of a State Agent During the Civil War (1867).

Who Was Who in America, vol. 1 (1967).

Additional Resources:

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis). Biographical sketch of Anne Montgomery Peyton. Guernsey, F. Clark. 1976. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)History of Augusta County, Virginia. Samuel M. Yost & Son. 1882. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)Name index to Peyton's History of Augusta County, Virginia. Staunton Va., L. B. Hatke. 1935. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)Memoir of John Howe Peyton, in sketches by his contemporaries, together with some of his public and private letters, etc., also a sketch of Anne M. Peyton. Staunton, Va., A. B. Blackburn & Co. 1894. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis). Memoir of William Madison Peyton. London, Wilson. 1873. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)Over the Alleghanies and Across the Prairies. London, Simpkin, Marshall, and Co. 1870. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)Rambling reminiscences of a residence abroad. England--Guernesey. Staunton, Va., S. M. Yost & Son. 1888. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)Suggestiosn on railroad communication withe Pacific, and the trade of China and the Indian Island. Published articles, over the signature of "Clinton," in the Chicago Daily Democratic Press. Chicago: W. W. Danenhower. 1853. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)The adventures of my grandfather. With extracts from his letters, and other family documents, prepared for the press with notes and biographical sketches of himself and his son, John Howe Peyton. London, J. Wilson. 1867. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)The American Crisis; or, Pages from the Note-Book of a State Agent During the Civil War, Vol. 2. London: Saunders, Otley and Co. 1867. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Peyton, J. Lewis (John Lewis)Tom Swindel; or, The adventures of a boomer. Staunton, Va., G. L. Bolen. 1893. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Image Credits:

The National cyclopaedia of American biography, being the history of the United States as illustrated in the lives of the founders, builders, and defenders of the republic, and of the men and women who are doing the work and moulding the thought of the present time. New York, J. T. White company. 1895. (accessed September 18, 2014).

Origin - location: