Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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COOMBS, Leslie, soldier, born near Boonesboro, Clark County, Kentucky, 28 November, 1793; died in Lexington, Kentucky, 21 August, 1881. His father, who served at the siege of Yorktown, removed from Virginia in 1782, and settled in the wilderness of Kentucky. Leslie, the twelfth child of this pioneer farmer, entered the army at the age of nineteen. In the campaign that ended in the disaster at the River Raisin, he was sent by General Winchester with important dispatches to General Harrison. To deliver these he was obliged to traverse a wilderness, occupied by savages and covered with snow, for over a hundred miles, and suffered great privations. On 2 June, 1813, he was commissioned captain of spies in Dudley's regiment of Kentucky volunteers. He volunteered, with an Indian guide, to carry the intelligence of the approach of General Clay's forces to General Harrison, when the latter was besieged in Fort Meigs, but was overpowered in sight of the fort, and escaped to Fort Defiance. He bore a conspicuous part in the defeat of Col. Dudley, on 5 May, and was wounded at Fort Miami. After the war he studied law, was admitted to the bar at the age of twenty-three, attaining high rank in the profession. In 1836 he raised, at his own expense, a regiment to aid Texas in her struggle for independence, and was commissioned colonel in August of that year. He was for several terms state auditor, and was many times elected to the legislature. When his old commander, General Harrison, was a candidate for president, Coombs took a prominent part in the canvass. As a stump orator he was unsurpassed. At the beginning of the Mexican war he aided largely in raising volunteers in Kentucky. He was a strong Whig, and earnestly devoted to the Union from the time when the question of secession was first advanced. In 1849 Henry Clay, who placed great trust in General Coombs, wrote to him suggesting that Union meetings should be held throughout Kentucky, enclosing resolutions to be adopted. During the canvass, of 1844 he made many speeches in the north and east in support of his friend Clay as a candidate for president. It was in defeating General Coombs for congress that John C. Breckinridge won his earliest success in public life. General Coombs's last public office was that of clerk of the Kentucky court of appeals, to which he was elected by a large majority as the Union candidate in 1860. In opposition to the state guard, organized by Simon born Buckner, which was only a school of recruits for the Confederate army, he organized and armed, in conjunction with General Lovell H. Rousseau, a body of loyal soldiers, who subsequently rendered effective service in the national cause. General Coombs was one of the pioneers of railroad-building in the west.
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