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General John Rogers Cooke.

Mortality has been rife with Virginian heroes whilst this volume has been in press.

In a period of but little more than three months four sons of the Mother-State, whose valor and prestige in the ensanguined field was as prevailing as their dutiful lives as citizens have been useful and inspiring, have been relieved from earthly service. The roll is:

1891—January 21st, at Richmond, Va., Brigadier-General Burkett Davenport Fry; March 21st, at Washington, D. C., General Joseph Eggleston Johnston; April 9th, at Richmond, Va., Brigadier-General John Rogers Cooke; April 29th, at Charlottesville, Va., Brigadier-General Armistead Lindsay Long—chieftains of the war for Southern Independence—called to ‘pass over the river, and rest

‘Death conquers all!’ Yet, ‘mortality has put on immortality!’ Immortality reigns! The names and deeds of these heroes are deathless! Of three of these citizen-soldiers there is record in the preceding pages. Of the remaining one—pithily characterized as ‘upright, downright’ General Cooke—memorial is merited. With a nature whose ingeniousness was infectuous, the transparent earnestness of which constrained following, every measure for the weal or or advancement, or dignity of Richmond, or of Virginia, commanded his unqualified and unreserved efforts.

The death of no other of its citizens has been more sincerely, more universally mourned. The affection in which he was held was attested by the honors, military and civic, which attended his obsequies. The respect which his virtues had earned found expression in regardful tribute throughout our land. His mortal remains find fitting companionship with Stuart, Hill, Stevens, Saunders, Stark, and the host of humbler heroes in picturesque Hollywood Cemetery.

He filled worthily various positions of trust with which his merit had caused him to be invested. His efficient and zealous performance in them has been publicly acknowledged in honoring resolutions.

It is meet that of his official connections that the following should be noted here: He was an early Commander of Lee Camp of Confederate Veterans. He was President of the Board of Directors of the Soldiers' Home. He acted as Chief of Staff upon the laying of the corner-stone of the Lee Monument, October 27th, 1887, and also [323] at the unveiling of the equestrian statue, May 29th, 1890, and to his ability for organization and to his ardent presence was materially due the felicitous success of each of these reverential manifestations. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Southern Historical Society, and held enshrined in his heart its every interest. He was an earnest, consistent Christian, and active in the cause of his church and of suffering humanity.

Whatever he did, he did worthily and well, with his whole heart and being.

John Rogers Cooke was born to a soldier's heritage, of parents of Virginian birth, at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, June 10th, 1833. He was the son of General Philip St. George Cooke, a native of Frederick county, Virginia, and a distinguished officer of the United States Army, who is still alive. John Rogers Cooke was graduated from Harvard University as a civil engineer in 1854.

He served as an engineer for a time on the Iron-Mountain railroad, in Missouri, and distinction in the profession seemed before him. Hereditary instinct, however, stimulated by his environment, asserted itself, and he sought and received the appointment of lieutenant in the United States Army in the latter part of 1854. At the beginning of hostilities between the States he had attained the rank of first lieutenant in the Eighth infantry, and was stationed on the San Pedro river, in Arizona.

Upon the secession of Virginia, Lieutenant Cook resigned his commission, and, severing tender family ties, offered his sword to his mother State. He was commissioned first lieutenant Confederate States Army, and ordered to report to General T. H. Holmes at Fredericksburg, Va. He participated in the first battle of Manassas with troops from Aquia Creek. He soon after raised a company of light artillery, and with his command did gallant service on the Potomac. In February, 1862, he was promoted major of artillery, and ordered to North Carolina as chief of artillery in that department.

In April, 1862, he was elected colonel of the Twenty-seventh North Carolina infantry, which was ordered to Virginia and attached to the division of A. P. Hill. Throughout the campaign of 1862 he led his regiment with great skill and gallantry, and at the battle of Sharpsburg won the admiration of the entire army. When ordered to hold a certain portion of the line at all hazards, he replied that although his ammunition was exhausted he would stay where he was as long as he had a man or a bayonet left. His pledge was vindicated. In the engagement, with other casualties in the rank and file, eighteen [324] out of twenty-six of the commissioned officers of the regiment were killed or wounded. Soon after the battle of Antietam he was made a brigadier-general and assigned to a brigade composed of the Fifteenth, Twenty-seventh, Forty-sixth, Forty-eighth, and Fifty-ninth North Carolina regiments, and which he commanded until the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. The dauntless intrepidity and the achievements of Cooke's Brigade have reflected a lustre upon the North State which will endure with time.

With General Cooke, his brigade held with him the same solicitude and pride that his regiment had enjoyed. He watched over the comfort and welfare of his men with fatherly care, and secured for them every supply that the commissary and quartermaster departments yielded. Officers and privates alike idolized him, and Cooke's Brigade was constantly assigned for duty demanding unusual hazard.

At Fredericksburg he supported the heroic Thomas R. R. Cobb, holding the famous stone wall, or what the Federals called the sunken road, at the foot of Marye's Heights.

During the war General Cooke was seven times severely wounded. On Marye's Heights he was struck in the forehead, just over the left eye, by a bullet which made what the chivalrous Heros Von Borke admiringly classed ‘the most beautiful wound I ever saw.’ Ere that wound had healed, and when but a gossamer line intervened, seemingly, between him and the portals of death, he arose from his bed and returned to his command. At Spotsylvania Courthouse, at a time when our centre was sorely pressed, General Gordon suggested to General Lee that a certain movement be made on the right to relieve the centre. This move was advised against by other officers, but General Lee finally gave the order for attack. Cooke's men were in the Courthouse yard,

‘Standing and dying at ease,’

and their commander stretched on the ground wounded in the leg. Gordon, in the excitement of the moment, rode up to them and exclaimed: ‘I will lead these men!’

With face ghastly pale and flashing eyes, General Cooke sprang to his feet, and, confronting General Gordon, shook his fist in his face, demanding: ‘How dare you to offer to lead my men in my presence!’

General Gordon, realizing instantaneously the circumstances, courteously saluted the irate hero, and said: ‘Pardon me, General Cooke; I thought you were too badly wounded. Allow me to go in as one of your aides.’ [325]

‘You can go as one of my aides, but you cannot lead my men while I am here!’ rejoined General Cooke as he threw himself into the saddle. Placing himself at the head of his brigade, he gave the order to advance. ‘Then followed,’ said a member of A. P. Hill's staff, who witnessed the movement, ‘one of the most magnificent spectacles ever seen in war.’

No officer in the Confederate Army bore a more enviable reputation for prompt obedience to orders, skill in handling his men, resistless dash in the charge, or heroic, patient, stubborn courage in the defence. General Lee's high opinion of General Cooke and his command is best illustrated in a gentle rebuke the grand chieftain administered to the intrepid brigadier on the lines in front of Richmond. General Cooke was in his tent suffering from his wounds and facial neuralgia when General Lee rode up, called him out, and asked whether the breastworks had been changed as directed by the engineers. ‘No,’ replied General Cooke, impatiently, ‘and I don't believe they ever will be!’

General Lee rode off, followed by his staff and General Cooke. An inspection of the line showed that at several points it had been finished, and work all along it was progressing satisfactorily. Several times during the ride General Lee remarked to the thoroughly confused brigadier: ‘This seems to be completed,’ and finally when the end of the portion of the work to which Cooke's men had been assigned had been reached, he turned with a quiet smile and said: ‘I think, General, it will be finished all right. If not it will be the first time that Cooke and his North Carolinians failed to do their duty.’

Colonel Charles S. Venable, who was of the staff of General Lee, and who now fills a chair at the University of Virginia, adds the following tribute:

‘The death of General John R. Cooke recalls a splendid achievement of the two North Carolina brigades commanded by him and General William McRae, on August 15, 1864, when Generals A. P. Hill and Wade Hampton were sent to attack Hancock's corps at Reams' Station, on the Petersburg and Weldon railroad. Hancock held, with strong force, the railroad embankment as a breastwork. Two of our brigades, which had excellent fighting records, had failed in the first assault upon this strong position, strongly held. After a short interval General Hill ordered Cooke to make the attack with his own and McRae's brigades. The Federals had cut down the [326] swamp-oaks and other small trees in their front, thus forming a sort of abattis, which was very trying to the attacking column. The men picked their way coolly through these obstructions as best they could, and reformed their ranks at the embankment, which was too high to shoot over, though some of the men threw stones and clods over while waiting for the whole column to close up. When all was ready the two brigades, at the word of command, ran up on the embankment and leaped upon the enemy's works and utterly routed them, capturing many prisoners and ten pieces of artillery. Cooke and McRae were both excellent disciplinarians, and this cool and superb achievement of their brigades was the fruit of disciplined courage. Of course there were other troops engaged in this battle who did excellent work. In fact, the co-operation of the infantry, cavalry, and artillery engaged was very fine. But all who were there will recognize the justice of this tribute to our dead comrade and the gallant men whom he led.’

When the war closed General Cooke was acting division commander for the second time during the struggle, and in this position he exhibited equal capacity for manoeuvering larger commands, whilst his uniform coolness and courage inspired implicit confidence in him.

No danger or disparity of numbers appalled him. He dared to lead anywhere, and his dauntless courage was such that men dared follow him without hesitation and unquestioningly.

Major-General Harry Heth bears the following testimony to the efficiency of General Cooke as a disciplinarian:

He said he thought that at no time had the United States Army ever been in better condition and discipline than the command of General Albert Sydney Johnston in Utah, in 1858, and that no portion of that command was in better drill, discipline and general efficiency than the brigade of General Cooke just previous to the end of the war.

Personally, General Cooke was gentle, genial, and sympathetic, and as a companion charming. His domestic relations was most happy. He was a tender father and husband.

He married, January 5, 1864, Nannie Gordon, daughter of Dr. William Fairlie Patton, Surgeon United States and Confederate States navies, and granddaughter of Robert Patton, of Fredericksburg, Va., and his wife, Ann Gordon, daughter of General Hugh Mercer, [327] of the Revolution. She is a niece of the late John Mercer Patton, Governor of Virginia, and a cousin of Colonel John Mercer Patton, commander of the Twenty-first Virginia Infantry, Confederate States Army. Mrs. Cooke survives with eight children-John R., Fairlie P., Ellen Mercer, Philip St. George, Rachel, Hattie, Nannie, and Stuart.

Three sisters also survive General CookeMrs. Stuart, the widow of the gallant sabreur General J. E. B. Stuart; Mrs. Brewer, wife of Dr. Charles Brewer, assistant surgeon in the late war, and a younger and unmarried sister, who resides with her parents at Detroit, Mich.

The associates of General Cooke in the Executive Committee of the Southern Historical Society cherish the memory of his virtues as a faithful friend and a zealous co-worker.

R. A. Brock, Secretary of the Southern Historical Society.

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