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Sketch of the late General S. Cooper.

By General Fitz. Lee.
[We cannot, as a rule, publish obituary notices or biographical sketches of even our most distinguished men; but we are sure all will recognize the propriety of giving the following sketch of our Senior General, whose death has been so widely lamented.]

Students of military history cannot fail to be impressed, when war is au fait accompli, with the great advantage possessed by those nations who have justly placed a value upon system and organization in the preparation of their armies.

The military genius implanted by nature in a Caesar, a Hannibal, a Wellington, or a Napoleon, might never have burst forth with such overpowering light as to dazzle with its rays a wondering world, had not the human tools with which they worked been so formed, so fashioned, as to be perfectly flexible when placed in their hands by some almost hidden but powerful agent, who, grasping the subject with a master's mind, adapted the various departments of war in such a way as to work harmoniously together, and to be most effective. Strategy and grand tactics are indeed a powerful machine, but to be used to full working strength, requires an exact adjustment of all component parts.

To “set a squadron in the field,” there must be arms, subsistence stores, transportation and shelters, clothing and medical supplies. The quartermaster's, commissary, ordnance and medical departments, though separate and distinct in their several spheres, must be made conformable with each other, with scrupulous care, by the constitutional commander-in-chief and his war secretary; and their chief counsellor is the soldier at the head of the adjutant-general's department, through whom all official orders are promulgated. An efficient executive leader in that department is felt from an army corps to a corporal's guard.

Chronicles of the important events in the rise and fall of nations are filled with instructive instances that might be drawn upon in illustration of this fact, whilst the pages of history, where results are summed up and explanatory reasons given for them, abound in examples. To keep this paper within proper limits, I shall only briefly refer to one, viz: the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.

The French Emperor, it is recollected, declared war because the King of Prussia would not promise that the head of the Catholic [270] branch of the royal family, Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern, should never again be a candidate for the throne of Spain. The great and unquestioned ability of Louis Napoleon was deemed evidence that all things were duly weighed, and that his organization and preparations were at least complete. The French army numbered some 350,000 trained soldiers. The population of France was 38,067,064, in relation to which, says the president of the legislative body to the Emperor, as he was about to depart for the frontier: “Behind you, behind our army accustomed to carry the noble flag of France, stands the whole nation, ready to recruit it.”

On the other side, Prussia had a population of some twenty-four millions, or, including the North German Confederation (of which she is a part) of some thirty millions. Her standing army numbered less than 400,000. To what was due, then, the astounding results of that conquest, for the world was prepared for a gigantic and not unequal combat? Why, in the short space of six months, do we witness a Sedan, with a capitulation by McMahon of 90,000 men? a Metz, with a surrender of nearly 200,000 by Bazaine? a Strasburg, giving up 17,000 soldiers? and speedily the fall of Paris, with a war indemnity to be paid the victors of five milliards of francs? Why such a series of victories for Germany, such inglorious defeats for France? Why such a rapid fall of the curtain upon such a striking tableau vivant? We trace it to the weakness and inefficiency of the military organization of France, and to the wisdom of the system which gave the preponderating power of the reserves to Germany — the marvellous comprehensive military method that brings, at the tap of the drum, thousands of drilled, disciplined men to the support of the main body, as opposed to a conscription or enlistment of raw levies from the population at large.

King William and Von Moltke strongly felt the hand of Shamhorst, who undertook the reorganization of the military resources of Prussia after Jena in 1806--an honor in our war which such leaders as Albert Sydney Johnson, Lee, Johnston, Beauregard and Jackson must share with a Cooper. It is the astute, clear, calm and penetrating minds of Shamhorst and Cooper, whose judgment and masterly ability quietly plan, arrange and direct the machinery which is to be put in motion by the brilliant army chieftains, such as I have mentioned, that wins success.

General Samuel Cooper possessed an inheritable right to his enviable eminence.

From Dorsetshire, England, his great grandfather came, and settled [271] in Massachusetts. This paternal ancestor had three sons — John, the grandfather of General Cooper, Samuel and William. Samuel was President of Harvard University during the Revolutionary War, and was proscribed by General Gage of the British army, and a reward offered for his head. The son of John, also called Samuel, was the father of General Cooper. At eighteen years old, we find him at Lexington, forming one of seventy men that “assembled in front of the meeting-house,” to whom Major Pitcairn, commanding the British advance, called out “disperse, you rebels, throw down your arms and disperse,” on the morning of the 19th April, 1775. Early manifesting such a heroic spirit, it was not surprising that he should have been found upon the night of 16th June marching with Prescott, and working all night upon a redoubt on Breed's Hill (mistaken for Bunker Hill, in the darkness of the night), and obeying sturdy old Putnam's orders on the morning of the 17th, not to fire “till they could see the whites of the eyes of the British.”

He afterwards served with distinction in Knox's regiment of artillery, and upon his tombstone appears the following inscription: “Sacred to the memory of Major Samuel Cooper of the Revolutionary Army, who in the first onset struck for liberty. He fought at Lexington, Bunker Hill, Brandywine, Monmouth, Germantown, and on other sanguinary fields, and continued to wield the sword in defence of his country until victory crowned her arms.”

At the close of the Revolutionary War, Major Cooper married Miss Mary Horton, of Dutchess county, New York. Two sons and six daughters were born from this marriage. George and Samuel (the subject of this memoir) were the sons. The former graduated at West Point, but afterwards went into the navy.

Adjutant-General Cooper was born in 1798, at Hackensack on the Hudson river, at the family seat of his maternal ancestors, the Hortons. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point when only fifteen years old, the term of service there then being two years only. His first service was as a lieutenant of light artillery. He was promoted a first lieutenant in the Third artillery, and in 1824 was transferred to the Fourth. From 1828 to 1836 he served as aid-de-camp to General Macomb, then commanding the [272] American army, and was promoted to rank as captain 11th June of that year.

Upon the 7th July, 1838, he first entered the War Department as an assistant adjutant-general. During the Florida war he served as chief of staff to General Worth, and was in the action of Pila-Kil-Kaha on the 19th April, 1842. In 1848 he was brevetted colonel for meritorious conduct in the prosecution of his duties in connection with the Mexican war, and on the 15th July, 1852, was appointed the Adjutant-General of the United States army, General Winfield Scott being then its Commander-in-Chief.

Whilst in the United States army, he compiled his work entitled Tactics for the militia, a book atone time in almost universal use among the volunteer soldiery, and extensively known as Cooper's Tactics.

In 1827 General Cooper married a daughter of General John Mason, of Clermont, Fairfax county, Virginia, and a grand-daughter of George Mason, of Gunston, “the Solon and the Cato, the law-giver and the stern patriot of the age in which he lived,” and to whose memory the constitution of Virginia and her bill of rights are lasting monuments.

At the head of the Adjutant-General's Department, United States army, General.Cooper gave great satisfaction. His qualifications and his ability as an officer, and his private worth as a man, was universally acknowledged by army officers, many of those living to-day giving testimony that he was the best chief of that department the army ever had.

On the 17th March, 1861, he resigned his commission as an officer, having served the United States with a steady faithfulness and a firm adherence to all of her interests for forty-six years. In view of the fact of General Cooper's Northern birth, this step has been the subject of much comment, and some adverse criticism. His Northern friends profess to see no reason why a soldier born in their section, holding a high office of trust for life, honored and respected, should, after forty-six years service, and in the sixty-third year of his life, relinquish a position in which he would not be called upon for field service, and cast his fortunes and tender his services to the Confederate Government. It has been said by them that he was more guided by the counsels of his friend, the Hon. Jefferson Davis, and his brother-in-law, Hon. James M. Mason, than by his native and natural opinion and belief. To those holding such sentiments, it may be truly said they did not [273] indeed know their man. General Cooper, upon such an important issue as the one he was called upon to meet in his own person, allowed no dictation and asked no advice. That he should have cast aside the personal possession of comfort and plenty to the end of his days, and embarked with his family and household gods upon an unknown sea, over which the storm clouds were riding and the winds of war were blowing, and upon which many perils were to be encountered, many difficulties surmounted, many dangers contested, before the waters grew calm or the voyage prosperous, is, in the estimation of his Southern admirers, the strongest proof of the pure and conscientious character of the old hero. “Fiat justitia ruat coelum,” we can almost hear him exclaim, as he dared to follow his convictions of right, and permit self-interest to be taken prisoner by conscience and duty.

The new Confederacy of States, in the act of breathing life into its corporal substance, and staggering at the amount of organization to be performed to perpetuate national existence, warmly welcomed Adjutant-General Cooper's offer of services, because they found in such a proposal the master mind, the perfect knowledge and vast experience, necessary to put the intricate machinery into successful operation. The President of the Confederate States had served as Secretary of War in Pearce's Cabinet, and was thus brought into close official relations with General Cooper in the discharge of the latter's duties as Adjutant-General in the United States army. No one knew better than he did the character and qualifications of the soldier who joined him at Montgomery, Alabama. His clear conception of this fact was at once manifested by placing him at the head of the Adjutant and Inspector-General's Department, and afterwards making him a full general — the first on the list of five--the remaining four being Generals Albert Sydney Johnston, Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston and Beauregard, holding respective rank in the order named.

During the four long years in the life of the Confederacy, General Cooper fully discharged the onerous duties confided to him with a fidelity, an exactness, a loyalty and an honesty, which, whilst perfectly consistent with his conscientiousness and ability, gave great satisfaction to the army and the country.

It is indeed difficult to place a proper estimate upon the value of his service during that trying period, so great was his capacity for work. [274]

Punctiliously and unceasingly he daily discharged the great duties of his office, and at night, when others sought relaxation and rest, in a room in his private residence, his work was steadily carried forward. At the termination of the war, General Cooper returned to his country seat near Alexandria, Virginia, to find his home in ruins.

His house had been torn down and destroyed by the Federal troops, and upon the eminence, in its stead, a Federal fort had been erected.

Adding to another house, which before the war had been his manager's, the remaining years of the old hero were quietly and peacefully passed.

General Cooper died upon the 3d of December, 1876, in the seventy-eighth year of his age.

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

For many years before his death he was a conscientious and consistent communicant of the Episcopal church.

His bereaved family can indeed find consolation, in their irreparable loss, in the belief: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

Letter from ex-president Davis.

Mississippi city, Mississippi, April 5th, 1877.
General F. Lee:
My Dear Sir — I am gratified to know that you have under-taken to make a record of the services and virtues of a man than whom none has higher claims upon the regard of all who loved the Confederacy. No one presents an example more worthy of the emulation of the youth of his country. My personal acquaintance with General Cooper began at the time when he was associated with Mr. Poinsett in the War Office, where his professional knowledge was made available to the Secretary, in those army details of which a civilian was necessarily but little informed. His sterling character and uniform courtesy soon attracted the attention and caused him to be frequently resorted to by members of Congress having business with the War Office. Ex-President Pierce, who was then a Senator, spoke in after years of the favorable impression which General Cooper had made upon him, and said his habit had been when he “wanted information to go to [275] Cooper instead of to the Secretary;” but while he thus brought to the service of the Secretary his professional knowledge, the latter eminently great in other departments of learning, no doubt did much to imbue General Cooper's mind with those political ideas which subsequently marked him as more profoundly informed upon the character of our Government than most others of his profession.

In the midst of his professional duties, he found leisure for high literary culture, had much dramatic taste, and in the dull days of garrison life he contributed much to refined enjoyment. When I became Secretary of War, General Cooper was Adjutant-General of the United States army. My intercourse with him was daily, and as well because of the purity of his character as his knowledge of the officers and affairs of the army, I habitually consulted him in reference to the duties I had to perform.

Though calm in his manner and charitable in his feelings, he was a man of great native force, and had a supreme scorn for all that was mean.

To such a man, a life spent in the army could not fail to have had its antagonisms and its friendships; yet when officers were to be selected for special duties, to be appointed in staff corps, or to be promoted into new regiments, where qualifications were alone to be regarded, I never, in four years of constant consultation, saw Cooper manifest prejudice, or knew him to seek favors for a friend, or to withhold what was just from one to whom he bore reverse relations. This rare virtue — this supremacy of judgment over feeling — impressed me as being so exceptional, that I have often mentioned it as a thing so singular and so praiseworthy that it deserves to be known by all men.

When in 1861 a part of the Southern States, in the exercise of their sovereignty, passed ordinances of secession from the Union, and organized a separate Confederacy, General Cooper was at the head of the corps, in which a large part of his life had been passed. This office was one for which he was peculiarly qualified, and which was best suited to his taste. He was a native of a Northern State; his sole personal relation with the South was that he was the husband of a granddaughter of George Mason, of Virginia--Virginia, not yet belonging to the Confederate States. He foresaw the storm, which was soon to burst upon the seceding States--saw that the power which had been refused in the convention which formed the Constitution of the Union--the power to use the [276] military arm of the General Government to coerce a State, was to be employed without doubt, and conscientiously believing that would be violative of the fundamental principles of the compact of Union, he resigned his commission, which was his whole wealth, and repaired to Montgomery to tender his services to the weaker party, because it was the party of law and right.

The Confederate Government had no military organization, and, save the patriotic hearts of gallant men, had little on which to rely for the defence of their country. The experience and special knowledge of General Cooper was, under these circumstances, of incalculable value. If he would consent, while his juniors led armies in the field, to devote himself to the little attractive labors of the Adjutant-General's office--if he would consent? They little knew the self-sacrificing, duty-loving nature of Cooper, who did not anticipate his modest request “to be employed wherever it was thought he might be useful,” and with unrelaxing assiduity he applied himself to the labors of the Adjutant-General's office. The many who measure the value of an officer's service by the conspicuous part he played upon the fields of battle, may not properly estimate the worth of Cooper's services in the war between the States, but those who like yourself were in a position to know what he did, what he prevented, what he directed, will not fail to place him among those who contributed most to whatever was achieved.

Faithful to the cause he espoused — unmoved by the prospect of disaster, when the fortune of war seemed everywhere to be against us — Cooper continued unswerving in the discharge of his duty, and when the evacuation of the capital became a necessity, he took with him such books and papers as were indispensable, and although worn down by incessant labor, never relaxed his attention to the functions of his office until disease compelled him to confess his inability to continue the retreat. The affection, the honor and the confidence with which I regarded him made our parting a sorrowful one, under circumstances so hard for us both. Of the events which followed his return to the spot where his house had stood, you are so well informed that I will not protract this already long letter.

I remain with great regard and affectionate remembrance,



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