1848 Cooke & Kearny on the California Trail

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1848 May 1st Cooke resigned his volunteer commission and made plans to rejoin his regiment in the City of Mexico. Kearny accepted his resignation on the 13th and on the same day ordered Fremont to report to headquarters at Monterey & prepare to leave for Washington. On May 31st Kearny and Cooke set forth on the California trail. Fremont was escorted back at the same time but did not accompany Kearny's group. They averaged 33 miles per day on the 83 day journey, pausing only on June 22 at the scene of the Donner Party's camp. According to Nathaniel v. Jones's Journal of His Travels with the Mormon Battalion "General Kearny detailed five men to bury the cannibalized remains of the Donner party that they had come upon at a cabin in the Sierras. After they buried the bones of the dead, the men set fire to the cabin." Kearny, a seasoned soldier himself, described it as "the most appalling sight he had ever seen".

1848 Aug 23 they reached Fort Leavenworth where Kearny arrested Fremont on charges of mutiny, insubordination and misconduct.

Meanwhile Cooke and Company K had secured orders to join the army in Mexico. After a brief reunion with his family in St. Louis, he took the steamboat for New Orleans. However when he reached Vera Cruz he received orders to return to the U.S. to be a witness at the Fremont court-martial in November. He took the stand on November 18th at the Old Washington Arsenal. After a week he still hoped to join his regiment via St. Louis only to have Fremont ask Cooke to testify once more. When he finally reached St. Louis, he was again delayed until Jan 12 1848 by the Adjutant General who thought his presence might again be required.
The trial concluded on February 17 and Cooke was given permission to rejoin his company. He arrived in Mexico City on April 8th only to find the war had ended. On his return he spent two month's sick leave in St. Louis, then Philadelphia headquarters and then on to Carlisle Barracks.

1848 Dec-1852 The Cookes were in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where Philip had the prestigious position of being Superintendent and Post Commander of the Carlisle Post and Calvary School of Practice. At one time he was also president of the board of cavalry officers. Otis Young writes: "Nevertheless, these were the years that the locusts devoured; with no great activity to command his time, Cooke turned to writing some of his experiences which were published a few years later as his Scenes and Adventures in the Army; or, Romance of Military Life. He himself referred to these years only as a Ôtame intermediate period', in which his eternal search for glory seemed to have been permanently balked". This was to be the last period of time that the family was together as a unit. On October 28th 1850 the Cookes had their twentieth wedding anniversary. Did they celebrate it with a party? Were special gifts of china received on that day? Their family life would have been a lively one with two teenagers - John Rogers 17 and Flora most likely feisty at 14 - as well as Maria 10 and Julia 8. Rearing four children in the East with its schools, relatives, and convenient access to fresh food as well as celebrating holidays as a family and staying in one place, must have been a bonus for Rachel.

Post life was festive during the pre Civil War days. Elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen drove to the barracks on parade days to be guests of the officers and their wives, and Colonel Cooke frequently sent his troops to town to parade for the citizens. The following is a typical news item during the period of the cavalry school: American Volunteer, November 7, 1850 "Quite an interesting and exciting military display came off at Carlisle Barracks on Thursday, A.M. of last week. About 150 Dragoons, for the most part raw recruits, belonging to the Cavalry School of Practice, under the direction of Colonel Cooke, were paraded on foot, and were exercised in many intricate military evolutions. They looked and marched exceedingly well; and considering the short time they have been under the command of Colonel Cooke, acquitted themselves in a handsome and soldier like manner. They were inspected by General Churchill, Inspector General of the Army, who, we learn, expressed himself in the highest terms of praise in relation to the appearance and deportment of the men and the unremitting exertions of the officers. Colonel Cooke is every inch a soldier, and is celebrated as being one of the most thorough and perfect disciplinarians in the Army. Under his management and tuition, the Post at this place will continue to send forth some of the best-drilled cavaliers in the World. During the parade, the same was enlivened by the music of the Brass Band attached to the Barracks, who played some exquisite martial airs." Lieut. Col. Thomas G. Tousey, Military History of Carlisle and Carlisle Barracks. Richmond, Virginia: Dietz Press, 1939, pp 201-202. History of Carlisle Barracks at ancestry.com

Parade days for elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen does not seem to be Cooke's style. I would guess that he would have missed the solitude, the sweeping unpopulated plains, the mountains, the silence, the company of rough men, and the knife edge of the unexpected. The coming 1853 campaigns against the Lipan, Apache, and Sioux Indians in Texas was probably a strong tonic for the middle aged but still adventurous Philip St. George Cooke.

1848 Jeb Stuart, age 15 went to Wytheville to work in the county clerk's office and that autumn enrolled at Emory and Henry College where, among other subjects he studied Latin. On July 1 1850 at the age of 17 he became a cadet at West Point.

1849 While the Chief of the Choctaw Indians was in Washington signing a treaty with President Zachary Taylor, he heard of the Irish potato famine. He went back to his tribe and collected $700 to send to Ireland - a very large amount of money at that time.

1849 - 59 The opening up of Cooke's Trail and the flood of immigrants to California looking for gold, made the Indians realize the power of the invaders and the gloomy future for the Indian Nation that the unending tide could bring. The buffalo were being slaughtered, often for sport by both men and women, trees were being cut down, and various epidemic diseases began to take a toll on the Indian population. At this point the Indian began taking "positive" action.

1851 Sept John Rogers Cooke age 18, entered the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University. He left in 1852 without a degree, and was engaged as an engineer in the construction of the Iron Mountain railway in Missouri with the Palmer and Robinson Locomotive Works.

1852 Charles Brewer graduated with Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from St. John's College in Annapolis, receiving first honors.

1853 July 15 At age 44 Philip St. George Cooke became a Lieutenant Colonel of the 2nd Dragoons and was their commander in Texas where he conducted a campaign against the Lipan Indians driving them beyond the Rio Grande. Later he led a raid against the Apaches, driving them 200 miles through storms and snows. That same year, his sword was again unsheathed in the "Sioux War". This led to his being promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1854 he was in command of Fort Union in New Mexico. (Fort Union http://www.nps.gov/history/history/online_books/foun/hrsa.htm. Rachel joined him when she could.

1854 July 1 Jeb Stuart graduated 13th in a class of 46 from West Point and was commissioned brevet second lieutenant in the Regiment of Mounted Rifles who were serving in Texas. After graduating, he visited relatives in St. Louis on leave. Then, because of his fondness for riding and a desire to serve his country, he happily joined the regiment where he took part in actions with the Apache Indians. On seeing a beautiful sunrise, he wrote: "May the setting of my military sun be as bright as its rising sun was on that day." This was one of the many foreshadowing comments he was to make. It was almost as if he knew from the start that he would die famous, and in action.

In many ways Jeb Stuart and Philip St. George Cooke were kindred spirits. Both men were keen observers of the fauna and flora of the West, published letters describing their adventures, and had inventive minds, (Cooke's Cavalry Tactics, Stuart's "Lightning Horse Hitcher" and "Saber Belt Attachment"). Both men have been described as dashing cavalry officers, and were strong leaders with incredible courage, grit, and stamina, who taught and guided the men in their charge. And, although they loved their families, it was duty that came first. Before the Civil War they were in contact and worked together for six years as relatives, friends, and good companions.

1855 March Dr. Charles Brewer, age 24, graduated from the University of Maryland and in the summer of 1856 joined the Medical Corps of the U.S. Army where he was commissioned Assistant Surgeon on August 29th. His first service was on the frontier at Fort Leavenworth, K.T. [Kansas - an Indian tribe + territory] where he was under Generals P.F. Smith, Harney and Philip St. George Cooke. (It was most likely here that he met Maria, age 16, for the first time).

He had missed the funeral in Virginia, but out of respect, plans for the elaborate wedding between Jeb and Flora were canceled, and instead a more modest ceremony was held ten days after his return.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 September 2009 14:30 )