Philip St George Cooke

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Philip St. George Cooke and Rachel

At the end of this long and bloody war, the Cookes hoped to reestablish connections with their son, but John Rogers had cut off communication with them. Flora and the children remained in the South as per Jeb's request, and Maria and Charles had moved from Richmond to Maryland, where he went into practice with his brother. Julia and Jacob would have had the most contact with them at this time. There was still a lot of healing to do among the family members.

1865 July 26 John Esten Cooke wrote to Evert A. Duyckinck, a New York editor and literary critic saying: " I got an invitation to come and see him, the other day, from Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, my uncle, who is in N. Y. on duty there! Wouldn't the meeting be pathetic after fighting each other for four years! I was speaking rather bitterly of the Gen. some time ago, when Gen. Lee said "Ah! don't think hard of your blood!" --There is, by the bye, a good instance of the meaning of civil war in our family. General Cooke's only son was a general in the Confederate Army, and his daughter my cousin Flora, was the wife of Gen. Jeb Stuart of the Cavalry. When Gen. Stuart went round McClellan on the Chickahominy in June '62 Gen. Cooke was commanding McClellan's cavalry, and pursued us, very narrowly missing a collision. I believe the thing altogether went against Gen. Cooke's heart - he is a splendid old fellow. He is on duty somewhere in N. Y. - the city I think- and you would like him, as he is a man of very nice literary taste."

1866 March - Jan 23 1867 Philip, who at this period of time has been described as "being embittered", moved with Rachel to Omaha Nebraska where, in August, he became the commander of the Department of the Platte. This was an area of 1000 miles of frontier covering the areas of Nebraska, part of Colorado with the Dakotas west of the Missouri, Wyoming and part of Montana - all off which was to be secured by eleven army posts. This department was created by President Andrew Johnson on the 5th of March, in order to facilitate the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad.

December 21,1866 the controversial Fetterman massacre took place. There are many books and articles on this topic. I read Dee Brown's The Fetterman Massacre and The Gentle Tamers. Records relating to the investigation of the Fetterman massacre, including Philip St. George Cooke's testimony, can be found at: information/fpk/cooke.html

1867 March 23 Edward Esten Cooke, Philip's older brother wrote to him from Charlestown:
My Dear Brother, I received yours of 13th today, as I was about to write to you. Your motions seem to be very uncertain, from what you say, but you may get this before leaving Omaha, as you have not received orders. I cannot understand from your two last, whether you are superseded, and awaiting further orders, or how it stands with you."

1867 April - July Philip was a member of a "benzine board" for the promotion of volunteer officers to the regulars. After that until 1869 he was on another retiring board most likely in Chicago.

1867 Oct 14 Edward Esten Cooke, wrote a letter to Philip saying he had heard that he "had been slighted by some of our blood at Louisville". He went on to assure Cooke that all the families at Paris, Kentucky "desire to see you there". He also mentioned that "the whole Cooke settlement were looking out for you but then read in a newspaper that Philip St. George Cooke was in New York."..."You say that you are now in a crisis, (much hurried in the writing) unable to choose which ____ and likely to lose the chance of almost all. [a blank space in the letter represented a word his brother couldn't make out. Cooke's writing was so notoriously difficult to decipher that sometimes even he couldn't read it.] The letter continued: "There are many other words which I can only read by the context." "We are pretty well here but under the ban of empire still. You do not like Chicago though a wonderful city."

1869, May 3 Edward Esten Cooke wrote "My Dear St. George, I am sorry to hear that you are obliged to leave your new house without even getting your family into it." [I assume this was in Chicago. - Poor Rachel not to get to live in her own new house!] I was afraid you would be ordered away. But I am glad that your Head Quarters are to be at Louisville." He also wrote: "I am sorry you have had the useless trouble of trying to get anything for Ann, [Ann Norris, Edward Esten's wife] for her losses or receipts. The law of congress forbids allowing anything to Southern citizens, even to Unionists. Here, where the State has never been out of the Union, none but Unionists, who can take the oath that they have not served, nor countenanced the rebellion, can get anything;and many of them get nothing but promises and pretenses. The bill would be too large."

1869 May 15 -1870 Philip commanded the Department of the Cumberland which was involved with reconstruction in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. His headquarters at Louisville, Kentucky.

1870 May -1873 Philip was the head of the Department of the Lakes with his headquarters in Detroit Michigan. In 1870 Charles and Maria Brewer moved to Vineland, New Jersey. The Cookes visited there often enough to build a top floor with a mansard roof on the house on the corner of 6th and Grape Street for their own use during their visits. My grandmother, Wirt Sutherland Brewer also used it as a painting studio, and it then became an apartment for my grandfather Alvord's first cousin Minnie Fowler Holmes.

1873 Oct 29 Philip retired at age 64. His address at this time and until his death twenty-two years later, is listed as 526 Jefferson Avenue, Detroit Michigan. After 43 years of living at forts or in relative's houses, Rachel finally got a home of herown. I wonder if she savored the moment or if she was too worn out by this time to appreciate it...

1874 Julia and Jacob were living at 149 Broadway in Manhattan - a very exclusive part of New York City.

1876 Flora wrote a letter in which she mentioned visiting her parents, "Ma and Pa" in Detroit. In a letter written in November of that year she mentioned that when she arrived her sister, Mrs. Sharpe was also there but then left for New York.

1878 The Conquest of New Mexico and California - An Historical and Personal Narrative was published by G.P. Putnam's Sons New York which describes the march of the Mormon Battalion. Philip St. George Cooke.
was 69 years old at this time. He also had articles published in a number of magazines and was granted an honorary Master of Arts degree from the University of Michigan of which he was quite proud.

1878 Philip applied for permission from the War Department to visit Europe. [Why, since he was retired did he have to apply to the War Department to visit other countries?]

1879 Philip defended the validity of his Cavalry Tactics in a magazine in which he claimed it had been ignored by the army and in particular McClellan.

1880-1889 Julia and Jacob were living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1883 By this date Lt. Richard Henry Pratt was getting high praise for the impressive Indian School being run at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. Part of Pratt's philosophy was similar to Cooke's "Mental Hereditary" theory in that he advocated that the Indians be directed towards trades and farming. An idea which while well meant, did not fit in with Indian philosophy. This may have been the reason Philip wrote to his nephew in 1886 for extra support that this was, he felt, part of his original idea.
Carlisle information: .

1886 - Philip St. George Cooke wrote to his nephew John Esten Cooke with the request that he support in writing his 1843 claim of originality in the theory of Mental Heredity which he detailed in Chapter 17 of Scenes and Adventures in the Army and also wrote about in the Southern Literary Messenger. This theory offered a detailed plan of how best educate and Christianize the Indians. He thought it misguided to worry about teaching them the fine points of religion, arts and sciences which are the fruits of centuries of civilization, and argued that civilization begins when nomadic people settle down and start to farm. He wrote on p.126 "...let us endeavor first to make them herdsmen" and later "The mental endowments of civilized men are inherited like physical distinctions; are possessed at our birth." Scott Norsworthy wrote that "Philip St. George Cooke probably felt (correctly, no doubt) that this view of cultural evolution anticipated ideas that people were talking about (esp. since Darwin) as if they were brand new, and that he wanted credit for original thinking in 1843." Scot Norsworthy adds to this: "I'm guessing".

1886 June 27 John Esten Cooke wrote back to Philip, saying he felt his uncle was ahead of Spencer and similar to Darwin and that because of the publication of the material in Scenes and Adventures in the Army in the Southern Literary Messenger he was entitled to claim the theory of "Mental Heredity" as his own. He planned to write a recommendation to this effect but died of typhoid on Sept 27 three months after his letter to Philip.

In 1887, the Cookes presented a stain glass window to Christ Church in Millwood, Virginia which was John Esten Cooke's place of worship. The window was on the north wall and was known as "The Lily Window". The lily represented the Cooke's connection with the Estens in Bermuda and was also symbolic of the peace that had, at length, come to the family which had been torn asunder by the Civil War. It also served as a memorial to Philip Pendleton Cooke, Althea Cooke Meade, John Esten Cooke and Edward St. George Cooke. Unfortunately the church burned down on October 27th 1947 and the window was destroyed.

The winter of 1886 was severe, and in 1887 Philip St. George Cooke applied to the War Department to visit Bermuda "for reasons of health". [His father met and married his mother there during The Revolutionary War, and some of her family - Esten, Spofforth, etc. would still have been living there at this time. But why did he have to apply to visit Bermuda?]

1888 April Philip addressed the Michigan Commandery of the Loyal Legion on the subject of "Our Army and Navy." The address was a conservative review of military developments since the Civil War, but at one point he referred approvingly to the destruction of the buffalo as a means of ending the "miserable Indian wars and bringing peace to the plains". I was dismayed when I researched this project, to find that Cooke had not only approved, but had participated in the Buffalo's destruction. One more thing to hold against him - sometimes family research is a bummer. In 1948, when I was 11 years old, I crossed the United States from east to west and back again, with my 15 year-old brother by train in order to visit my father's parents Edwin and Alice (Thayer) Doust, who lived in Spokane Washington. I was fascinated by the Rockies. In the dining car with its small tables, white tablecloths, and wonderful views, buffalo steak was on the menu. I was shocked that someone would eat such a sacred - to me - animal. In the 60's, on a trip in our VW bus with two kids in the back, we stopped at the Black Hills in South Dakota. I was close to a small herd of buffalo at dusk and was filled with wonder at the magical - almost spiritual presence - of these great, undomesticated creatures.
Bill Bryson in Neither Here Nor There wrote that "By 1895 the buffalo on the plains had gone from 70 million to 800, most of which were in zoos or Wild West shows. The Indian population had gone from 2 million to 90,000 in the years from 1850 - 90." In the 1870's, because the buffalo were dramatically reduced in number, many of the Plains Indians faced starvation. Isabella L. Bird in A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains wrote "... a light wagon accompanied them, full of extra rifles and ammunition, not unnecessary, for the Indians are raiding in all directions, maddened by the reckless and useless slaughter of the buffalo, which is their chief subsistence."

1889 Philip was a member in the Kansas State Historical Society, the Loyal Legion, and the Aztec Society for officers who served in the Mexican War. He also corresponded frequently with my grandmother Wirt Brewer who was at the Virginia Female Academy under the tutelage of her aunt, Flora Stuart.

1890 - This is most likely the year that Julia and Jacob moved to her parent's house in Detroit so Julia could care for her parents as well as Jacob who was, by this time, in a wheelchair.

1891 April 10 Death John Rogers Cooke age 57, in Richmond Virginia. Unfortunately by this time his parents were too old and ill to make the trip from Detroit for the funeral.

1892 April 27 Death Jacob Sharpe age 57. He had suffered from spinal stenosis which led to paralysis as the result of being wounded during the war. Four years later, Rachel's cause of death, besides old age, was listed as paralysis, and even Philip was having difficulty walking at this time so Julia most likely did quite a bit of nursing for the family.

1892 A report of Philip St. George Cooke's death appeared in the Army & Navy Journal. He enjoyed reading the condolence letters Rachel received. On May 3rd he wrote to his grandson "We have had near a week of specially sad time: The death & funeral of General Sharpe, (...and two or three people & an army newspaper (?) ...or prank? [hard to read] ...have stumbled into the stupidity of making out, that it was 'my funeral'! Naturally I am growing weak, and I hardly think I shall venture East this year."

1894 Philip wrote to my grandmother that his heart had been troubling him, and in one of the last letters to her he wrote "I don't drive out much and can't walk...We live an awfully dull, suffering life - insomnia has for a year or two been my bane, and it causes much worse results. Wandering of thought and mind into dreadful regions..." Had Jeb's prediction of Philip regretting his choice of following the North come true especially because of the rift in the family and his disastrous assignments during the war? Or was it all the massacres and death, the missing comrades of his youth and long career. Or could it be the regret that he could no longer roam the prairies, wild and free? We'll never know.

1895 March 20 Death of Philip St. George Cooke who died at his home age 86 from "old age". His obituary in The Detroit Evening News March 21 1895 stated that "He had been ailing a long time owing to the wear and tear of many years spent in a life of excitement, fatigue, and exposure, and he gave in at last because age had deprived him of the forces necessary for the continuance of the combat. ...and what a life this grim yet genial white-haired old soldier led. ...He was a noted American soldier when many of the epauletted gallants of the great rebellion were in swaddling clothes and most of the present commanding officers of the army were in the teething period of cadetship. ...For thirty years before the rebellion he was one of the most intrepid and war-seasoned officers on the plains."

1895 March 23 Funeral of Philip St. George Cooke. The Detroit Evening News related the details of his large military funeral. The Loyal Legion and Nineteenth U.S. Infantry were represented. There were four companies of the Nineteenth United States infantry from Fort Wayne, headed by the regimental band. "40 members of the Loyal Legion...marched in double file to Christ Church. They formed in two lines from the church door to the curb and there awaited the arrival of the funeral procession"...After the church service "the procession moved on to Elmwood Cemetery. First came the musicians, then the four companies forming the escort, Rev. Dr. Johnson, the hearse - a flag-draped artillery caisson - and pallbearers, followed by a cavalry troop-horse whose saddle-blanket bore two stars and whose stirrups contained reversed boots, the mourners and friends of the family. The members of the Loyal Legion did not march, as most of them were too old to endure the fatigue of so long a journey on foot. At the grave the committal service was read by Dr. Johnson and the usual parting salute of three volleys was fired."

My grandmother had a pair of her grandfather's boots for years which could have been the reversed boots used at the funeral. In the 1950's they had shriveled up and were quite small according to my cousin. I don't remember seeing them and have no idea what eventually happened to them.

A friend of his, General Poe said "He was very tall and slender, yet a man of great physical endurance.
Socially he was very pleasant and genial. And he was a man of very high character and code of honor.
As a conversationalist he was not reminiscent of his own life, and to obtain anything of that sort it was necessary to question him as to incidents. He led a very quiet life in Detroit. While he was in command of
The Department of the Lakes he took a fair share in social and public life; but after he was retired he confined himself to his home and private charities....I think the most notable event in Gen. Cooke's life was his march of the armed migration of Mormons from Santa Fe to California in 1846-47."

"To quote from a tribute from the Michigan Commandery of the Loyal Legion of the United States formed on April 13, 1885, of which he was a companion of the first class: - He was the very soul of honor, and his disposition charitable in the highest degree. His long life in camp and bivouac, upon marches which taxed the strength of all to the utmost, or in the heat and anxiety of battle, but served to illustrate his character as a Christian gentleman. As a soldier his record is without stain. As long as loyalty, fidelity, patriotism, and courage are esteemed the highest qualities of our people, so long will the members of the Loyal Legion bear him in loving memory. To the realm of the dead has gone no truer man, no better citizen, no braver, knightlier soldier, than Philip St. George Cooke." The 1896 Biographical Review for Cumberland County NJ

"He was borne upon the United States Army rolls for nearly seventy-two years; and at his retirement he had recorded more than forty-five years of active service in the army, where he was ever noted as a faithful, fair, brave, honorable, and chivalrous officer. General Cooke was a man of high grade of intelligence and literary culture, thoroughly informed on all matters pertaining to his profession and the interests of the nation; and contributions from his pen graced many periodicals of the day."
The 1896 Biographical Review for Cumberland County NJ

1896 Feb 15 Death of Rachel Hertzog Cooke, in Detroit age 88, eleven months after her husband. There is a photograph of her - I presume in middle age - in which her left side appears to be in shadow. I would guess that the tragic accident of 1838 left her with a permanent disfigurement which would have been a constant reminder to Philip of that day. One of the few descriptions, ironically enough, is that she was "self effacing". She still remains a mystery to me, and how I would have loved to have read her diary - I'm sure she must have kept one! But like many journals it may have been destroyed by her or by some of her relatives with or without her consent.

Both Philip and Rachel are buried in Section H Lot 94 in Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit along with Julia and Jacob Sharpe.

1963 July a Mormon delegation came to Elmwood Cemetery to pay homage to the man who led their ancestors -on foot, on the trek from the Santa Fe to the Pacific Ocean. The group, the men in Mexican War uniforms and the women wearing 19th century dress, placed a wreath on his grave as a mark of respect.

Armistice Day 2002, When I woke up this morning, I realized that my relationship with Philip St. George Cooke had finally changed. After several years of reading, gathering data, and thinking about him and the family I could finally feel compassion and understanding instead of anger and judgment. I'm still bugged a bit about the Indians and the buffalo, but a lot of terrible things happened on both sides so I have decided I can't judge anyone else, especially in such a different time frame. This, above all, has made this whole project worthwhile.

2005 Nov 11 A memorial service and seminar was held by Mormons in Detroit Michigan to honor Philip St. George Cooke, commander of the Battalion. Philip St. George Cooke presented me with a portrait of a restless, strong-willed, and sometimes controversial man who placed his duty to the army above all else - even his family. It seems likely he may have had a breakdown of sorts resulting from the painful severing of formerly close family ties during the Civil War, along with the physical effect on his body from the prior years of fighting on the plains, bad diet, malaria, and the long and strenuous marches that proceeded that disastrous event. Think about it - as a soldier, Philip would have been proud of his son's record during the war - his son who received several desperate wounds in battle, had become a distinguished General, and who bravely fought at Antietam. And yet Philip could not openly express his feelings for fear of appearing to have Southern sympathies especially after some in the North harbored the suspicion that he might be for "the other side".

And what of his relationship with Rachel? Rachel who gave birth to John Rogers without his being there, who remained on dusty, disease ridden outposts or lived in other people's homes while Philip went on his long marches and expeditions, and who had to wait four months for corrective surgery after Philip accidentally shot her in the jaw, because the army would not give him leave to take her East. What must have this been like for her? He was known as having participated in the greatest number of transcontinental military marches, which would give her a parallel award as the wife who, without a home base, spent the most amount of time alone bringing up the children.

I was surprised by the amount of traveling that both Phil and Rachel did, and the independent quality of their marriage. In their later years, Rachel and her daughters became "muffin-shaped", but the next generation of Brewers, were slender. Certainly living in Vineland, known for its fresh fruit and vegetables, would have been beneficial.

One of his photos - possibly right after the war - shows a picture of a man who has been to hell and back. The accident with Rachel, the Indian massacres, his humiliation during the Civil War, and then the Fetterman massacre - there was a lot to occupy his mind in the quietness of retirement. Nonetheless Cooke, who has been described as "a gritty, proud, and patriotic soldier", deserves credit for many things, and to this day he still retains the title as "Father of the United States Cavalry".

As I've worked on this project over many years, I've kept photos of him from youth to old age on the wall in front of me. My journey has been a long one as well, but the rewards have been great in my understanding of my 19th century family with their struggles and joys.

Places named after him:
Cooke's Trail - the first wagon road through the Southwest to California blazed by Philip St. George Cooke plus guides and the Mormon Battalion over some of the roughest lands in Northern Mexico in 1848. When the group reached San Diego on Jan 29, 1847, Colonel Cooke congratulated his men noting "we have discovered and made a road of great value to our country. And indeed this trail, and the planned railroad, resulted in the Gadson Purchase in 1853. The mountain range southeast of the City of Rocks, New Mexico is named Cooke's Range and the prominent peak in the southern part of the range is Cooke's Peak, which is the highest elevation in southern New Mexico at 8,400 feet.

A Butterfield Overland Mail station was built in 1858 near the mouth of Cooke's Canyon. Stage coaches traveling west from El Paso, Texas, via Mesilla, New Mexico, joined Cooke's Trail for their westward journeys. An estimated 400 emigrants, soldiers and civilians were killed by Apaches while traveling through the four-mile "gauntlet of death" that was Cooke's Canyon. On July 23, 1861 the Mangas Colorados and a large band of Chiricahua Apaches attacked seven men who were on a stagecoach in the canyon. All seven were killed, but one managed to leave a blood-stained note under a rock telling of a two-day fight during which the Indians lost forty warriors. This was one of many Indian attacks in Cooke's Canyon which led, in 1863 to pressure for military action, and to the establishment of Fort Cummings near there in 1863. Cooke Springs is located near the fort. New Mexico Wanderings

I sometimes wonder if the "gauntlet of death" in Cooke's Canyon was used in some of the many Western movies I saw when I was growing up.

There is a marble frieze in front of the Salt Lake City State House in Utah depicting the Mormon Battalion
with Philip St. George Cooke, sword raised, leading them on either a horse or his big white mule.
Several army bases are named after him.
Philip St. George Cooke participated in the greatest number of transcontinental military marches.
He was briefly an observer in the Austro-Franco-Sardinian War in 1859.
He served in the US Army to the best of his ability for forty-six years.
He wrote books and articles about his experiences.
And, to his lasting credit he still remains "The Father of the U.S. Cavalry".

Aside from one autograph, courtesy of Scott Norsworthy, I don't have any of his actual letters or memorabilia, but part of my DNA comes from the Cookes and the Brewers. DNA which, I am sure has helped me out during some of the more adventurous and "interesting" times of my life.

Penelope Barrott
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New Zealand 2009

Last Updated ( Monday, 29 June 2009 16:29 )