1862-1865: Willard Sylvester Cooke to David Smith Cooke

How Corp. Cooke might have looked

How Corp. Cooke might have looked

This letter was written by Willard Sylvester Cooke (1839-1915) of Co. F, 37th Massachusetts Infantry. He enlisted in August 1862 as a private and was mustered out of the service in June 1865 as a corporal. The regiment saw action at Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and before Petersburg. The 37th was one of the first regiments to be issued the new Spencer repeating rifle, on July 15, 1864, increasing their firepower.

Willard was the son of David Smith Cooke (1808-1872) and Sarah Taylor (1810-1896) of Amherst, Massachusetts. He married first Lavinia M. Moffitt (1841-1869) in 1868, and second Delphina E. Underwood (1850-1934).

An obituary for Willard reads: “Willard S. Cooke, aged 77, for many years connected with the Boston Herald in an editorial capacity and former owner of the Dover (N. H.) Republican, died on November 19, at East Lexington, Mass. Mr. Cooke was graduated from Williams College in 1861, studied law, and after serving in the Civil War joined the staff of the New England Homestead. In 1873 he became a reporter on the Herald and was subsequently night editor. Later he was assistant day editor of the Evening Herald.”

LETTER ONE

1862 Letter

1862 Letter

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE
Addressed to Mr. D. S. Cooke, Amherst, Massachusetts
Postmarked Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Camp Briggs
Pittsfield [Massachusetts]
August 13th [1862]

Dear Folks at Home,

I suppose you are expecting to hear from me by this time and as I happen to have a plenty of leisure time today, I will write a few words. We arrived here all right Monday P.M. and marched up to camp which is about a mile and a half from town. We found the tents all pitched and everything in readiness for us. Perhaps you would like to know something about our accommodations. The tents are about seven feet square and are calculated to accommodate five men. For a bed we have a rubber blanket between us and the ground and have a blanket over us. Of course our bed is none of the softest but I managed to get a good night’s rest. We are to have plank floors in a few days and then our weary bones can find rest on the soft side of a board.

I like it first rate so far and the Company are all in good spirits. I never felt better in my life than I have since I have been here. We live very well though the bill of fare is rather plain. The night we arrived here, we had very good soup, hash, good bread, and very poor tea. Soup & hash constitute our principal food. Last night I got some first rate bread & milk. I have not seen a particle of butter since I came.

We have to get up — or rather crawl out — at five when the drum beats for roll call, then we drill two hours, then go to breakfast in military order. The tables are set outdoors and we have to eat standing but that makes no difference for by that time we have a very fair appetite.

We have now about 700 men here and some very fine fellows. Our company is one of the best in the regiment. Today I am appointed officer of the guard, or rather of the police guard. I have the charge of the prisoners of the guard house and have six men to guard them. It is now two o’clock P.M. and I can’t get any sleep until 9 A.M. tomorrow as I have to change guard once in two hours. We drill six hours a day and I like it first rate.

I am now writing on a board placed on my knees — not as convenient as once could wish but the best we have. I will write again in a few days. With much love, your affectionate son & brother, — Will

LETTER TWO

1865 Letter

1865 Letter

TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO
Addressed to David S. Cooke, Amherst, Massachusetts, P. O. Box 428

Head Quarters, 37th Mass. Vols.
Adjutant’s Office
February 17th 1865

My dear Father,

Your kind letter of the 12th came to hand last night and was read with much pleasure as my letters from home always are. I will give you credit for keeping thus far your promise to write me once in two weeks, but I hope you will not consider yourself restricted to that period but write oftener when you feel like it. I am exceedingly fond of receiving letters — mores perhaps than I am of writing them. I am very busy in the office now. Am here all the time and am writing most of the day and evening. My predecessor left the books and papers in rather a bad condition and I have been hard at work “straightening” them up. I have that job nearly finished, however, and hope to have more leisure soon.

We are having a “spell of weather” just now — rain and mud. It is raining quite hard tonight — just the time for the Johnnies to desert into our lines. Last night nineteen of them came into our lines in front of the Brigade while usually the number has been six or seven. Every hour, nearly, through the night we can hear a volley of musketry fired by the Rebel pickets towards some of their men who are coming over to us, but there is a mutual understanding between the two and not one of them has been known to be shot in an attempt to desert. They either have no ball in their guns or else they fire over. They are obliged to shoot, however, for if they do not, they are accused and punished for complicity with desertion. It sometimes happens that an officer takes the gun to shoot at them and then the Johnnies sing out to our pickets to lie down so as not to get hit.

Some more of them have just come in for I heard a “volley” and it is a sure sign for the utmost friendliness exists between the pickets of the two armies and they seldom, if ever, fire under any other circumstances. Those that “come in” say that more would come but that they are told by their officers that we put them right into our army. They say, however, that two thirds of their army will come over before another campaign even if they knew they would be put into our ranks for they say they can fight better on full stomachs than they can when half starved as they are now. I saw some that came in last night and a happier set of dirty ragged fellows you never saw. Our boys give them all they can eat when they come in and does one’s soul good to see them stuff. Victuals seem to taste good to them.

Then you have not found a farm in Springfield yet? What do you propose to do if you do not succeed in finding one previous to the 1st of April? Board out and live on the interest of your money? I want you to keep me informed so that I will be able to find you “six months and a bit” hence. Why don’t you go to the “Oil Regions” and make a fortune?

I am sorry to hear that Uncle Horace is so afflicted. Think that is the reason I don’t hear from him. I have written him several times since hearing from him and will write again soon. I suppose Albert Kellogg is home ‘ere this. I shall need another shirt soon as the one I had a year ago is nearly worn out. The last one I had has faded considerably though it wears well.

But I must close with a kind good night to you all.

Your affectionate son, — W. S. Cooke

Advertisements

About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

One response to “1862-1865: Willard Sylvester Cooke to David Smith Cooke

  • Deborah Walsh

    I have been looking through some of my great grandparents things, and came across a newspaper article regarding W.S. Cooke being appointed messenger of the State Senate. Are you interested?
    dwalsh@bpsk12.org

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Spared & Shared 18

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Letters of Charley Howe

36th Massachusetts Volunteers

Sgt. Fayette A. Lacey

Co. B, 37th Illinois Volunteers

"These few lines"

the pocket memorandum of Alexander C. Taggart

The Civil War Letters of Will Dunn

Co. F, 62nd Pennsylvania Volunteers

Henry McGrath Cannon

Co. A, 124th New York Infantry & Co. B, 16th New York Cavalry

Civil War Letters of Frederick Warren Holmes

Co. H, 77th Illinois Volunteers

"Though distant lands between us be"

Civil War Letters of Monroe McCollister, Co. B, 6th OVC

"Tell her to keep good heart"

Civil War Letters of Nelson Statler, 211th PA

"May Heaven Protect You"

14th Connecticut drummer boy's war-time correspondence with his mother

Moreau Forrest

Lt. Commander in the US Navy during the Civil War

Diary of the 29th Massachusetts Infantry

Fighting with the Irish Brigade during the Peninsula Campaign

"Till this unholy rebellion is crushed"

Letters of Dory & Morty Longwood, 7th Indiana

"I Go With Good Courage"

The Civil War Letters of Henry Clay Long, 11th Maine Infantry

"This is a dreadful war"

The Civil War Letters of Jacob Bauer, 16th Connecticut, & his wife Emily

Spared & Shared 16

Saving History One Letter at a Time

Lloyd Willis Manning Letters

3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, Co. I

The Yankee Volunteer

A Virtual Archive of Civil War Likenesses collected by Dave Morin

William Henry Jordan

Co. K, 7th Rhode Island Infantry

No Cause to Blush

The Bancroft Collection of Civil War Letters

William A. Bartlett Civil War Letters

Company D, 37th Massachusetts Infantry

The John Hughes Collection

A Virtual Archive of his Letters, 1858-1869

The Civil War Letters of Rufus P. Staniels

Co. H, 13th New Hampshire Volunteers

This is Indeed A Singular War

The Civil War Letters of Henry Scott Murray, 8th New York Light Artillery

The Letters of James A. Durrett

Co. E, 18th Alabama Infantry

Spared & Shared 15

Saving History One Letter at a Time

The Civil War Letters of George Messer

Company F, 107th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Jeff's Prayers are as Effective as Abe's

The Civil War Letters of George S. Youngs, 126th New York Vols

Soldiering is a Very Uncertain Game

The Civil War Letters of Lemuel Glidden, Co. K, 145th Indiana Infantry

Tough as a Pitch Pine Knot

Letters of John Whitcomb Piper, 4th Massachusetts Heavy Artillery

An Honorable Peace

The Civil War Letters of Frank B. Knause, 6th Michigan Infantry & Heavy Artillery

Looking for a Rebel to Give him a Pop

Letters to & from Sgt. John Henry Ward, 93rd PA Inf

Civil War Letters of William H. H. Kinsey

Co. H, 28th Illinois Infantry

Spared & Shared 14

Saving History One Letter at a Time

The 1863 Diary of Thomas Wilbur Manchester

A Rhode Island Soldier in the American Civil War

The Daniels/Stone Digital Archives

A Collection of Family Civil War Era Letters & Ephemera

Spared & Shared 13

Saving Civil War History One Letter At A Time

Dear Nellie

Civil War Letters of Thomas L. Bailey

Homefront Letters to Mark Rankin

Co. B, 27th Massachusetts Vols.

%d bloggers like this: