Editor’s note: The following excerpt is reprinted with permission from “From Cabins To Coal Mines, Volume I.” This is part four of “The Civil War Era 1861-65.”
The organization of Union Company I, 8th Virginia Volunteers, was begun October 5, 1861, as a part of the Peytona Home Guard of Boone County. Lieutenant Ferdinand Neumann was made commander on December 31, 1861. The unit later became Company I of the 7th West Virginia Cavalry. The officers were Capt. Francis Mathers, First Lt. Nimrod Mason, and John Price and Matthew E. Cook, Second Lieutenants.
In the fall of 1861, Company I, with William Newton Cooke (1814-1862) in a leadership role, began recruiting at Oceana and perhaps other places in the county. This unit of federal soldiers became Company I, 7th West Virginia Cavalry.
By December of 1861, William Newton Cooke had signed up forty-four men, including four of his own sons: Henry Fernathy Cook, Burrell Matison Cook, Leondias Hamilton Cook, and William Hansford Cook. A fifth son, Freeling H. Cook, enlisted in Company I at Brownstown, Kanawha County, on March 18, 1864.
The family of William Newton and Fanny Pinnell Cooke epitomized the anguish and agony of the Civil War — the anguish and agony suffered by many thousands of families in the loss of fathers, sons, and brothers.
The father, William Newton Cooke, son of William and Catherine Stewart Cooke, was wounded at the Battle of Bull Run and died June 21, 1862, in a military hospital at Parkersburg, (W)Va. His death was probably caused by complications from pneumonia, not the battle wound itself. His final interment, though not known with certainty, may have been at the federal national cemetery at Grafton, WV, as an “Unknown.”
Henry Fernathy Cook (1837-1912), the eldest son of William Newton Cook, was wounded at Cross Keys, in Nicholas County, and lost a leg. Burrell Matison Cook (1840-1909) was captured by Confederates in Kanawha County but he later escaped and returned home safely. Leondias H. Cook (1842-19??) was shot from ambush near Peach Tree, in Raleigh County, and lost his sight because the musket ball severed the optic nerve. Freeling Cook (1844-1872) was accused of desertion near Culpepper, Va., but he was later pardoned and returned to service. William Hansford Cook (1845-1917) participated in General Sherman’s notorious “march to the sea” through Georgia.
Frances “Fanny” Pinnell Cooke (1813-1884), daughter of Wesley and Phoebe Linegar Pinnell, wife of William Newton Cooke and mother of five war-weary sons, waited at home and suffered through the anguish of four grievous years of war. She later filed for, and received, a widow’s pension based on her husband’s service. She left Wyoming County, moving first to Gallia County, Ohio, before moving on to Michigan, where she died in 1884.
Four other sons of William and Catherine Stewart Cooke, Pemberton Cooke (1807-1885), Richard Madison Cooke (1820-1904), Elliot H. Cooke (1823-1900), and George Paris Cooke, who went to Kansas shortly after the war’s close, were active participants on the Union side.
More than a dozen other grandsons of William and Catherine were Union soldiers also. These included Daniel Cooke (1840-1862), who was killed at Fort Donelson, and James Perry Cooke, sons of Pemberton Cooke; and Edward H. Cooke (1843-1864), who died in prison at Andersonville, Ga., John N. Cooke (1845-1898), George P. Cooke (1846-1906), W.H.H. Cooke (1840-1923), sons of Thomas Muncy Cooke; and John Kemper Cooke (1840-1871), William J. Cooke, Perry Lane Cooke (1842-1920), sons of James Cooke, Esq.; and William Barrett Cooke (1844-1926), Lane S. Cooke (1846-1890), sons of Richard Madison Cooke, and Pemberton Cooke (1844-1925), and Ballard P. Cooke (1847-1914), sons of Elliot H. Cooke; and a son of Mitchell Cooke, James J. Cooke (1844-1864), who died in the notorious Confederate prison at Andersonville, Ga.
Very strong family ties as well as a very strong belief in the Union cause, more than likely, were the factors which put the members of the family all on the same side.
The early enlistment of William Henry Harrison Cooke (1840-1923), the son of Thomas Muncy and Rebecca Sizemore Cooke, in the Confederate Army, Company J, 22nd Virginia Regiment, was the only apparent dent in the united front of this family. With three brothers joining the Union army and W.H.H. Cooke in the Confederate force, this was the only known instance among Wyoming County’s soldiers in which brother could have literally faced brother.
A long eulogistic article on Rev. W.H.H. Cooke, whose statue graces the courthouse lawn at Pineville, which was originally published in The McDowell Recorder, Welch, WV, February 16, 1923, stated that upon the death of Capt. Erastus Duncan, an election to fill his vacancy pitted W.H.H. Cooke against James A. Cooke, son of John and Mary Jarrell Cooke, an election which James A. Cooke won by one vote. Official records show that James A. Cooke became captain of Company G on May 2, 1862.
According to the eulogy, W.H.H. Cooke maintained that he deserted from the Confederate army after he had seen with his own eyes the horrible disgust of a slave auction. He returned home to Wyoming County and then entered into Union service, joining the 4th WV Cavalry for a period from June 15, 1863, to March 10, 1864. He enlisted in Co. I, 7th WV Cavalry, on July 28, 1864, and was discharged from service August 1, 1865.
— Paul Ray Blankenship of Oceana is a retired teacher and college professor, who has written several books about the history of Oceana and surrounding areas.