Robert L. McCook

 

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Civil War Harper's Weekly, August 30, 1862

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AUGUST 30, 1862.]

HARPER'S WEEKLY.

551

them driving out together nearly every day, and sometimes Halliday, poor wounded soldier, would come walking up the avenue, leaning wearily on Althorpe's arm; and then Margy would notice that the talking seemed earnest and grave, and Althorpe's face wore none of its cynic sneers. Then Margy would relent, perhaps, to return again to her belligerent position that same evening, very likely, at some irreverent satire of the incorrigible Althorpe's.

So she had gradually worked herself up into quite a little prejudice for the gentleman, which wasn't pleasant nor comfortable; for there was a curious charm about the man that held people, spite of themselves, enchained with a sort of admiring respect for his honest disbeliefs and courageous daring of speech: but Margy Gaines was not going to be misled by those brilliant qualities, when such lack of Christian charity and self-sacrifice were apparent; and it really seemed that she spared no pains to let the gentleman know precisely in what regard she held him; and actually—this was the most provoking part of it—the audacious fellow appeared to mind it no more than the buzzing of a fly. But one night Margy felt strangely sorry and rebuked.

They were sitting in a group of a dozen or so, outside one of the deep windows, and a mixture of gaslight and moon-rays lit them up, and showed faces and features distinctly to each other. In view of their coming change of life, perhaps, Morris and Halliday were unusually quiet though certainly not downcast; a little graver, that was all. Althorpe, on the other hand, was full of sharp wit and odd satire, uncommonly brilliant and gracious at the same time.

At the last of the evening the two soldiers, Halliday especially, in speaking of the next few months that were to come, dwelt with a certain yearning tenderness upon the peaceful scenes they would leave behind them, Althorpe answered, gayly,

"Yes, think of the hops and matinees, the parties and pleasurings of all descriptions. Think what entrancing polkas you lose, what waltzes you forego, what walks and talks, what beatings and bathings, all to be put against tent-life, and swamp marches, and the chance of a broken leg, from which discomforts you extract that one little sweet kernel, patriotism."

The "boys" laughed with seeming good understanding of his speech. Indeed, so great was this man's charm for some, that they never thought to question what he said or what he did; but Margy was sorely irritated, and replied sharply,

"Mr. Althorpe cares so little for that sweet kernel that he will do himself the pleasure and honor of dancing your polkas and waltzes while you fight his battles."

Honest Jack Halliday, speaking of it afterward, said that those who heard this were so amazed that they looked at the speaker in wonderment and silence; and a few moments later, when the young lady rose and bade them good-night, the little incident took place which brought her rebuke.

She had turned to go through the low open window, but her foot caught, and her head, reared rather too loftily for the occasion, struck the lower bar.

Althorpe was the first to spring forward, and his arm saved her from falling. The next instant he flung up the sash, and helping her over the sill, stood at the inner door waiting for her to pass. Lifting her eyes to thank him, she met a look, kind but with a dignity of reproach which touched her sorely. The color rose, her glance fell, and her "Thank you" came somewhat faintly.

In vain, thinking it over, she tried to justify herself, recalling his sneering satire. Remembering that look, she felt humiliated and abashed, and asked herself, "What right have I to judge him?"

Such a position isn't pleasant, and in it we are rather inclined to be unjust and inconsistent. Thus Miss Margaret Gaines found herself placed. It wasn't pleasant to feel humiliated, and she did not like Mr. Althorpe's society any the better for it. But not a whit did Mr. Althorpe change to her. Easy, brilliant, and good-humored, he went on as before, with a sort of insouciant gayety which was specially trying to her now. And in this way the week passed, and an eventful day came.

Looking out of the window in the morning she had seen Althorpe welcoming a stranger, a newcomer, just alighting from a carriage at the door. A few minutes later, in the room adjoining her own, and connected by a barred door, she heard voices, Althorpe's and another's, commonplaces about the apartment, etc. But by-and-by the little bustle of arrival was over, and the desultory talk, light and indifferent, deepened. Margy forgot herself as she involuntarily listened.

The state of the country being mentioned by the stranger, Althorpe joined him in a grave earnestness of regret and sorrow for the dark days that were upon them that Margaret had never heard from his lips before. Evidently this stranger stood in some nearer, closer relation of friendship to him than any other.

At last the new voice said,

" I shall throw up my official position, Althorpe, and join the army. I have had a commission offered me by General —. My human nature can stand it no longer. We need men, men to save the country."

"I wish to Heaven I could go with you!" suddenly burst from Althorpe.

The other paused a moment; then lower of tone, with infinite tenderness, as it were, he asked,

"And why don't you, Althorpe? I have never asked you before; but I have wondered, knowing your feelings."

"You have wondered and never doubted, Allen; knowing me to be an able-bodied fellow, rich and idle."

"Doubt? Doubt and you can't come together in my mind, Althorpe. If others think you a cold-blooded cynic, I know they are entirely mistaken. I know the big heart underneath, Larry. Doubt you? I should think not."

"And because you have not, because you do not; and have all this time left me unquestioned by look or word, Allen, I will tell you why I do

not go; but it is under a bond of solemn, sacred silence. You will keep my secret, Allen—a secret known only to one other besides myself?"

"Of course, my boy—I keep your secrets. Go on."

There was a brief pause; then, in a quiet sort of way, Althorpe began:

"You know that I am counted immensely wealthy, Allen—that my income is very large; but you do not know that the property from which I derive my income is entailed."

Margaret wondered what this had to do with the matter. Perhaps his other listener wondered as well, but it was not for long.

"By the will of my great-uncle, from whom this fortune came, the next heir is my cousin, Crawford More."

"Crawford More!" burst out his companion; "that selfish libertine, Crawford More!"

"Yes; a selfish libertine, as you say; a man careless of every thing but his own personal pleasure; unscrupulous and unprincipled to the last degree. If I should die, you can judge what use he would make of this princely fortune. You can judge if the country would gain by it." A little pause again, which the other did not break; and then again, in a hesitating voice of reluctant shyness, which no one would have suspected in Lawrence Althorpe, "I have but one life, Allen; I might lay it down on the first day I entered the field. Then my use would be all gone, and the property, over which I have no control, would be worse than useless to my country, for you well know the Southern sympathies of More. So I stay at home, take the best possible care of my life, and put my money as fast as I get it to the national use. You know what my income is; you know what my expenses were. I'll show you what they are now." A sound of a pen scratching something on a piece of paper came to Margaret's ears. Then the other's voice, exclaiming, as he read it, "Jove, Althorpe! you don't mean to say—?" "Yes; I mean to say that I am serving my country to the best of my ability. Under the circumstances I can't risk my life for it, you see, for the country would lose by it."

The old jocular tone, deprecating sentiment, was coming back again; but Allen stayed if a moment as he exclaimed,

"And here you go on—why it is more than a year—the very soul of patriotism! A soldier, too, by natural qualities, silently bearing speculation and suspicion of your inactive position, while you are learning to live on a tenth part of your income that the rest may be given to support the government! You, the proudest man alive, bear suspicion and blame, and deprive yourself of the very life you long for—for I always knew you were a born soldier, Althorpe—that you may serve your country to the best of your ability! Althorpe, you are a hero! But, my dear boy, you will pardon me for saying that you are morbidly modest. Why not give your motive?"

"No, no, Allen; it would sound Quixotic, sentimental, and all that sort of thing. Besides, the world would get it wrong some way. I should be no better for it. Then what does it matter? I hate to be talked over in that way. You know what I have suffered from ostentation and display. My poor father, you know—it was his one folly; and perhaps that has made me morbid. But let us say no more about it. Remember you are to keep my secret."

"Of course; but, Larry, I wish I could be delirious, and let it out innocently."

A laugh followed this. But Margy Gaines waited to hear no more. Impulsive little enthusiast! she looked upon herself as an instrument of deliverance; and any one could have caught glimpses of her meaning if they had heard her as she flew about softly from toilet to table in her hurried dressing, saying lowly to herself, "The splendid fellow! To think I have so misjudged him! I'll atone for it, though! Let it out innocently! They little think who—oh dear!" jerk, and away went a shoe-lace. "If Justine wouldn't chatter so I'd ring for her; but they'd—there goes another string! I never shall get ready!"

But she did, and in a few minutes was speeding away on her self-imposed mission.

By night of that day the reason of Lawrence Althorpe's apparent inaction was no longer a secret among those who had wondered and speculated there.

Lawrence himself, sauntering out upon the piazza that night, was met with hearty hand-shakes and compliments; and General Rose, gouty old veteran, almost embraced him in his fervor of apology and praise.

What did it mean? Embarrassed and annoyed as he could not help being, even in the natural gladness of being understood, he turned with a look of reproach to Allen. Could it be that that old friend had betrayed him?

But just here a little hand goes winding across his arm; a sweet voice pleads in its prettiest way, "I've got something to tell you, Mr. Althorpe; will you come and listen?"

Do you think, Stoic as he tried to be, that he could resist that? No; and, walking up and down there, Margy made her confession. Told him how she had played eavesdropper, and then spread her knowledge.

Would he forgive her? Stealing a look at the grave, quiet face bent thoughtfully down. Would he forgive her? He drew her off upon one of the side piazzas.

"Forgive you, dear child!" he said, wistfully. "I have much to be forgiven; but now you know I am not quite so bad as you thought, do you think you could take the rest on trust, Margy?"

She started, colored. What! did she understand him? He gathered hope from her shy warmth, and went on:

"Margaret; Margy; don't you know that I've been in love with you all the time? Do you think you could like me a little, Margy?"

There was no sneering now, no lightness, only deep, honest tenderness.

And Margy? If you have not guessed that out of her unacknowledged interest in this "cold-blooded cynic" had sprung her fierce resentment, you are not so wise as I thought. Perhaps Lawrence Althorpe read something of this in her naive confession, and so took heart of faith to proffer his suit.

He did not proffer it in vain. And walking there, she suddenly asked,

"Mr. Althorpe, did you send me those lilies?"

"I did, Miss Gaines," he answered, with mock gravity. "I dazed about from dark to dawn, and waded knee-deep to please a small person, who immediately attributes my sentimentalism to another man;" and once more he glowed with the old wit that Margy was never more to misunderstand.

But a trial and test was coming to Margaret Gaines which would prove her patriotic enthusiasm. That very week came intelligence that changed the plans of Lawrence Althorpe.

Crawford More was dead.

The property in this event was, according to this strange will, to remain without reservation in the possession of Lawrence Althorpe and his heirs, or legatees, according to his own disposition. When Margaret was apprised she well knew what to expect. Her heart sickened as she contemplated probable consequences; but lifting her eyes to the face of her lover, she had no words of discouragement or of discontent to offer. That face with its shade of bondage forever lifted from it, free to wear no masks, but follow out its destiny. He would fight for his country after all! That was what she read there.

The vast property left to him now without "reservation, according to his own disposition," was most generously disposed. A portion set apart whose yearly income was to be applied to that "sacred use" he had so faithfully kept in view, whether he lived to fight for the cause or laid down his life on his first battle-field.

Going, he drew from his finger that curious little ring that had often excited question in Margy's mind. The ring he had avowed to be his ladye love's.

"It was my mother's betrothal ring, Margy," he said, "and dearer to me than any token I could bestow: will you wear it for yours, dear?"

And Margy's last misgiving was removed. She would never more doubt or misunderstand this loyal, tender heart—no matter under what masks it might hide itself, either in seeking her love or serving his country.

THE LATE GENERAL ROBERT
L. McCOOK.

ON page 556 we publish a portrait of the late GENERAL ROBERT L. McCOOK, who was brutally murdered on 6th inst. by a band of Southern banditti, near Salem, Alabama. Our portrait is from a card-photograph, kindly furnished us by Messrs. Robert Clarke & Co., Cincinnati.

Robert L. McCook was a native of Jefferson County, Ohio, and thirty-five years of age at the time of his death. As a boy he was very manly, and attracted considerable attention. He studied law, and opened an office, when he came of age, at Columbus, but subsequently removed to Cincinnati. Though a Buchanan Democrat, Robert L. McCook was one of the first men at the West to denounce the imbecility and treason which marked the close of Buchanan's administration; and as soon as the first call for troops was issued he raised a regiment of Germans.

We take the following account of his glorious career as a soldier from the Cincinnati Commercial:

His regiment was detained in Camp Harrison and Camp Dennison front April until the middle of June (1861), during which period it was drilled into a state of extraordinary perfection, and it was characterized by General McClellan as the best regiment he had ever seen, whether in Europe or America. This distinguished compliment was iterated and reiterated after it entered the field. On the 18th of June, last year, Colonel McCook landed at Parkersburg, and his regiment was immediately attached by General M'Clellan as his vanguard; and it accompanied him to Grafton, near which point it went into camp on the night of the 22d June. The next day it marched to Philippi, at which point an attack by the enemy was expected. The troops which were then holding that position were encamped upon the mountains. Colonel McCook conceiving that the valley was more desirable, moved his men directly down, against the suggestions of the officers, who regarded his movement dangerous. Said McCook, ''We came to fight, and if the rebels think they can drive my Dutchmen out of the hollow, let 'em try it." During a few days he was in command at Philippi, by virtue of seniority; but when General Rosecrans moved down toward Buckhannon, McCook was ordered to advance; and he took the van, moving into Buckhannon at the head of the column. He had now been in the field but three weeks, but he had already established a reputation for daring, and was reported the most reliable and valuable reconnoissance officer in the array. When General McClellan joined the column at Buckhannon M'Cook was again placed in advance, and he led the van thenceforth as long as General McClellan was in Western Virginia.

At Rich Mountain his regiment was selected to make the armed reconnoissance on the 10th of July, and it was so admirably managed that it won the applause of the whole army. Five of his "Bully Dutchmen" fell in the enterprise. But for green troops their steadiness and mobility was considered astonishing. Veterans could not have behaved better. After the battle of Rich Mountain (11th), General McClellan moved rapidly on beyond Cheat Mountain, McCook being still in advance; but the campaign was soon closed. General McClellan was then called to Washington, and General Rosecrans assumed command of the Department. McCook was now sent up the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to New Creek, where he saw much severe service; and before the middle of August he had crossed and recrossed Rich Mountain with his regiment six times. When General Rosecrans perfected the plan of his Gamey River campaign McCook was again required, and at Sutton he was assigned to command the Second Brigade.

On the 10th of September, at the battle of Carnifex Ferry, his command was held in reserve several hours, but at last an order to advance was received. A scene of enthusiasm, inspired by the gallant McCook, ensued which beggared description. He inflamed the men with fiery ardor by the most passionate appeals to their patriotism, and, under the direction of the gallant Hartstuff (now Brigadier) they marched in splendid order into the fight. Unhappily, the order of combat was such that they were not hurled immediately upon the breast-works of the enemy, but by orders of the superior officer they were held under a sharp fire without being able to return it effectively—M'Cook begging for an opportunity to carry his "Bully Dutchmen" over the "sticks and dirt" which protected the enemy. Here again the bold, determined character

acter of our townsman was displayed, and his heroes came out of the fight more devoted to him than before. After the retreat of the enemy, McCook's brigade was dispatched in pursuit, and he followed vigorously until halted by orders. At Sewall Mountain, and on New River, he was engaged in severe skirmishing, losing men on each occasion. After the escape of Floyd from Cotton Hill, he was finally, after six months of extraordinary service, in which he exhibited courage, enterprise, and judgment of a high order, ordered to Kentucky.

His subsequent career—so recent that it must be familiar to all—need not be detailed. He was not long in Kentucky before he gave the rebels a taste of the quality of his "Bully Dutchmen." They will never forget Mill Springs. The General commanding, and the troops alike, award that victory to Colonel McCook. It was one of the most glorious and most important of the war, because it broke the chain of defeats, and inaugurated a series of brilliant triumphs. It was memorable, also, as the first in the war in which bayonets were used effectively, and it was Colonel McCook who ordered cold steel into requisition. It was here that he was wounded, and although most men would have taken advantage of such a circumstance to enjoy a long furlough, he remained away from his post only long enough to recover sufficient strength to ride on horseback, and he returned to duty long before the wound healed—setting an example of devotion to duty eminently characteristic of himself, but of few other officers in service. After the evacuation of Bowling Green he moved forward with General Buell's command, but we believe was not in any engagement after Mill Springs. For his conduct in the latter the President promptly promoted him to a Brigadiership, and the Senate confirmed the appointment unanimously; but on account of the mutual attachment existing between himself and his splendid regiment, and on account of some dispute relative to his successor, which could not be amicably arranged, he never accepted his new commission.

Colonel McCook was a hardy, muscular man, of medium height. He so scorned display that he steadfastly refused to wear the uniform of his rank. He was frank and rugged, with stern decision of character, and was remarkable for his devotion to his regiment. Indeed he carried his disposition to provide for it to such an extent that he frequently had the field-officers of the whole army of Western Virginia protesting against his determined and successful efforts in securing the comfort of his command.

We gave an account of his murder in last week's paper. The following, from the Commercial, is another version:

The General was not riding in advance of his whole brigade, as the first accounts led us to suppose, but between the several regiments composing it. The 18th Regulars and a part of the 1st Ohio Cavalry had passed over the road ahead of him. The rebel assassins lay in waiting in brush adjoining the road all the morning, and managed to remain undiscovered by the advance body of the brigade. It is supposed that they were fully apprised by citizen spies of the General's helpless condition and mode of traveling, and formed an ambush for the special purpose of his assassination. They were about one hundred and fifty strong, and partly composed of Forrest's Cavalry, and partly of residents of the vicinity. The individual who shot the General is known to be one of the latter. The cowardly murderer goes by the name of Charles Wood.

The General was accompanied by his usual escort of twelve of the 1st Ohio Cavalry on the day of his death. Unfortunately, just before the guerrillas commenced their work, he sent three of these with orders to different portions of the brigade. At the time the attack was made three others were off the road looking out for a camping-ground. The escort was thus reduced to six. Of this corporal's guard five started to run after the first shot from the rebels. In vain did the remaining one call upon them not to act like cowards, but stand and defend their General. In vain did the latter himself order them to rally in the road between the guerrillas and his vehicle, so as to give him time to get a start. They followed their craven instincts, and sacrificed their General. The brave sixth man stood alone, and was wounded and captured. The General was riding in a spring-wagon and lying down.

Captain Hunter Brooke, formerly of this city, was riding with the General, who, owing to his feeble condition, was lying in the bottom of the box. When the guerrillas opened fire upon the conveyance, General McCook at once exclaimed, "The bushwhackers are upon us!" ordered the driver, his negro servant John, to turn quickly around, and rose to his knees to assist him in holding the frightened horses. The team was just fairly started when the murderer of the General came up and ordered it to halt. It being impossible to check the spirited hoses at once, the team kept moving, when the guerrilla again ordered it to halt, but almost instantaneously fired the fatal shot from his carbine, although Captain Brooke begged him not to fire upon a sick man. Another rebel rode up at the same time and aimed his gun, when the General told him reproachfully, "You needn't shoot, I am already fatally wounded." The bullet passed entirely through his body, fatally tearing the intestines.

The main body of the rebels pursued the flying escort, and but three or four remained with their victim. The General was driven to and taken into the home, at which he died, by Captain Brooke and John. He stated afterward that when the party came up to the house the occupants, men, women, and children, clapped their hands in approbation of the rebel achievement. In a few minutes those that had gone in pursuit came tearing back, and harried off with Captain Brooke. John, upon the advice of the General, had previously managed to escape out of the horse and through a corn-field. Shortly afterward Captain Burt and party arrived.

The General lived about twenty-four hours after being wounded. He was conscious to the last, although frequently unable to speak from the dreadful pain he was suffering. Whenever able be uttered words of advice, gratitude, and consolation to those around him. The last moments found him as firm and calm as ever he was in the face of death.

Retribution—terrible retribution—is being dealt by the 9th Ohio. The hands of the men that cheered rebel murderers will clap no more. With fire, and sword, and bayonet the scene of the foul assassination was reduced to a state of desolation from which it will not recover until time will have swept away the remembrance of the death of Robert L. McCook.

The McCook family, as we have before intimated, appears to be pretty full of fighting qualities. The following is a list of the members of this family, all near relatives of Dr. George McCook, Sen., of Pittsburg, who have entered their country's service. They are as follows:

A. L. McCook, Surgeon.

Colonel George W. McCook, served during the three months.

General Alexander McDowell McCook.

General Robert L. McCook, Colonel Ninth Ohio.

Daniel McCook, Jun., Adjutant - General in General McCook's staff.

Edward McCook, Captain in Colonel Logan's Illinois regiment.

Charles McCook, killed at the battle of Bull Run.

Judge McCook, his father, also had a fight on his own hook at Bolivar Heights under Colonel Geary, and was paymaster at Corinth.

Edward S. McCook, Lieutenant in the Regular Army.

Major Anson McCook, Second Ohio.

Captain Henry McCook, in an Illinois regiment—number not known.

Sheldon McCook, Lieutenant in the Navy, on the flag-ship Minnesota.

John M'Cook, Quarter-master in a Virginia regiment.

Major Anson McCook was in the battle of West Liberty, Kentucky.

Captain Edwin McCook, of Colonel Logan's regiment, lost thirty men in the battle of Belmont, Missouri. Captain Henry McCook was taken prisoner at the battle of Belmont, Missouri.

Lieutenant Sheldon McCook is on board the flag-ship Minnesota, and consequently was at the capture of Port Royal and Beaufort.

Members of the family were in the following battles: Bull Run, Philippi, Rich Mountain, Carnifex Ferry, Hatteras, Wilson's Creek, Belmont, Port Royal and Beaufort, West Liberty, and Bolivar Heights, Virginia.

 

 

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