Family Stories & Histories


Letter from John Cocke to his Father: 24 Aug 1861
This letter has been authenticated by the Virginia Historical Society on 15 Jun 1992 by E. Lee Shepard Senior Archivist. The authentication letter points out a few bits of information as follows:
Mr. Cocke enlisted in Company C, the Osborne Ford Independents, 48th Virginia Infantry Regiment, in Scott County Virginia in May of 1861 at the age of 27. He served as corporal until April of 1862 when he was elected a lieutenant by his fellow soldiers. (They did things differently in those days). He had reached the grade of second lieutenant by 9 Aug 1862, at which time he was killed in action at the Battle of Cedar Creek. This information comes from John Chapla's book on the 38th Infantry published in 1989.
A few additional facts about the 48th; It was commanded by Colonel John Arthur Campbell;company C was led by Captain Henry W. Osborne. Both of these men are mentioned in Cocke's letter. Also, Scott County lies in the Southwest portion of Virginia, not far from the town of Abingdon, also mentioned in the letter.
Additional Notes of Interest:
  • John Cocke wrote this letter while stationed in Pocahontas County. At the time the county was part of Virginia. Today it is part of West Virginia. West Virginia was the only state to form by seceding from a Confederate state, and was one of only two states formed during the American Civil War (the other one being Nevada, which separated from Utah Territory). It became a constitutional state on June 20, 1863 and was considered to be a very important Civil War border state.
  • Fulkerson's Regiment presumably refers to Colonel Fulkerson's regiment which is composed of five companies from Abingdon county, two from Russell, one from Davis and one company from Lee county. In July 1861, Fulkerson' Regiment is reported in Beverly, Randolph county. The news is that all are killed and taken.
  • Viz. - is the abbreviation of the Latin word videlicit, which means "that is to say" or "namely". John Cocke uses this abbreviation at the start of his letter to describe their movements and locations from Abingdon.
  • Also see the Genealogical Records for John A. Cocke, that we've collected thus far.
Below is a transcript of the original letter written by John Cocke. There are only a few places where his words cannot be deciphered. These are indicated by [?]. Following the transcript you'll find links to a scanned copy of the letter and the authentication letter from the Virginia Historical Society.
This letter was found in the estate of Nelle M. McCraven Gillespie, which probably was purchased by or came into the hands of her husband Hal Gillespie. He was a journalist for the Charlotte Observer. The original letter is in the possession of Aunt Nelle's niece Sarah (Holland) Steelman. We're not sure if John Cocke is related to our family or not. But we continue our search for a connection or to discover why his letter was in Aunt Nelle's possession.

Page 1:
Big Springs Pocahontas County Va                               August 24th 1861
Dear Father it is once more that I have the privilege to drop you a few lines to let you know that I am well hoping when these few lines come o hand they may find you all in the same state of health. I have nothing of interest to write only I received your letter this [?] which was dated August he 12. It gave me much satisfaction to hear that you are all well. i will give you our travel Viz. from Lynchburg to Staunton distance 140 miles then we had to take it a foot from Staunton to Buffalo Gap distance 10 miles. Then to Craigville distance 15 miles. then to Millborough distance 15 miles. Then to Warm Springs distance 13 miles. Then to Gatewood distance 12 miles. Then to Huntrsville distance 13 miles. then to Camp Edward distance 10 miles. Then to Big Springs distance 18 miles. Where we are now stationed like have been few days and I cannot tell how long we will stay here we may stay 10 days and we may stay here 2 months. It is unknown to me for it is like drawing blood out of a turnip to get news here for we are now in the Extreme North Corner of Pocahontas County. hen news and every thing else are about 7 months later. Then in Scott, Oats harvest is first now coming on and very scarce at that I never id see oats & corn as scarce in my life. but it is a great country for [?] I will say same thing about the chase for a fight. I think it
Page 2:
doubtful whiter we get into a fight at all or not it has been rumored ever since we left Staunton that we would be in a fight tomorrow. Tomorrow has been the cry and no fight yet. As far as I can hear of the Yankees, they are retreating in every direction. General Lee incited us on yesterday and he seemed to be in good spirits we are stationed in about 2 miles of his head quarters. Fulkerson's Regiment s about 12 miles east of us and from what I can hear they are all enjoying good health with the exception of one man I don't remember his name who died. Col. Campbell has not lost the first man yet and as to our company they are generally well with few exceptions, who are not dangerously bad ad their illness has been caused by exposure. I think all have had to expose ourselves mightily for the last three weeks we have had to march al the day long through rain and mud shoe mouth deep and then lay down without one mouth full to eat. On day in particular we marched all day without anything to eat and when night came we had to lay down on the wet ground, but this was caused by the waters getting so high that our wagons could not cross, we had to wade mud and water from shoe mouth to waist deep and stave 21 hours, but when our wagons, provisions and tents came we went cooking eating and singing, we have been faring better ever since that night and I hope we will as long as we live. I think where we are stationed now we can live tolerable.
Page 3:
Surprisingly if we had a little more salt we generally get beef for meat, and very little salt I will give you the amount for 85 men we get 1 1/2 points for day and it certainly measure at that and I don't see any chance for it to et any better for there is so much rain falls here and so much passing done that it is nearly impossible for wagons to pass. Tell Uncle Dick that it beats the time that I, Mitchel M Salling and he went to Abingdon with the exception of the snow and it came very near that. If it don't change shortly it ill snow first and do ever thing else. please don't get disheartened at this for it is just the beginning of hard times, but I hope we can over [?] it all. A few lines to Wm F Greear our boys are getting very uneasy about clothing, but I don't think there is much danger of us going necked yet a while but if we should run scarce of any thing I will put confidence enough in you. To write you a few lines an I think you will bring it to us without fail. Please tell all of our friends we want them to write to us often and when they write to send one extra sheet of paper for paper can not be had here at all. it seems to me like you are very easy about writing anyway. I have not received but 2 letters since I left Abingdon don't neglect writing to me for it gratifies me very much to hear from old south. So no more at present. Only I remain my [?] your true and faithful son until death. John A Cocke.
Page 4:
I will give you my mess mates. They say the are all well at present and want their friends to write to them as often as possible.
Wm K Johnson
Thomas D. Ceartes [?]
M. V. Parnel
Joseph Edwards
Raleigh Parnel
A.H. Spears
A.M. Salling
JG Cocke
James M Gillenwars
John A Cocke
Tell George E Starnes that Andrew M. Starnes is well at present and very well satisfied .
I received a letter yesterday from R.K. Cocke stated that you had a real excitement about that insurrection in hand back then. It caused me to laugh. [?] When you write to me direct to Huntersville Pocahontas County Under the bare Capt. Abrams Va Vol Col. Campbell's Regt.
Please don't neglect the paper when you write.
John A Cocke
To Wm B Cocke and Uncle Dick
We are about 28 miles from the postoffice but letters can brought to by hand.
excuse these few lines for they are written nearly without a pen

Click the image to view the letter.