SOLDIER LETTER - CORPORAL WILLARD S. COOKE, 37th MASSACHUSETTS INFANTRY

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Item Code: 1054-1364

Mounted in black plastic frame, 11.25 x 9.25”,  with yellow envelope cover, post dated “Washington/DC/28 Aug [?],” addressed to Cooke’s mother,  “Mrs. David S. Cooke/ Amherst/ Mass.”  With copy photo of a young uniformed, slouch-hatted soldier in standing studio pose with his musket. Along with three flag fragments from a 35 Star Civil War era flag. Background sheet includes the following explanatory note:

“The letter written above was written by Private Willard Cooke of the 37th Massachusetts Vol…Cooke fought in numerous campaigns during the War and also served for a brief time at the POW Camp at Sandusky, Johnson’s Island. The 37th Mass. Served throughout the Virginia campaigns as well as at Gettysburg…”

Cooke’s letter is dated “Head Quarters 37th Mass. Vols./ February 26th 1865,” from the Petersburg, VA lines.  3 pp. in length, 5 x 8”,  written in ink on lined paper, mounted on black card, and entirely legible. Cooke spends much of the letter thanking his mother for a box of “goodies” that he and his friends stayed up all night to eat their  way through  the entire box.  Full Text:

“My Dear Mother…I am sorry to tell you that I can write but a few lines today for I am so very busy. I don’t generally work Sundays but this one is an exception to the general rule. Col. Edwards is with again, in command of the Reg’t and I shall make bold to ask him for a furlough soon. Col. Montague has resigned so we have lost him and I have lost one of my best friends in the Regt. You can’t guess what I had for breakfast this morning. A roast chicken, rye bread and butter. Cake, gingerbread and applesauce. Do you wish to know where I got them? Well, last night about 11o’clock one of the boys came in and told me that there was a box for me at the Quartermasters. So down I went in the rain and mud and got it. I did not take me long to get into it, I can tell you and the way we pitched into the cake and chicken fixing was a caution to dis___. I am tenting at Hd. Qrs. now with Ben Franklin and two other boys and we sat up and eat(sic) nearly all night. About midnight we received orders to be ready to march at a moments notice. So fearing that we might go and lest some of the contents of the box might get left if we should move before morning, we kept on eating, but we are here yet and I have chicken pie, applesauce, and the other can left, also half the bread etc. And I tell it tasted good. I felt that I was eating something your own hands had made. Everything was in the best of order. The “comfort boys” I distributed through the Company to those who do not receive “goodies” from home. They were thankfully received, I can assure you. And I think the young donors will receive replies and thankful ones too from some of them. Ed Hanks found a cigar in his. I gave him one of them as he was with me when I opened the Box.

I think I will write Mrs. Hyres a letter acknowledging the receipt of them. I received your letter last night and was glad to hear from you again.

The enemy is supposed to be evacuating our front, including Petersburg and I think that we shall move into town this week.

Good Bye/ Much love to all/ You aff. Son/ W.S. Cook

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W.S. Cooke was a 22 year old student from Amherst, MA, who was mustered as a corporal into Co. “F”, 37th Mass. Infy, 8/30/1862; mustered out in Washington, DC, 6/21/1865.  His unit was attached to the Union 6th Corps and participated in all the major engagements of the Army of the Potomac, from the Battle of Fredericksburg through Gen. Lee’s surrender of the ANV at Appomattox. During service 169 killed and mortally wounded and 92 by disease for a total of 261.

A heartwarming letter and a fine memento of a young 37th Mass. Volunteer who survived the war.

Included is a full transcription of the letter as well as a brief amount of internet research material.  [jp]

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