Lot 396: Confederate officer (1809–1861) best known for organizing the defense of Virginia along the Potomac River after the state's secession, and briefly commanding troops before committing suicide. Civil War–dated ALS signed "Philip St. Geo. Cocke," two pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.75 x 10, August 1, 1861. Letter to Governor John Letcher of Virginia. In part: "I sent a few days ago to the care of my friend William H. McFarland, Esq., a copy of my report to Gen. Beauregard of the part taken by my command in the late great battle and victory of the 21st of July, requesting McFarland to show the report to you and request you to read it. The confidence you have ever manifested in me, and the high, honorable, and responsible offices you have conferred on me at various times, incite in me, I trust, a due desire to show that your confidence has not been misplaced. You'll find that I also have the confidence of Gen. Beauregard, that I have had the command of a brigade ever since I joined his army, and that the great battle of the 21st July was fought in the position of my brigade. I have been at or near the very front of military operations here ever since the war commenced. In what manner I have fulfilled all the responsibilities of my position it would not be becoming in me to speak. I can only say that I yield to the claims of none as making greater sacrifices to serve the Southern cause, and that I am unreservedly devoting mind, body, and the state to the great struggle now pending for the salvation of our honor, our liberties, and our country." He adds a postscript signed "P. St. Geo. C.," in full: "The copy of my official report to Gen. B— above referred to has been sent to be filed with my will and other papers for the care of my family and friends, of course not to be made public now." In very good condition, with dampstaining to the left side evidently resulting in ink transfer from a page not present, and a small tear to the left edge. Given command of Beauregard's 5th Brigade, Cocke showed his strategic abilities in both the Battle of Blackburn's Ford and the crucial First Battle of Bull Run—"the great battle of the 21st July." After defending the Stone Bridge, he quickly and effectively led his men in an attack against Union troops at Henry House Hill. Though he was praised for his actions and promoted shortly after, Cocke could not cope with the strains of battle, and took his own life on December 26th. Written less than two weeks after his most notable and final battle, and teeming with assurance of his dedication to their cause, this is a scarce and remarkable letter from the tragic Confederate soldier.
RR Auction's Fine Autographs and Artifacts Auction 460
Wednesday, 16th September 2015
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