Cook, Morris H.
Age: 44, credited to Danby, VT
Unit(s): 7th VT INF
Service: enl 12/16/63, m/i 1/2/64, Pvt, Co. I, 7th VT INF, m/o 7/11/65
See Legend for expansion of abbreviationsVITALS
Birth: 1817, Chester, VT
Burial: Hillside Cemetery, Castleton, VT
Marker/Plot: Not recorded
Gravestone researcher/photographer: David & Gayle French
Findagrave Memorial #: 0
(There may be a Findagrave Memorial, but we have not recorded it)
Alias?: None noted
Pension?: Yes, 10/30/1883, VT; widow Eliza A., 10/13/1892, VT
College?: Not Found
Veterans Home?: Not Found
(If there are state digraphs above, this soldier spent some time in a state or national soldiers' home in that state after the war)
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Hillside Cemetery, Castleton, VT
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Reminiscences Of Three Days, In And Near Mobile, Alabama, In 1865, By Hon. Morris H. Cook, Mem., 7th Regt. Vt. Vols.
At the commencement of the morning of the 12th day of April, 1865, the 7th Vt. Regiment, immediately preceded by the 14th Regiment, Indiana Heavy Artillery, was on the march from Fort Blakeley to the Spanish Fort Landing, en route for the city of Mobile, Alabama, then in possession of the rebels.
A sick and tired soldier of the 7th Vt., in this march taking advantage of the darkness of the night, walked beside the 14th Indiana Regiment, until he came to the head of the column, and then would sit down and rest till the entire regiment passed him, and the colors of the 7th Vt., which Gen. Butler defamed without cause, came up; and then he would resume his weary tramp in the same form. This he often repeated for the entire distance of 12 miles.
The night being rather dark the chance for observation was limited, we passed over quite an extent of corduroy road, and road laid on pontoons, both of which were novel to me, but the darkness prevented observation by sight. We passed a huge pontoon train en route for Gen. Steel's army, which was to operate against Gen. Dick Taylor's command, which was supposed to be on the Alabama river. Of all the branches of the service a pontoon train is the elephant of the caravan, in the night time, when it appears at its biggest. It really appeared as we met it, as if the city was moving into the country on wheels! Strictly it more nearly resembled a regiment of itinerating Daguerreian saloons on the march! I felt towards it as I do towards a " drum major," when he appears with his baton and bear skin cap, at his biggest, apparently full nine feet high, and as formidable as Goliah of Gath.
About 2 o'clock A. M., the head of this column arrived at the landing of the Spanish Fort, and soon a great shout arose, and cheer on cheer resounded through the Alabama pines. I soon forgot I was tired and walked with my traps and things a full half mile, to find out what there might be so cheerful, to cause such great exultation, and found that a boat just from New Orleans brought the glad tidings that Gen. Lee and his whole army had surrendered to Gen. Grant. To say that we made "the welkin ring," would be tame, we filled all that country with a "joyful noise," we made the tall pine trees of Alabama tremble. We sent it down the line to regiment after regiment following us, we made a cheer 12 miles long reaching to Blakeley. The confederates heard us in Mobile 15 miles away.
We congratulated each other that the war was over, and we would soon go home; and there would be no more fighting; but we soon found that the confederacy was like a snake, that while its head was crushed there was life in the opposite extremity, manifesting considerable vigor; in the commands of Johnson, Dick Taylor, and Kirby Smith in Texas.
About 2:30 A.m., the 7th Vt. Regiment received orders to go on board the steamboat at daylight, and proceed to Mobile. This put a new face on the immediate peace prospect; either the confederacy was dead and did not know it, or our dispatch over which we had cheered so lustily was premature. At any rate we were ordered to Mobile with 60 rounds of ammunition which did not look like a peaceful surrender of that stronghold. We went on board as ordered and Mobile had heard of our intended coming and was literally on fire for us. Not the city proper, but the walks, wharfs, and every thing that fire would burn to prevent our landing near the city was on fire, to keep the hated Yanks out of the city.
The ride of 15 miles to Mobile was not a picnic or a pleasure party by any means. We could look south down the bay, and near by Fort Morgan lay a U. S. sunken monitor no portion of which, except the upper part of the flag staff was above water; sunk by a rebel torpedo. Above and between us and Mobile lay two others of our monitors opposite the Spanish Fort, sunk by running on rebel torpedos, but the water was so shallow that these were used as shore batteries in reducing the Spanish Fort and most excellent service they did. I have listened on divers days and times to the pleasant enquiries which the shells from these monitors made in going to the Spanish Fort among the rebels, when high in air and on their way, would. seem to enquire, " which ?" " which?" "which?" and then in the Fort would explode with a thundering noise.
We were preceded by a steamboat with great wooden arms and steel finger hooks with an "omnium gatherum" arrangement fishing up the sunken torpedoes ahead of us, in the channel of the bay, as the boat waltzed from right to left, and left to right, ahead of the boats behind it. The torpedoes when hooked up, in the distance resembled lobsters on a string or wire.
We stood light on deck expecting an explosion, fearing our pioneer would miss some torpedoes and we should find them too late. We looked with anxious solicitude to the eastern shore of the bay which the Yankees had taken in case of an explosion, and we could swim that distance. We made slow progress for steam conveyance in feeling our way through this 15 miles of torpedo net work.
About the middle of the bay we passed a horse going out to sea with the tide, which asked as plain as a horse could ask that we take him aboard, but we could not stop to catch a horse, or express sympathy for the unfortunate, we were bound for Mobile direct.
Some five or six miles from Mobile some reckless fellows on a boat about 100 feet from us, climbed on the gang way which was swung up like an awning, and under which a great many soldiers sat and stood, to be out of the sun, and some infantry companies had stacked arms. So many men climbed on this gang way or improvised upper deck that the chains supporting it broke, and the whole thing came down on those below, killing and wounding a large number, and crushing up the guns as if the same had been tin guns. It seemed doubly sad to witness the fate of these men who had escaped death in all previous battles to be killed in this trap sprung by a lot of reckless fellows who were out of their places and seemed bent on mischief; possibly they thought this the safer place in case of a torpedo explosion.
We neared the city of Mobile and steamed up in full view of the city and greatly wondered why the rebels did not open fire on us; and almost wished they would fire that we might get over being scared; but not a gun was fired, and we landed some two miles west of the city and went on shore; some men who had got there ahead of us or were in the secret told us where to land, and the various regiments marched up to the city, not into it. The 7th Vt., was so fortunate as to camp on a fine piece of land just outside of the city on the west. Strict orders were that passes should not be given to soldiers as the rebel soldiers and police had run away, and the city was entirely of itself defenceless against disturbance and improper conduct; but a corporal of the 7th Vt., had a wife and family living in Mobile and he was an exception, and had Col. Holbrook's pass to go home for the night. Great fear came on the people of Mobile when "The Yanks" appeared before the city. Women fainted, children screamed, and all confederates bewailed in loud lamentations, that Mobile had surrendered to the Yankees. The city was rife with rumors of all sorts of dire calamities to befall Mobile and the inhabitants thereof. The women were told that the Yankee ultimatum was "beauty and booty," for the whole army; and every woman felt in her inmost soul that she possessed in an eminent degree those dangerous attributes and qualities in war, but great possessions in time of peace, and that they were in a corresponding degree sore afraid of the horrid "Yanks." When this solitary 7th Vermont soldier appeared in Mobile, the women beholding him screamed on being approached by him. They feared he had come to select his beauty and booty. He could not get near one of them for some time. He finally cornered an elderly woman, old enough to be his mother, when her fear somewhat abated as he did not offer immediate violence, he enquired for the residence of his wife and family, which the good woman did not know, but she called some other women who did know the family, and when they found he was hunting for his own wife and no other woman, these women to the number of 500 or more gathered around him; and when assured that if they offered no violence to the Yankees, they would not be harmed, and this he would guarantee as an officer in a Yankee regiment (being a corporal!). They were so delighted with this assurance of safety, that in confidence and gratitude they kissed him and took him on their shoulders and carried him to his wife, the whole company following in procession! He sat in state in his house that night until past midnight, assuring delegations that he would guarantee the safety of person and property to all the inhabitants who were civil and respectful to the Yankees; and past 12 o'clock the last delegation left our Mobile Yankee soldier's residence, assuring others on the way to enquire, that they had it personally from a Yankee officer now in the city with his family, of high rank, certainly not less than that of a captain, that all well deserving people would be safe and protected in all their rights by the Yankees.
The novel position in which our Vermont soldier was placed this night, and the distinguished attention received by him, the kisses included, nearly turned his head. I tented with him several days and he never tired of talking about it and he personally attributed this reception to his personal bearing as a soldier and not to the army at the gates of the city, and the gates wide open.
Second Day.-The morning of the 13th of April, 1865, was unusually fine and that Mobile confederate soldiers had fled like wild startled deers and left their domestic dears to our kind care and keeping, made the day appear most charming and auspicious. We all had full rations and ample time to cook the same, and time and opportunity to examine the fortifications outside and around the city proper, and it was a great wonder to me that the confederates did not do more harm to the guns and property which they abandoned. They tipped over some guns, spiked a few, and did a little other mischief and ran away. It was evidently the work of a lot of boys and small ones at that. Near 11 o'clock A. M., our army resumed its march and passed through the city of Mobile in pursuit of the enemy, expecting to be confronted by the confederates a few miles out of the city, and every thing was made ready for the contest. As I remember it, we passed through some of the main streets from the west side to the north-east part of the city in fine martial array. The bands and drum corp playing " Yankee Doodle," better, louder, and stronger than I ever heard it before or since. The people who had not tied from the city or hid, came out to witness our progress and appearance; some were mute, some sad, some cried in apparent agony; the colored people and a few whites laughed as if it was a grand show and they were pleased with the procession. I did not witness any welcome among the whites except from a white woman from the Emerald Isle, who took off her bonnet and swung it over her head and cried out with energy "Hurrah for the Yanks." I did not see but one United States flag raised by the citizens, and that was a very old one. The army filled the width of the streets and the ground was a little undulating and as "we went marching along" at a spanking pace, it seemed as if the army was a resistless river of men, horses and artillery, ever rolling on. Yankee Doodle was dressed up in the world-wide celebrated "red, white and blue" with the stars interspersed in their proper places, and carried heavier guns than the ancient gun "large as a log of maple," and a load for a yoke of cattle. There were guns which took six and eight horses to haul and handle. Yankee Doodle beat "The Bonny Blue Flag" "clean out of sight." When the army reached Whistler five miles from Mobile, we were attacked by some rebel cavalry, and Col. Day of the 91st Illinois, commanding the brigade to which the 7th Vt., was attached, rode up and said in stentorian tones: "Boys, the enemy are in our front in force, firing, unsling knapsacks and sail in." The 7th answered with roaring cheers and several tigers.
A guard was detailed to take charge of the knapsacks and baggage, and we started on a double quick for the "Johnnies," who killed and wounded some of our men in the edge of a piece of woods and then run again. We followed about two miles as hard as we could run; but we could not catch up with their horses. We came back to Whistler, dug some trenches, and felled some pine trees to guard against a night attack by cavalry, but the cavalry did not appear. This was our last fight; we saw confederates after this in the distance but they were of a very retiring demeanor.
The 7th Vt. regiment had the distinguished honor of going across the country from Mobile to McIntosh's Bluffs on the Tombigbee river, and being a part of the escort of Gen. Dick Taylor and other confederates, down the river to Mobile, and after this service was performed encamped at the "Two Mile Creek," on the Mobile and Ohio railroad, so called because it is two miles from Mobile, we had been there quite a number of days and witnessed sundry railroad train loads of cannon and various other implements of war, with a large amount of ammunition captured by the U. S. army from the confederates carried past our camp en route for the arsenal of Mobile. This gave us much pleasure as it was being taken from the rebels, and would compensate the United States in some degree for the thefts by Thompson and other confederates.
Third Day.-We were much elated and hoped we should get all the war stores in the confederacy. One day just after a car load of shells and cannon had been carried past us, I was startled by a most fearful noise louder than the voice of "many thunders," in the direction of Mobile city. My first impression was, that a battery of the largest guns had opened on us within six rods, and casting my eyes towards Mobile, I saw a great flame and a dense cloud of smoke arise over the city and looking up at an altitude of some two or three miles above the city, the air was filled with timber and fragments of the U. S. arsenal,*which had exploded with about one hundred tons of powder and fixed ammunition. The sound of the explosion was terrible; louder than any man in the U. S. service had ever heard, even Gen. Butler's little amusement at Fort Fisher was a very tame affair compared with this frightful explosion. No one dared to attempt to visit this scene of devastation and destruction and death, because the huge piles of shell deposited in the arsenal had in part been thrown over the city and were exploding with frightful rapidity. Those of you who have witnessed the explosion of fire crackers by the thousand in a barrel, cm have some idea of the frequency of these cannon shell explosions. It was almost a continuous roar without any definite space in time between explosions. After a time, there came times in which there was a lull between explosions. Then there would be a lull between explosions to be resumed again with redoubled fury.
The number of men, horses and mules killed, will never be exactly known; I will guess it was between 500 and 1,000, maybe more. The modern western cyclone is an object of terror and power, but this explosion was greater and more terrible than any known cyclone. In proof of this assertion I will state that buildings were swept away and not a fragment of them could be found; and when the first force of the explosion had passed throwing shells through the city, which was darkened by the smoke so that people who were not killed could not see where to run, and it seemed that the furies had fired a broadside into the city and not having killed every living thing, was smoking out the people and shelling the city to finish all not killed by the first explosion. The noise made by the subsequent explosion of the shells was so great that the screams of the wounded and dying could not be heard for a long time, and the bravest stood aghast with wonder and terror, for no one in the city could see or learn the cause until the smoke lifted. Some thought it was an earthquake. Some thought the Yankees had returned and were cannonading the city and had suddenly destroyed it, and no one near the magazine was left to give any account of how or where it happened and what was the cause thereof. The most commonly received opinion of the cause of this terrible calamity was that it arose from carelessness of some one in the magazine. If this was the fact the careless fellow did not live to render the stupid excuse for homicides with firearms, that he "did not know it was loaded," for not a fragment of any one in the magazine could be found with a search warrant. The whole magazine was thrown miles away.
Some persons might think the 4th of July fire cracker fiend, the irrepressible, ubiquitous, omnipresent, small boy, would have had a joyful time in beholding this exhibition of fireworks had they been present in Mobile city on this terrible occasion. Such would not have been the fact, these fellows would have howled with fear or been suddenly still lest the angel of death should find and kill them. I saw a place more than 40 rods from this magazine where a brick house stood, with not a brick or stone or any part thereof remaining, but the top of the ground was shaved off as if a huge scraper drawn by a cyclone had passed over it. I saw a man who was in the second story of a house which was blown all to pieces and blown away, and the most of the people who were in it at the time killed. He said he had no recollection of the event, he was unconscious for a time, and the first he remembered after the explosion which he did not hear, was running in the streets to avoid some great bodily harm, but where or how he could not tell.
No man can describe this explosion. Those near were killed or terribly wounded. Those in the city were blinded by smoke or made unconscious by the terrible concussion and noise, and could not form a judgment until the smoke lifted and they made inquiry: "What's up?" or rather "what's down? what has happened?" Those at a safe distance, who were too far off to see anything to describe were more fortunate. All we could say from witnessing at our camp was as I have described, the terrible noise heard, the sight of the fragments in the air, the huge flame and great cloud of smoke which arose. The wind favored us, the 7th Vt. Vols., in blowing the smoke to the east of us and we knew from the direction, and the fact that there was no other quantity of powder stored in Mobile, that the arsenal had gone up in fire and smoke; but the cause in this world will in all probability never be made known. But this was true of it, it was greater and more terrible than an earthquake or cyclone, because when these strike a town, and go through it and quit, they do not turn around and settle a dark pall over the destruction wrought, and then cannonade the town for half an hour with artillery and mortar shells.
There was terrible suffering in Mobile. The smell of the blood of the slain, citizens, soldiers, horses and mules, was very offensive. The flies came in swarms like the Egyptian frogs and other pestilences of old. I was in the town one day, fighting flies and looking about for evidence of destruction, and wanted something to eat, and called at a booth or restaurant, saw two men eating and three men fighting flies off these men and their food. The flies were too much for me, I bought something and carried it to camp.
If I had had the power to visit the rebellious city of Mobile with a special judgment for its treason, this calamity was more severe than I could have the heart to inflict. One of the saddest things in this lamentable affair was that so many of our boys should pass through so many dangers in the field and then after the war was virtually over, should be killed or wounded by carelessness or assassination.
I must not omit to mention our unfortunate assistants, and dumb friends; the horses and mules killed on this occasion, which was very large; and which was greatly increased from the fact that just before the explosion one of those great southern thunder showers occurred and the horses and men sought shelter in cotton presses and other buildings. A cotton press at the north would be called a cotton shed, as these are open on one side at least but all have large heavy roofs. Most of these buildings were a considerable distance from the scene of explosion, but so great was its power that it either threw the buildings down or spread the sides thereof and drew the rafters from the plates and the roofs fell upon the men, horses and mules below, killing or wounding hundreds, which might have escaped the debris and missiles of death and destruction in the open air. To prevent a pestilence a great many dead horses and mules were burnt, which was a sad spectacle to witness, and offensive to the smell.
But after all there is no use in trying to give a description of this affair, as well might one attempt to describe an earthquake, no language can describe this terrible sight, and effect of the Mobile explosion of May, 1865. We can give some idea of the noise; for instance an ounce of powder exploded nearly deafens one near it, and here was more than 3,200,000 ounces powder and shell exploded, much more than was used at the battle of Waterloo, and here were hundreds of confederates and union soldiers with hundreds of horses swept away into one mighty windrow and hurled out of existence or maimed for life. Death in this case was no respecter of persons. "The blending of the blue and the gray" here was not censurable as it was not voluntary. Here the faithful horse bore his master company so far as human sight was concerned, to death.
As I do not feel able to find suitable language to properly set forth the horrors of that occasion, I will take the liberty to adopt the language of Lord Byron, who in describing another but no more terrible scene, a part of which thus reads, of that destruction:
"The thunder clouds close o'er it which when rent,
"The earth is cover'd thick with other clay,
"Which her own clay shall cover, heap'd and pent
"Rider and horse,-friend, foe,-in one red burial blent."
Source: John M. Currier, Memorial Exercises held in Castleton, Vermont, in the year 1885, (Joel Munsell's Sons, Albany, 1885), pp. 45-54.
Morris H. Cook, who died at Castleton last Friday at the age of 75 years, was a native of Chester and studied law in that town. He was elected associate judge of the county court from Danby in 1860 and in 1872 moved to Castleton. He was a veteran of the 7th Vermont regiment.
Source: Vermont Phoenix, September 16, 1892.
Courtesy of Tom Boudreau.