Archive for October 2009

Hero Highlight – Nathan Mulford Cook, 6th Co., 1st Battalion Sharpshooters

October 28, 2009
Charles, Hannah, Mary Augusta, Ella, Nathan & William Cook

Charles, Hannah, Mary Augusta, Ella, Nathan & William Cook

As evening fell, the last light of the day illuminated the yellow leaves covering the ground like a shroud.  It was particularly fitting, as I had stopped by Pittsford Cemetery to pay my respects to Nathan Mulford Cook on the 147th anniversary of his death.

Nathan was born in April of 1842.  He was the fourth child, and third boy, in the Cook family.  It seems his parents, Wiliam Henry and Phebe Rose Terbell Cook, came to Pittsford, New York from Suffolk County, New York sometime before 1840.  The 1840 census shows William working as a carpenter in Pittsford, but by 1850 he was a nurseryman. 

 The Cooks had lost four children between the years of 1845 and 1859.  How concerned William and Phebe must have been when two of their three surviving sons, William Jr. and Nathan, came to them with the news that they wished to join the Union forces.  William Jr. decided to enlist in the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.  Nathan would have been happy with that, until the Sharpshooter scouts came to call.  Nathan was one of only a handful of men who qualified for the Sharpshooters.  He had the skill to shoot ten consecutive shots into a ten inch circle from 200 hundred yards away.  Only two Pittsford men had that ability.  The other, George P. Walters, was mustered into the Sharpshooters on the same day as Nathan.  William and Nathan enlisted within days of each other in August, 1862.  Sadly, they would die within weeks of each other in October of the same year.

I always picture Nathan as a good-natured, gangly boy who loved animals and the outdoors.  His military service record states that he stood 5′ 9″ tall, with a light complexion, dark hair and black eyes.  Unfortunately, the record gives little more information than that.  We know that Nathan died in Pittsford.  Did he even leave home before becoming ill?  Did William, who had shipped out with the 4th NY Heavy Artillery, know that Nathan was sick before he himself became ill with and died from typhoid fever on October 3, 1862?

Upon Nathan’s death on October 28, 1862, he was laid to rest in Pittsford Cemetery at his brother William’s side.  Their four young siblings – Mary Augusta (1844-1845), Charles Terbell (1849-1858), Hannah Terbell (1851-1852) and Ella Frances (1859-1859) – lie beside them.  An older sister, named Phebe Elizabeth but known to the family as “Libby”, married Julian Way Geare and bore him two children, William and Minnie.  Phebe died in 1872 at age 35, followed several months later by her infant daughter Minnie.  Her son, William, passed away just four years later.  Mary Star Cook, younger sister to Nathan and William, lived a long life.  She went on to marry Don Quincy Alvord of Perinton, NY.  They moved to Camden, NY where they raised four sons.  Mary passed away at age 85, living well into the 20th century.  She and her husband are buried at Pittsford Cemetery, as are Phebe and her children.

Brother Edward P. Cook is a mystery to me.  Born in 1840, he was two years older than Nathan, and two years younger than William.  The 1860 census lists Edward’s occupation as a teacher.  Subsequent census records do not give me enough information to undeniably confirm Edward’s identity.  I will continue to gather clues in the hopes that someday I will be able to track Edward.

The fates of Nathan and William Cook haunt me.  Two young men, who should have been enjoying the beginnings of their adult lives, were instead lying in the ground.  Illness took them before they could prove themselves on the battlefield.  The Cook family suffered more than their fair share of early deaths.

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Hero Highlight – Ezra A. Patterson, Co. C, 108th NY Volunteer Infantry

October 26, 2009

Antietam.  What came to be known as the bloodiest day of battle in American history also happened to be the first engagement in which the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry participated.  This was to be the only battle for Ezra A. Patterson of Pittsford, New York, for Ezra did not survive to fight another day.

Ezra A. Patterson, Co. C, 108th NY Volunteer Infantry

Ezra A. Patterson, Co. C, 108th NY Volunteer Infantry

Ezra A. Patterson was born in July, 1841 to Aaron B. and Jane Ann Hecox Patterson.  While Aaron farmed their land in Pittsford, Jane Ann cared for Ezra and his brother, Mortimer, who was born in 1847.  A daughter, Alice, would be born in 1852.  However, Jane Ann did not live long enough to see her children to adulthood.  She died in 1853 at age 35 and was laid to rest at the Pioneer Burying Ground in Pittsford.  After Jane’s death, Aaron Patterson married her sister, Harriet Hecox.

By 1860, Ezra could be found in Marion, New York working for Marvin Rich as a merchant’s clerk.  Once the War Between the States began, Ezra wasn’t content to work in an office while others went off to fight.  He enlisted in Co. C of the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry on July 21, 1862, and was mustered in on August 18th.  Ezra A. Patterson had just celebrated his 21st birthday.  At 5′ 7 1/2″ tall, Ezra was of average stature for those times.  However, he must have been a striking figure with his light complexion, black hair and grey eyes.

Quickly promoted to First Sergeant, Ezra and the 108th traveled first to New York, then on to Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Virginia before arriving in Maryland.  They had only mustered in one month earlier.  How much training had they received in the 30 days prior to the bloody battle of Antietam?  They were about to get a trial by fire. 

On the morning of September 17, 1862, the men of the 108th were awakened at 4:00 and told to get breakfast and be prepared to march.  The battle commenced and, at some point, Ezra was wounded in action.  He would have been carried to the field hospital much like his comrade, Franklin R. Garlock, who was shot in the head and the hand.  After over a week at the field hospital, a train of ambulances transported the wounded to Washington.  Ezra was among those in the ambulances. 

Carver Hospital in Washington D.C. was to be Ezra’s last stop.  It was at Carver that Ezra began to recover from his wounds.  In fact, he was well enough to receive a Surgeon’s Certificate of Disability on October 14th and be discharged.  His comrade, Franklin Garlock, gave a first-hand account of what happened next in George H. Washburn’s A Complete Military History and Record of the 108th Regiment N.Y. Vols.:  “Here our comrade Patterson formerly of Pittsford, N.Y., was also discharged and was to go home with me, but who was detained, by reason of his papers not arriving from the war-office in time.  He was apparently doing well when I left the hospital, but soon a fatal hemorrhage set in, which resulted in his death, soon after.  He never got home alive.”

Had Aaron Patterson been aware that his son was given his discharge and was coming home?  If so, it must have been a terrible blow to the Patterson family when subsequent word reached them of Ezra’s death on October 26th.  Mortimer, Ezra’s young brother, would be the next Patterson to join the war effort.  He enlisted in June, 1863 in Co. F of the 14th Heavy Artillery.  The official paperwork lists his age at enlistment as 18, but Mortimer was discharged just one month later for “being under 18 years of age”.  In actuality, Mortimer was just 16. 

After 1863, Mortimer disappears from the records.  I am still looking for clues as to his whereabouts.  Aaron Patterson couldn’t bear to live in Pittsford after having lost his son, Ezra.  By 1870, Aaron, Harriet and Alice had moved to Marshalltown, Iowa.   Aaron died in 1878.  Ezra’s aunt/stepmother, Harriet, passed on in 1907.  Alice, Ezra’s only sister, lived to age 83 before dying unmarried in 1935.  They are buried at Riverside Cemetery in Marshalltown, Iowa.

Despite his disfiguring wounds which caused him to lose his eye and a finger, Ezra’s friend from the 108th, Franklin R. Garlock, recovered from his wounds sufficiently enough to attend medical school.  He practiced medicine at Lyndonville, NY before moving to Racine, WI.

Ezra’s body was returned to Pittsford and he was buried at the Pioneer Burying Ground beside his mother, Jane Ann Hecox Patterson.

Pioneer Burying Ground Tour

October 17, 2009
Thomas Wood, 108th New York Volunteer Infantry

Thomas Wood, 108th New York Volunteer Infantry

Thank you to everyone who came out today for the tour of the Pioneer Burying Ground.  Despite the constant rain, we had a nice turnout.

Pittsford Town Historian Audrey Johnson started the tour at the Lusk family plot.  I described how Sarah Hincher Davis Lusk was a pioneer in her own right as she, her six sisters, one brother and parents settled in 1792 the area now known as Charlotte, New York.  After Sarah’s father, William Hincher, died in 1817, her mother Mehitable Moffet Hincher sold 3 1/3 acres of land to the United States Goverment for $400.  In 1822, that land became the site of the Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse.  Sarah became a young widow when her first husband, Franklin Davis, died.  However, several years later she met and married widower Stephen Lusk and together they raised a family of 6 children.

Audrey Johnson then discussed the families of Doctor John Ray and Silas Nye.  From there, we headed to the northwest corner of the cemetery to investigate the lives of the Armstrong family.  Caleb Hopkins, the man who gave us the name Pittsford after his hometown of Pittsford VT, followed.  Then we passed by Josiel Farr and his wife Rebecca, whose was the first burial at the Pioneer Burying Ground in 1797.  Ultimately, we concluded with the sad tale of Sarah Wood Osgoodby’s children after discussing her brother, Thomas Wood, who served in the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry.

Unfortunately, the rain cut our tour short and we were unable to discuss the lives of Civil War soldiers Ezra A. Patterson of the 108th New York Volunteer Infantry and George Walters of the 1st Battalion of United States Sharp Shooters.  However, I intend to post Hero Highlights for each of them in Illuminated History in the future.

Audrey and I are already hard at work planning a Spring tour at the Pittsford Cemetery.  Please check my Cemetery Tours & Speaking Engagements page for information about this and other upcoming events.

Hero Highlight – William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

October 3, 2009
William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

William H. Cook, Battery H, 4th NY Heavy Artillery

I stopped by his grave on this crisp, sunny October day.   Tears fell as I remembered him on the anniversary of his death, for it was on this day, 147 years ago, that William Cook died.

William Henry Cook, Jr., was the second child of William Henry and Phebe Rose Terbell Cook.  They must have been so proud the day he was born.  Already parents to a beautiful little girl, Phebe Elizabeth, William was another wonderful addition to their family.  Little did they know that nearly 24 years later William would be taken from them forever, a victim of typhoid fever contracted just a few months after his enlistment in the 4th New York Heavy Artillery.

After the birth of William in October 1838, another 7 children would be born to the Cook family within a 21 year span.  William was followed by brother Edward, then Nathan, Mary Augusta, Mary Star, Charles, Hannah and Ella.  Sadly, four of these children died in infancy.  Maps of the time show the Cook land south of today’s Monroe Avenue near the intersection of current-day Sutherland Street.  Father William worked as a nurseryman and by 1860, William and brother Nathan were working as farm laborers. 

The Civil War must have seemed exciting to two young men who had probably not traveled very far from Pittsford.  Did William discuss his decision to join the Union Army with anyone?  How long did it take him to enlist once his mind was set to go?  We will probably never know the answer to these questions.  What we do know is that William enlisted in Battery C of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery on August 14, 1862.  Brother Nathan, four years younger than William, was selected to join the 1st Battalion of Sharpshooters after his enlistment on August 21.  And with kisses and tears from their family, the boys set off on their journeys.

William is mentioned in George Wiltsie’s wartime diary.  William and George were both in Battery C, but were asked to transfer to Battery H just one month after enlistment.  This they did, but the transition was barely completed before both young men fell ill with typhoid fever soon after arriving at Fort Pennsylvania.  George B. Wiltsie recovered, but William Cook died of the disease at Fort Ethan Allen on October 3, 1862.  If he had lived just one more week, William would have celebrated his 24th birthday.

I stopped by his grave on this crisp, sunny October day.  A beautiful day to remember a soldier who is forever young.


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