Henry Clay Cooke

I was born, June 10, 1845, at Eutaw, Ala.  My father was Wm. Allen Cooke and my mother was Elizabeth Raglan Cooke (nee Ussery).  Both were Virginians.

My father was born in King and Queen County, Va., and mother in Halifax County, Va.  They removed to Eutaw, Greene County, Ala., before I was born.

They named me for Kentucky’s great statesman and orator, Henry Clay, my father being an ardent Whig.  Before I was 14 years old, I clerked in a book store for nearly 2 years, receiving for my services only my upkeep.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, I left the book store and enlisted in a Company of Volunteers commanded by Capt. Talbert, who had been president of Howard College located at Marion, Ala.  In May, 1861, the Company was ordered to Virginia and on June 11th, at Lynchburg, Va., it was mustered into the service of the Confederate States of America.  Thereafter it was known and designated as Company K, 11th Regiment, Alabama Infantry, Wilcox’s Brigade, Anderson’s Division, Longstreet’s Corps., Army of Northern Virginia, Robt. E. Lee, General in Command.

I was sixteen (16) years and one day old when mustered into service. I served in this command as a private until the battle of Sharpsburg, Md., in September, 1862.  In this battle the color bearer of the Regiment as shot down, his flag staff shot off, and 13 bullets pierced the flag.  The Colonel of the Regiment was named Saunders and had been Captain of Company C until promoted to Colonel and was in command of the Regiment at this time.

He called for volunteers to serve as Color Sergeants. This was early in the morning of the second day of the battle when the Regiment was still in line on the battle field with the enemy in full view on the slopes of the
mountains beyond Antietam Creek.  I responded to the call for volunteers to guard the colors as Color Sergeants and with the other men was ordered to report at once to the Colonel.   There were ten of us in line when we appeared before the Colonel, who was seated on the ground, having been struck under one eye in the battle by a piece of shell which bruised his cheek black.  The Colonel made a short talk to us as we stood before him, saying that he had sent for us to go with the flag; that one of us must be color- bearer. 

Realizing the danger in this service, he preferred that one of the men should volunteer to carry the flag; otherwise, he would have to name the man to take the colors, etc.  None of us was anxious to assume the dangerous duty and for a moment or two there was intense silence. Seeing that no one appeared willing to volunteer to carry out tattered battle flag, which was lying on the ground at the fee of the Colonel, I finally stepped forward and, addressing the Colonel, offered to take the flag and carry it as far as I could.  The Colonel looked up suddenly and seemingly with surprise that someone had volunteered to relieve him of the unpleasant duty of detailing one of us to act as color bearer. Doubtless he was surprised to see me, a mere boy, the youngest and smallest of the men he had before him, so foolhardy as to voluntarily take upon myself such hazardous duty.  This at the age of 17 years and 3 months, I became color Sergeant of my regiment, the 11th Alabama in the Brigade of General Cadmus M. Wilcox, as fine an officer as ever led men into the fiery vortex of battle.

I served in this capacity until the battle of Fredericksburg, Va., where on the 13th day of December, 1862, a shrapnel shell shattered my right hand, putting me out of commission for the balance of the war. The following year I applied for a discharge which was promptly granted and I returned to Marion, Ala., and entered school to
acquire an education.

In the short period of my service I participated in the battle of Seven Pines, the siege and capture of Harper’s Ferry, Sharpsburg (second day), and Fredericksburg. I was under fire in several skirmishes and minor engagements.  A severe and protracted spell of malignant fever prevented me from taking any part in the
seven days series of battles around Richmond.

The foregoing is a summary of my service in the Civil War, prepared in obedience to a resolution of Stirling Price Camp of Dallas, of which I am now a member.

H. C. Cooke
11th Ala. Infantry