Benjamin Thomas Cook in Postbellum Berrien County

Benjamin Thomas Cook (1842-1924) Berrien County,  GA

Benjamin Thomas Cook came to Berrien County, GA after the Civil War and settled on land near Empire Church, not far distant from the grist mill Thomas M. Ray and Levi J. Knight had established on Beaver Dam Creek, a tributary of Cat Creek in southern Berrien County. Cook was a veteran who had been a prisoner of war, and came to Berrien to join others of the Cook family connection.

Benjamin Thomas Cook was born in Georgia in 1842, a son of Martha Knight and John  Cook.  His parents were married  December 5, 1841, in Wilkinson County, and Ben was  first enumerated at eight years old on his father’s farm in the  1850 census  of  the county.

1850-census-benjamin-t-cook

1850 Census enumeration of Benjamin Cook in the household of his parents, Martha Knight and John Cook, Wilkinson County, GA. https://archive.org/stream/7thcensus0067unix#page/n602/mode/1up

By the time of the 1860 census, John Cook had moved his family to Milledgeville, Baldwin County, GA.  John Cook was a miller and Benjamin Thomas Cook was employed as a “common laborer.”

"1860

Milledgeville was then capitol of the State of Georgia, also the site of the state arsenal, penitentiary, lunatic asylum, and Oglethorpe University.  Milledgeville was a bustling city, with a cosmopolitan flair.  The Cook residence was near the Milledgeville Hotel, and the neighbors of the Cooks included not only doctors, pharmacists, craftsmen, politicians and state administrators,  but also professionals such as editors and engineers from New York, fencing masters from France, merchants from many states and countries, attorneys from Scotland, watchmakers from Ireland, daguerreotype artists from Germany, and many others who simply gave their occupation as “gentleman.”

Western view of the State House and other buildings in Milledgeville. The view is from near the residence of R. M. Orme, Esg.; the State House is seen on the right; the Milledgevill and McComb's Hotels on the left. The Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal churches appear in the central part.

Milledgeville, GA, 1861.

Western view of the State House and other buildings in Milledgeville.
The view is from near the residence of R. M. Orme, Esg.; the State House is seen on the right; the Milledgeville and McComb’s Hotels on the left. The Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, and Episcopal churches appear in the central part. Barber, J. W., & Howe, H. (1861). Our whole country; or, The past and present of the United States, historical and descriptive. Cincinnati: H. Howe. https://books.google.com/books?id=dpzRlpLAGnwC&q

At the age of 20, Benjamin Thomas Cook was a resident of Milledgeville, Georgia, of florid complexion, dark brown hair, hazel eyes, and 5 ft, 3 3/4 inches tall. When the Civil War got underway Benjamin and his brother, Henry Cook, joined the Confederate cause. He enlisted May 1, 1862,  at Macon,  GA  with Company A, 1st Confederate Georgia Regiment, according to the Confederate Pension application he later filed. He appears in the National Park Service database of Civil War Soldiers and Sailors as a private of Company A, 1st Georgia Reserves. There were over thirty Georgia battle units incorporating the “First Georgia” title, so Benjamin’s unit service record remains unclear.

Georgia Ordinances of 1861 required that “every free white person, who shall be engaged in actual service, military or naval, of the State, and shall take an oath of his intention to continue in such service for at least three months, unless sooner discharged honorably, and, also, the oath of allegiance below prescribed.”

“That the oath of allegiance to this State shall be in the following form, to wit: ‘I do swear (or affirm) that I will be faithful and true allegiance bear to the State of Georgia so long as I may continue a citizen thereof.”

Those who were residents of Georgia at the time the Ordinance of Secession was passed were implicitly no longer citizens of the United States, but citizens of the State of Georgia. After the passage of Secession, anyone who came from a Union state to reside in Georgia  was required to take the Oath of Abjuration, an explicit statement renouncing their American citizenship.

“The oath of abjuration shall be in the following form, to wit: ‘I do swear (or affirm) that I do renounce and forever abjure all allegiance and fidelity to every prince, potentate, State or sovereignity whatsover, except the State of Georgia.’

While in Confederate service, Benjamin Cook was captured at Milledgeville, GA.  The Roll of Prisoners of War at Point Lookout, MD shows he was captured November 23, 1864, and held as a POW at the federal prison there at Point  Lookout, MD. His brother, Henry Cook, was also among the POWs at Point Lookout, as were John A. Gaskins, John T. Ray, Benjamin Harmon Crum and Aaron Mattox of Berrien County, GA.

Point Lookout had been hastily constructed in 1863 to confine Confederate prisoners of war captured at Gettysburg.

At the end of August 1863, Point Lookout’s stockade held more than 1,700 Confederate soldiers.  The prison population swelled to 9,000 by the end of the year. During the summer of 1864, the prison population grew to 15,500, well more than the stockade’s designed capacity, and reached 20,000 in June 1865. Conditions for the prisoners severely worsened as the population exploded.  The military did not construct barracks or other permanent housing; instead, tents provided inadequate shelter from the sweltering summer heat and brutal winters.  Contaminated water, meager rations, malaria and typhoid fever, and exposure to the elements led to a high death rate in the camp.  Approximately 4,000 of the total 50,000 Point Lookout prisoners died while  incarcerated. National Park Service

Following the Confederate surrender, B.T. Cook swore an Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and was released from Point Lookout on June 10, 1865.

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

Prisoners at Point Lookout, MD taking the oath of allegiance. A group of prisoners stand in a building, with the U.S. Flag draped across the ceiling, each with his hand on a Bible. A Union officer stands at a dias administering the oath of allegiance to the Union. Image courtesy of Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society, [Digital ID, nhnycw/ae ae00007] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpcoop/nhihtml/cwnyhshome.html

It appears from the Point Lookout records that B.T. Cook  was transported to Hilton Head, SC arriving on July 1, 1865.

After the War, Ben and his brother, Henry, came to Berrien  County, GA. In doing so, Ben and Henry were joining  about a dozen or so families originating from Wilkinson county who had made the move to the newly established Berrien County some ten years earlier. These included  the families of Ben’s cousins Elijah, Tabitha, and Piety Cook. Tabitha married Daniel Avera and Piety married Nicholas Lewis, both of these couples moving to Berrien.  Dawson Webb, father of Elijah’s first wife, had also moved to Berrien around 1856, and Webb’s daughter Louisa Eliza Webb and son-in-law Moses G. Sutton came to Lowndes County (now Berrien) a few years prior.

In Berrien County on 14 December 1865, Ben married Samantha  Jane “Mantha” Taylor. Jane was the daughter of blacksmith William Jackson Taylor and his wife, Samantha Jane Rogers, originally from Marion County, SC. The marriage ceremony was performed by Jane’s brother, Thomas L. Taylor, Justice of the Peace. 1865-benjamin-thomas-cook-marriage-cert

Back from the war,  Benjamin Cook endured the conditions of Reconstruction in Berrien County, GA. “It was also a time when the entire nation, but especially the South, was forced to come to grips with the legacy of slavery and the consequences of emancipation.” -National Park Service

Congress passed the Reconstruction Act in 1867 requiring the former Confederate states to ratify the 14th Amendment,  which “defined all persons born in the United States as national citizens, who were to enjoy equality before the law.”  States were compelled to adopt new state constitutions, providing “equal protection of the laws” to all national citizens, black and white.  Southern states which continued to deny the vote to black men would lose representation in Congress.

W. H. Griffin, Jr.,  who was born during the Civil War, described the post-war perspective of ex-Confederates in Berrien County:

“Georgia had been placed under military rule, Union soldiers stood guard everywhere, indignities were piled upon the citizens of Berrien county by scalawags and carpet baggers who subjected war worn soldiers to almost brutal treatment in order to force them to take the oath of allegiance.” – The unpublished papers of W.H. Griffin Jr., (1863-1932) 

In July 28, 1866 The Albany Patriot wrote:

“Unjust and discriminating taxes are heaped upon us, and we are allowed no voice or representation in the councils of the Government. We are invited to degrade ourselves on a level with the most miserable and debauched class of people known among us.  With our oaths of allegiance staring us in the face, we are baselessly charged with disloyalty and our motives impugned.”

By 1867, white Georgia voters were required to complete the Oath of Allegiance in order to be listed in the register of qualified voters. White southern men whose national citizenship had been renounced by way of the Ordinance of Secession, oaths of  abjuration of national citizenship, oaths of allegiance to Confederate states,  or acceptance of Confederate citizenship were required to swear a new oath of allegiance to the United States in order to have their national citizenship restored and to qualify for the right to vote. Some whites who had held posts in the Confederate government or the governments of Confederate states were disqualified from having their citizenship restored through the oath of allegiance.

Like many other men of Berrien County, Benjamin Thomas Cook swore to this new Oath of Allegiance, signifying his acceptance on the written oath by making his x mark over his printed name:

I, B. T. Cook do solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God, that I am a citizen of the State of Georgia; that I have resided in said State for 24 months next preceding this day, and now reside in the County of Berrien in said State; that I am 21 years old; that I have not been disenfranchised for participation in any rebellion or civil war against the United States, nor for felony committed against the laws of any State or the United States; that I have never been a member of any State Legislature, nor held any executive or judicial office in any state, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State Legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, and afterwards engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid and comfort to the enemies thereof, that I will faithfully support the Constitution and obey the laws of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, encourage others so to do. So help me, God”

Benjamin Thomas Cook,1867 Oath of Allegiance, Berrien County, GA

Benjamin Thomas Cook,1867 Oath of Allegiance, Berrien County, GA

The 1870 census records show Benjamin T. Cook took up farming next door to his brother-in-law, Thomas L. Taylor, and cousin, Elijah Cook, in the 1148th Georgia Militia District. Ben owned $50 in real estate and $85 in personal property. Benjamin T. Cook was undoubtedly a cousin of Elijah Cook, although the exact relationship is not known. Like B. T. Cook, Elijah was a native of Wilkinson County, GA.

1870 Census enumeration of Benjamin T. Cook and family, 1148th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1870 Census enumeration of Benjamin T. Cook and family, 1148th Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/populationschedu0135unit#page/n437/mode/1up

Around 1874 Benjamin Thomas Cook acquired 65 acres of Berrien County land on Lot 219 in the 10th Land District. About that time, Elijah Cook let go of his land on Lot 217, and acquired Lot 198 which was just to the north.  In 1879, Benjamin T. Cook had 40 acres on lot 217, and Elijah Cook held 680 acres along Five Mile Creek,  on Lots 217 and 198.

In 1880, Benjamin and  Samantha Jane “Mantha” Cook were enumerated by L. E. Lastinger in the 1148th Georgia Militia District of Berrien County. Children in the Cook household were William (13), Fannie (11), Mary (9), Henry (5) and James (3). William and Mary attended school.  The 1880 census also recorded sickness or disability on the day of enumeration;  11-year-old Fannie Cook was enumerated as at home, suffering from “rheumatism” that left her classified in the census as “maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled.”

Next door to the Cooks  was the family of  Samantha’s sister, Emaline Taylor Lewis, and her husband, Joseph Lewis.  Joseph Lewis was Ben’s  cousin, a son of  Piety Cook and Nicholas Lewis. Two of the sons of Joseph Lewis and Emaline Taylor Lewis, 14-year-old Thomas Lewis and  4-year-old William Lewis, also suffered from debilitating “rheumatism.”

1880 census enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA

1880 census enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 1148 Georgia Militia District, Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/10thcensusl0134unit#page/n393/mode/1up

The 1880 population census also shows that three of the children of  Ben’s cousin Elijah Cook and his wife Arinda Chandler Cook were also disabled.  These Cook daughters were Juda, Amanda, and Sarah. These girls were known locally as the “alligator children,” and apparently presented a rare, debilitating form of the genetic skin condition ichthyosis. Two of the grandchildren of Elijah Cook also suffered from ichthyosis, and Ben’s nephew Andrew Cook, son of Henry Cook, was also disabled (When Henry Cook went to prison for manslaughter in 1907, an application was submitted on behalf of Andrew to receive his father’s Indigent Soldiers pension as a dependent.)

Benjamin T. Cook in 1880 had 390 acres on Lot 215. In 1884 Benjamin gave up 160 acres on Lot 215, retaining 130 acres there.

Children of Benjamin Thomas Cook and Samantha Jane Taylor include:

  1. William Jackson “Jack” Cook – born March 13, 1867; married 1st Annie Laura Mathis (1871-1910), September 25, 1887; married 2nd, Nancy Barker; married 3rd, Carrie E. Sullivan (1878-1942); died February 1, 1951; Jack, Laura, and Carrie are buried Empire Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA.
  2. Francis “Fannie” Cook – born April 3, 1868; married Enoch “Bud” Benefield, August 18, 1887, Berrien County GA;
  3. Mary Elizabeth Cook – born December 31, 1878; married James Elijah Benefield March 24, 1891 in Berrien County, GA; died May 22, 1947; buried Poplar Springs Cemetery, Berrien County, GA
  4. Henry Cook – born abt 1875; married Fannie Giddens
  5. James Lewis Cook – born February 7, 1876; married Elizabeth Virginia “Lizzie” Duren, August 24, 1899, Berrien County, GA; died May 31, 1945; buried Pine Grove Baptist Church Cemetery, Berrien County, GA
  6. Elijah “Lige” Cook – born December 10, 1881 in Berrien County, GA; married Eva Studstill, February 9, 1905; died October 19, 1963; buried Union Hill Cemetery, Atkinson County, GA
  7. Martha Cook – born abt 1884; married Charlie S. Tucker, December 10, 1909 in Berrien County, GA; buried Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook died on Thursday, June 7, 1888.  She was buried at Empire Church Cemetery, about seven miles northeast of Ray City, GA.

Grave of Samantha Jane

Grave of Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook, first wife of Benjamin Thomas Cook. Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Just seven weeks  after the death of Samantha Jane “Mantha” Taylor Cook, Benjamin T. Cook married his second wife, Arrilla “Sis” Stone. They were married on Thursday, July 26, 1888, in Berrien County, GA,  the bride’s name appearing on the Marriage license as “Gurila” Stone.  The marriage ceremony was performed by J.P. Patten, Notary Public. Arrilla was a daughter of Elizabeth Harris (1840-1929) and David Stone (1838-1899). The groom was 46 and the bride was 21; she was born in March of 1867. Her father, a Confederate veteran, served with the Okefenokee Rifles,  Company G, 26th Georgia Infantry and was wounded in the abdomen at the Battle of Brawner’s Farm.

1888-benjamin-thomas-cook-marriage-cert

Marriage certificate of Benjamin Cook and Arrilla Stone, July 26, 1888, Berrien County, GA

On January 29, 1898, Ben was enrolled into the Berrien County Confederate Veterans Association in Nashville, GA. Ben and Arrilla Cook appear in the 1900 Census in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA.  In their household were four children: David (7), Elizabeth (5), Nancy (2), Leonard (1).  Also living in the Cook home was Fannie Taylor; the census taker recorder her relationship to Ben as “Grandmother” but she was actually the sister of his first wife, Samantha Jane Taylor. Around their farm were the farms of their son, Lewis Cook, and  their sons-in-law,  Enoch Benefield and James Elijah Benefield.

1900 census enumeration of Benajmin T. Cook and other of the Cook family connection in Berrien County, GA

1900 census enumeration of Benajmin T. Cook and other of the Cook family connection in Berrien County, GA

In the 1910 census records Benjamin T. Cook and Arrilla Cook  appeared in the 1300 Georgia Militia District of Berrien County, GA; Arrilla was enumerated under the name “Gorilla.” Ben owned his farm, free and clear of mortgage. Ben and Arrilla were listed as parents of seven children: David (16), Elizabeth (15), Nancy 14), Leonard (10), William Harrison (8), and Celia Samantha (2).

1910 census enumeration of the families of Benajmin T. Cook, and his sons Lewis and Elijah

1910 census enumeration of the families of Benajmin T. Cook, and his sons Lewis and Elijah “Lige” Cook in Berrien County, GA https://archive.org/stream/13thcensus1910po172unit#page/n902/mode/1up

Some time between 1910 and 1920, Benjamin Cook became a widower for the second time.  Arrinda Stone Cook was buried at Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA, near the grave of Benjamin Cook’s first wife, Mantha J. Taylor Cook. The date death came for Arrinda Stone Cook is not known; the marker for her grave bears only her date of birth.

Children of Benjamin Thomas Cook and Arrinda “Sis” Stone include:

  1. David”Dave” Cook – born June 22, 1891;  married  Lou Annie Gray6/22/1891; died April 1, 1957;  buried at Empire Cemetery.
  2. Elizabeth Cook – born September 1894
  3. Nancy Cook – born October 1897; married Isaac Gray
  4. Leonard Cook – born February 1899; moved to Alabama
  5. William Harrison Cook- born September 13, 1902;  married Mineola Smith (b.3/10/1904); Died February 1, 1967. both are buried at Empire.
  6. Celia Samantha Cook- born June 5, 1907; married Eddie Gray November 11, 1922 in Berrien County (Separated and resumed her maiden name.); died December 1, 1997; buried at Empire Cemetery

By 1918, B.T. Cook was 75 years old. He deeded 30 acres of his land on Lot 309 to his son, James Lewis Cook, and four .

1918-b-t-cook-deed

Quit Claim Deed, B.T. Cook to J.L. Cook, Lot #309 in the 10th District, Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Warranty Deed, B.T. Cook to Elizabeth Cook, #308 in the 10th District, State of Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Warranty Deed, B.T. Cook to Elizabeth Cook, #308 in the 10th District, State of Georgia, Berrien County. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Benjamin T. Cook applied for a Confederate Veteran’s pension in  1919. His application for a pension was  accepted, and he was awarded $6.00 a month.

By 1920, Benjamin Cook was 77 years old. He was residing in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Benefield and daughter Mary Cook Benefield. The Benefield  place was situated on the Milltown & Willacoochee Road. Elijah was engaged in general farming with the assistance of his eldest sons, Willie and Eddie Benefield. Just down the Milltown & Willacoochee Road were the farm places of William J. Cook and Elijah Cook.

1920 enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 77, in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Cook.

1920 enumeration of Benjamin Cook, 77, in the household of his son-in-law James Elijah Cook. https://archive.org/stream/14thcensusofpopu235unit#page/n479/mode/1up

Ben  died  at  home on October 5, 1924. The certificate of death, filed in Berrien County, GA, gave his cause of death as “old age & heart trouble.”  His daughter, Mary Benefield, was the informant and R. N. Mathis was the local registrar.  There was no doctor in attendance to sign the death certificate or undertaker to handle funeral arrangements.

1924 death certificate of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Berrien County, GA

1924 death certificate of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Berrien County, GA

Family members who remember Ben recall a man with a temper, who  enjoyed family get-togethers, such as barbecues. He  was  a man who walked with a limp, which was the result of his breaking his  leg when he fell from a barn roof. He rebroke it before  it healed, thus the limp.

Ben  died  at  his home in the 10th district  of  the  newly formed  Lanier County sometime in the early part of 1924.  He  is buried  between his two wives at Empire Cemetery. His home  still stands  as a reminder of the industrious man who came to  Berrien County  and carved a home for himself and his large family  after the Civil War.

Grave of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Grave of Benjamin Thomas Cook, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA. Image courtesy of Linda Ward Meadows.

Special thanks to Linda Ward Meadows for contributions of content and images to this article, and for the following selected sources : Tombstones Empire Cemetery; GA Census records 1850  Wilkinson, Co., 1860 Baldwin Co., 1870-1910 Berrien  Co.; Interviews with Grandchildren of Ben & Jane Cook; Pension Records from GA  Archives; Berrien Co. and Wilkinson Co.  marriage  records; Interview with Celia Samantha Cook and her  sister-in-law, Mineola  Smith  Cook, at their home on  10/13/1990;  Cook  family Bibles. Mineola  Smith Cook and Celia Samantha Cook went to  the Berrien County, GA nursing home shortly after my visit with them in 1990. Both are deceased; GA Death Certificate Berrien Co, GA.: Linda Ward Meadows is a great-great granddaughter of Benjamin  Thomas Cook and Samantha Jane Taylor Cook. (9088  Val-Del  Road, Adel, GA, 31620. Ph 912-896-3591) lmeadowsz4@windstream.net

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Remember the Maine, Aaron Cook and the Spanish American War

Aaron Cook, of the Watson Grade community near Ray City, GA, was 30 years old when the  USS Maine sank in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898.

Grave of Aaron Cook, veteran of the Spanish-American War, Empire Church Cemetery, Lanier County, GA

Grave of Aaron Cook, veteran of the Spanish-American War, Empire Church Cemetery, near Ray City, GA.

Born June 23, 1867 in Berrien County, GA , Aaron A. Cook  was the youngest son of Lucretia Sirmans and John Jasper Cook. His parents’ farm was in the Watson Grade community just northeast of Rays Mill, GA.  His sister Charlotte married William Jackson Boyette, and sister Mary Ellen Cook (1876-1939) was the wife of Reverend Orville A. Knight.

Just weeks after his birth, local South Georgia papers observed that a rebellion was underway in Cuba, wryly noting that the U. S. government seemed to be more supportive of rebels in other countries.  The Cuban rebels founded the “Revolutionary Committee of Bayamo” in July 1867 and the period of Aaron Cook’s childhood and young adulthood coincided with Cuba’s long struggle for independence from Spain.   The people of Wiregrass Georgia were largely indifferent to the Cuban rebellion, although there was some U. S. desire for  the annexation of this “Queen of the Antilles” where American commercial interests were heavily invested.    In Cuba, the rebels quickly initiated an all-out military uprising against Spanish rule,  starting the  Ten Years’ War and unleashing contention with Spain which spanned a period of thirty years.

The smoldering Cuban insurrection re-erupted in the  Cuban War of Independence (1895–1898). In Wiregrass Georgia, the Cuban conflict was mostly marked by rising costs of coffee and sugar caused by the war, and a mild interest the Cuban rebels’ plans for emancipation of the slaves that worked the Cuban plantations.  A curious side note was circus promoter W. H. Harris’  offer of the man-killing elephant, Gypsy, to the Cuban insurgents.  In 1896, Gypsy had performed  before Wiregrass crowds in Thomasville, GA as a part of Harris’ Nickel Plate Show. Harris reckoned, “If Hannibal found elephants useful in battle, why should not [the Cubans] conquer with Gypsy.”  The elephant would be killed five years later after a murderous rampage in Valdosta, GA.

For the U. S., the war exploded with the sinking of USS Maine:

In January 1898, USS Maine, a second-class battleship built between 1888 and 1895, was sent to Havana  to protect American interests during the long-standing revolt of the Cubans against the Spanish government. In the evening of 15 February 1898, Maine sank when her forward gunpowder magazines exploded. Nearly three-quarters of the battleship’s crew died as a result of the explosion. While the cause of this great tragedy is still unsettled, contemporary American popular opinion blamed Spain, and war followed within a few months. http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/spanam/events/maineskg.htm

USS Maine as she entered Havana harbor, Cuba, on 25 January 1898. She was destroyed by explosion there some three weeks later, on 15 February. Image source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/spanam/events/maineskg.htm

USS Maine as she entered Havana harbor, Cuba, on 25 January 1898. She was destroyed by explosion there some three weeks later, on 15 February. Image source: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/events/spanam/events/maineskg.htm

Following the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor on February 15, 1898, the United States entered the conflict, allying with the rebels and declaring war on Spain on April 25, 1898.

No where was there greater war fervor than in Georgia.  “Georgia furnished according to population more volunteers than any other State of the Union,” and Wiregrass babies were  named in honor of the war’s heroes.

Aaron Cook was among some 3,000 Georgians  to serve in the Spanish-American War. He was enlisted on July 2, 1898, and mustered in at Macon, GA as a private in Company E, Third Regiment, U.S. Volunteer Infantry. Other Berrien countians s erving in the Third Regiment were Luther Lawrence Hallman and William F. Patten, both in Company B.     Company E was mustered in with  63 enlisted men and 23 recruits under the command of Captain Yancey Cade Carter, 1st Lieutentant John A. Sibley,  of Tifton, GA, and 2nd Lieutenant Edward Stevens. Of the Georgia units activated for the Spanish American war, only the Third Volunteer Infantry would see overseas duty, serving as an occupation force in Cuba during the first three months of 1899.

Aaron Cook, Spanish-American War

Aaron Cook, Spanish-American War

The U.S. War Department was fully aware that Yellow Fever would pose a major threat to U.S. military operations in Cuba.

Yellow fever begins after an incubation period of three to six days. Most cases only cause a mild infection with fever, headache, chills, back pain, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. In these cases the infection lasts only three to four days.

In fifteen percent of cases, however, sufferers enter a second, toxic phase of the disease with recurring fever, this time accompanied by jaundice due to liver damage, as well as abdominal pain. Bleeding in the mouth, the eyes, and the gastrointestinal tract will cause vomit containing blood, hence the Spanish name for yellow fever, vomito negro (“black vomit”). The toxic phase is fatal in approximately 20% of cases, making the overall fatality rate for the disease 3% (15% * 20%). In severe epidemics, the mortality may exceed 50%.

Surviving the infection provides lifelong immunity.

The Third Volunteer Infantry Regiment was one of ten that had been created by Congress as  “Immune Regiments” –  intended as special forces that could remain effective combat units even in tropical zones where Yellow fever was endemic.

 THE IMMUNE REGIMENTS
New York Times  May 21, 1898;

 The Immune Regiments:

The first step toward the raising of 10,000 yellow fever immunes for the army of Cuban invasion was taken today, when the President sent to the Senate the nominations of Colonels for six of the ten regiments into which the special corps will be divided…No definite scheme for the enlistment of these special regiments has been settled upon.  It is not considered that it will be possible to get together 10,000 men who have actually had yellow fever, and that will not be attempted.  The recruiting will be done chiefly in the Southern Coast States, however, and the effort will be to take in men who, if they have not passed through a yellow fever epidemic, have been thoroughly acclimated to a hot climate and are accustomed to outdoor life. When so made up it is considered that these regiments will be far superior for rough and ready campaigning in Cuba to the ordinary volunteers, many of whom are young clerks or salesmen absolutely unaccustomed to outdoor life in a sultry clime.

Colonel Patrick Henry Ray

Colonel Patrick Henry Ray

 

President McKinley named Colonel Patrick Henry Ray as commander of the Third Regiment, and the unit became known as Ray’s Immunes.

The Third Regiment trained at Camp Price, Macon, GA.  Camp Price was located in Central City Park in the south part of the city, south of 7th street along the river. The  Macon Telegraph reported “Camp Price has been proven to be a healthy and an ideal place for a camp. There is an abundance of pure, clear water for all purposes and the forest oaks keep the grounds well shaded and cool.  The cottages and other buildings furnish splendid quarters for the regimental officers, and there is nothing lacking to make the place a complete success.”

Macon Telegraph
July 12, 1898

At Camp Price

The Soldiers Have Received Their Guns and Dog Tents

The soldiers at Camp Price drilled with their guns for the first time yesterday afternoon, and the sight was an imposing one, as they drilled in battalion in the race track enclosure.
The soldiers have also secured their dog tents, which they take as good evidence that they are soon to move to the front. The regiment is now complete and the boys drill almost like regulars. It is a fine body of men and can be counted on in any emergency.
The officers yesterday formed a mess, so that all of them will be together. This, it is thought, will be to their mutual advantage.

After this training the Regiment moved to Savannah, GA to embark for Cuba.  The Regiment left Savannah on Saturday evening, August 13, 1898, and arrived at Santiago de Cuba about 10:00am on Wednesday, August 17, 1898.  By the time they reached Cuba, an armistice  had been signed between the U.S. and Spain.  With the fighting ended, the Third Regiment assumed the role of occupation forces. After a few days at Santiago, the Regiment was transported by boat to Cameira de Cuba, then by train to Guantanamo, leaving garrison troops at each of these locations. Around August 22, the regiment arrived at Jamaica de Cuba, about 12 miles northwest of Guantanamo.

Aaron Cook’s unit, Company E, was assigned to maintain the garrison at Jamaica de Cuba and to man outposts at Los Canos, Santa Cecilla, San Carlos, Romila, and La Luisa.

The regiment served in Cuba until March 30, 1899 when it steamed for the U.S. The transport ship departed from Sagua de Tanamo and arrived at Fort Pulaski, Savannah, GA on April 2, 1899. The ship was sent to Sapelo Island for five days quarantine. Upon the return to Savannah, the troops were put aboard a train and sent to Macon, GA to be mustered out.

Aaron Cook received an honorable discharge on May 2, 1899.  Afterwards Aaron and his wife, Nancy Baldree Cook, spent the rest of their lives farming near Ray City, GA.

Aaron Cook died December 2, 1946 and was buried at Empire Church near Ray City, GA.  His widow applied for and received a headstone provided by the government to mark the graves of honorably discharged veterans. The upright marble headstone is inscribed in raised lettering inside a recessed shield.   The inscription encompasses the arched name and abbreviated military organization. No emblems of belief or additional inscriptions were inscribed.  While the dates of birth and death were allowed below the shield, these were not inscribed on Aaron Cook’s marker.

 

aaron-cook-headstone-app

 

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