Philip Cook

Tales From the Tombstone

On one website chronicling the history of Georgia, the opening sentence to the biography of Brigadier General Philip Cook read simply:

“Perhaps the most remarkable feat of this Madison County lawyer was his rise in the Army of the Confederate States of America.”

Brigadier General Philip Cook, CSA

Although most biographies states that Cook was born in Twiggs County, Philip was a Georgian, born in that state on July 31, 1817 to parents who had ventured south from Virginia. He was well educated, attending Oglethorpe University and then transitioning to the University of Virginia Law School in which he graduated with a degree in 1841. In between finishing his degree, Cook served with the United States Army in the Seminole Wars in Florida. His service with the military at this time is not well-documented. 

For the next twenty-years Cook resided in Macon, Georgia where he practiced law and enlisted in the 4th Georgia as a private in 1861 at the outbreak of hostilities. He went north with the regiment to Portsmouth, Virginia and was soon thereafter made an adjutant general.

During the Peninsula Campaign and his admirable service with the regiment and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel receiving a wound at the Battle of Malvern Hill on July 1, 1862 when an exploding shell went off nearby. He then saw service with the regiment as part of Brigadier General Roswell R. Ripley’s Brigade during the 1862 summer campaigns, serving through the Battles of Second Manassas and Antietam. After the later he was promoted to colonel and command of the regiment.

As part of now Brigadier General Robert Doles’ Georgia Brigade, Cook saw action at the Battle of Chancellorsville, where on May 2, 1863 he was again wounded when a minie ball struck him inches below the left knee. Luckily for Cook, the tibia was only slightly impacted and the next day, May 3, four inches of the bone was removed. Cook received  a citation for gallantry stemming from the engagement at Chancellorsville.

His recovery took him first to Richmond, Virginia and then home to Macon, Georgia. By October 1863, he was granted leave from the military hospital in Macon and spent the winter recovering at his home. He rejoined the army, briefly at Orange Court House, Virginia but took a leave of absence to sit in one session of the Georgia legislature in 1864.

When Doles was killed in action on June 2, 1864, Cook was given command of the brigade and was promoted to brigadier general on August 5, 1864. He was with the brigade through the ensuing Petersburg Campaign and also accompanied the Second Corps on their campaigns in Maryland and the Shenandoah Valley.

Back in the trenches at Petersburg, Cook’s Brigade took part on the attack on Fort Stedman on March 25, 1865, he received another serious wound. A rifle round slammed into his right elbow when his brigade assaulted the Union defenses. Cook maneuvered his horse away from the fighting, with his right arm dangling at his side.

Photo of Philip Cook, former brigadier general, after the Civil War

Three days later Cook was admitted to a hospital in Petersburg where he was captured on April 3, 1865 by Union forces. The Georgian would remain in the care of the hospital until released on July 30, 1865. The arm was saved, although it was feared for a while that it would have to be amputated.

Returning to Macon, Georgia he restarted his law practice. One biographer notes that tthe practice was in Americus, Georgia whereas another biographer states he practiced law in Macon. However, Cook was not done with politics, serving in the state convention to redraft the state constitution in 1865 and moving on to represent his state in Congress from 1873 to 1883.

After his time in Washington D.C. he returned home and became Georgia’s State Secretary in 1890 and was still serving in that capacity when he died of pneumonia on May 21, 1894 in Atlanta. His body was brought home to Macon, Georgia and laid to rest at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Grave of BG Philip Cook, Rose Hill Cemetery, Macon, Georgia


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