1864: John B. Cooper to Mary (Moody) Cooper

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A post war picture of John B. Cooper

This letter was written by John B. Cooper (1841-1911) of Newport, Sullivan county, New Hampshire. Cooper’s obituary was published on Find-A-Grave, which reads:

“John B. Copper was born at Walpole Feb. 14, 1841, being the son of Charles Cooper. At an early age he was bereft of both parents, and his youth was spent in Alstead in different families. His early days were filled with toil, and the position of prominence to which he ascended was attained by persistent industury aided by more than ordinary natural ability. He was in the fullest sense a self made man. In his teens he came to Newport and apprenticed to Deacon Chapin, who operated a blacksmith shop were George B. Lear Co. are now located. Ingenuity being a family trait, he soon became a skilled general mechanic as well as a blacksmith.

At the outbreak of the Civil War he was among the first to enlist from Newport in Co. D, of the First New Hampshire Volunteers. He served in that organization as a corporal until his term of enlistment expired, when he returned to Newport.

His uncle—who was his guardian—was opposed to his rejoining the army and would not give his consent to his enlistment until he became 20 years of age. He recruited in this town a large number of men who afterwards became Co. K, of the 9th New Hampshire Volunteers. The men whom he had recruited were anxious for him to become their captain, but much opposition was encountered on account of his age. He was finally commissioned captain and ranked as the junior captain in the order announcing the organization of the regiment. The history of the 9th regiment, forms a conspicuous part of the story of New Hampshire in the nations’s struggle, and no man in that regiment acquitted himself more creditably than did Captain John B. Cooper. Many times the regiment was commended in general orders for its bravery, and during these perilous engagements, Capt. Cooper was always in the center of danger leading his men, not driving them.

At the battle of Antietam he was wounded and afterwards furloughed. But as soon as posible the call of his country attracted him back to the field. He rejoined his regiment at Fredricksburg, Dec. 3, 1862, an hour before the charge on Marye’s Heights. Served for a few months as provost marshal on the staff of Gemeral Frye. He advanced grade by grade in the line of company commanders, until in command of the regiment a large part of the time from the Battle of the Mine in front of Petersburg until the regiment was mustered out.

After returning from the war he again took up his trade and for a time worked in the home shop at Sunapee. He was located at Rappahannock Station, Va., for one year as manager of a farm. His careful judgment and known sincerity kept him almost constantly in public office. He has been selectman, representative, member of Constitutional convention, doorkeeper of the house of representatives, state senator, superintendent of the Newport water works for many years, was the principal factor in constructing the water works, served four years as postmaster under President Hayes, again appointed under President Roosevelt; received a reappointment in July 1910, without solicitation, he was moderator for more than 20 years, or until he declined a re-election.

On a Saturday in August, 1861, before he left for the war on Monday, he was married to Mary O. Moody (1840-1931) of this town, who with one son, Mark O. Cooper of this place, survive him.” [The Republican Champion, Newport, New Hampshire]

In his letter, Capt. Cooper informs his wife of the fighting at Poplar Grove Church which took place on 30 September-October 1, 1864. Another letter by Cooper is posted on The Siege of Petersburg Online blog.

[Note: This letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent.]


Headquarters 9th New Hampshire Vols.
New Poplar Grove Church, Va.
October 3rd 1864

My own dear Mary,

I take this opportunity to inform you that I am still alive and well. I should have written before but this is the first chance I have had to do so since the 29th of September—the day we started on this last move.

On the 30th of September the Old 9th Corps got badly cut up again. Our regiment lost 121 in killed, wounded, & missing. We went in with about 180 men and now have 56—a large regiment, ain’t it? We have never suffered so severely before. we had one lieutenant killed, two missing, and Lieut. [Benjamin R.] Allen wounded. I don’t think his wound is dangerous although pretty severe. It is a gun shot wound in the upper part of the arm. Lieut. [William D.] Rice of Claremont is one of the lieutenants that is missing and I am afraid that he was killed, but still I hope not for he was a fine fellow. ¹

We had to leave all of our dead and most of our wounded in the field as the Rebels made us get up and get. They drove us back about ¾ of a mile that night and about ¼ the next morning. But we held the line of works which we had captured in the morning where we remained till yesterday morning when the order came for us to advance again, which we did. We found the enemy had fallen back about half a mile. When we got up pretty near to them, we were halted and we maneuvered till most night when we went to work putting up breastworks and we are still here, and the prospects are that we shall stay here for a few days—at least until we find out what Butler is going to do.

I think [Capt. Ervin T.] Case [of Co. F] was very fortunate in getting his leave just as he did for he had got rid of some hard fighting. What has he been doing since he got home?

Have you seen anything of the money that I sent you some six weeks or two months ago. I have got paid off again and shall send some more as soon as I have a chance.

Give my love to Mother. I must now close as it is time for the mail to go. Write often and accept this from your affectionate husband, — Jno. B. Cooper

¹ Lieut. William D. Rice of Co. G was killed in the Battle of Poplar Springs Church on 30 September 1864.

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