top of page

Joseph W. Cook

            Joseph W. Cook was born in 1836 in Franklin. His father, Winslow Cook, was born on February 11, 1801. Winslow made a living as a farmer. Ruth Adams Whiting, his mother, was born on January 22, 1802. Joseph Cook enlisted in the army to fight in the Civil War for the Union. He entered and was honorably discharged as a Private in the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, Company D.

            The 1st Rhode Island Cavalry assembled in Pawtucket as the 1st New England Cavalry on December 14, 1861. On March 3, 1862 it was designated as the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry. On March 12 it left for Washington, D.C. There, the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry defended D.C. until April 4, 1862 when it moved to Warrenton Junction, VA. On June 8 the 1st RIC fought in the Battle of Cross Keys.

            Cross Keys was fought in Rockingham County and was part of Thomas J. Jackson’s Shenandoah Valley Campaign. 11,500 Union soldiers fought under the command of John C. Fremont against 5,800 Confederates. Fremont’s army moved up the Shenandoah Valley chasing Jackson. On the way they encountered Major General Richard S. Ewell’s Confederate division at Cross Keys. The Union army was attacked from the left and Fremont was forced to retreat to the Keezletown Road. Then following day, Ewell’s force crossed the river to defeat General E. Tyler at Port Republic. In this Confederate victory the Union lost 664 men while the Confederacy suffered 287 casualties. Jackson maintained control of the upper and middle Shenandoah Valley.

            The 1st RIC then went to Rappahannock to perform scouting duties until August. On August 9 the soldiers participated in the Battle of Cedar Mountain in Culpeper County. The Union army fought under Major General Nathaniel Banks. The Union soldiers fought against General Jackson and the Confederates. A.P. Hill brought in Confederate reinforcements and the Confederacy won. The Union lost 1,400 men and the Confederacy lost 1,307.

            Next, the 1st RIC participated in a battle at Rappahannock Station from August 22-25 under Major General John Pope. It resulted in a “draw” with 225 total casualties. The following battle the 1st RIC fought in was the Second Bull Run, also known as Manassas, on August 28-30. Jackson attacked Pope’s troops near the Warrenton Turnpike. Pope focused the majority of his troops on Jackson, but he was unaware that Jackson had reinforcements on the battlefield. The Union was crushed on the left flank and forced to retreat. Lee’s army followed with a Confederate victory. The Union suffered 13,080 casualties while the Confederacy only lost 8,350 soldiers.

            The 1st RIC participated in a string of minor battles, most won by the Confederacy, until December 11. On this day, the Battle of Fredericksburg began in Spotsylvania County. General Ambrose Burnside was in control of the Army of the Potomac and he sent troops to Falmouth, near Fredericksburg. Robert E. Lee responded by entrenching his army behind the town. On the 12 and 13 of December Burnside led frontal assaults on Prospect Hill and Mary’s Heights. However, the Union army was forced to retreat. On December 15 Burnside called off the offensive and ended his campaign. 13,353 men of the Union army died while 4,576 men were lost by the Confederacy.

            For the next few months, the 1st RIC continued to fight in battles. The next major battle it fought in was the turning point for the Union army. From June 1-3, 1863 the 1st RIC fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. Robert E. Lee fully concentrated on pitting his soldiers against Maj. General George G. Meade’s Army of the Potomac at the crossroads of Gettysburg. On July 1, Confederate forces attacked the town from the north and the west, driving Union soldiers back to Cemetery Hill. That night, reinforcements arrived for both sides. The following day, Lee struck the left flank of the Union army. He then attacked the right side with Ewell’s divisions. The Union was able to drive off Ewell’s forces. On July 3 the Confederate army was driven back from Culp’s Hill and repulsed attempted attacks from the rear. On July 4 Lee pulled his troops out and the Union took a commanding victory in the Civil War. The Union lost 23,000 men versus the 28,000 men lost by the Confederacy.

            For the summer, the 1st RIC continued to perform its duties. It remained on the Upper Potomac until September. October 9-22  was spent as part of the Bristle Campaign. On November 27 they fought in the battle of New Hope Church. Then, until May of 1846 the 1st RIC spent time in Washington, D.C. defending the Union capital. On October 19, 1864 the soldiers participated in the battle of Cedar Creek. At dawn the Confederate army, under General Jubal A. Early, surprised Generals Wright and Sheridan at Cedar Creek. Sheridan launched a counterattack that afternoon and the Union came out victorious, even though the Union lost 5,665 men to the Confederate’s 2,910.

            The 1st RIC remained in the Union army until 1865. From March 3-8 it guarded prisoners from Waynesboro to Winchester after the Battle of Waynesboro in Augusta County. Then, they were stationed in the Shenandoah Valley until June 22. Their final recorded duties were performed in Baltimore, MD on August 3, 1865.

bottom of page