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A Civil War Letter

Submitted by Doris Doris Cottingham Nelson

McAllister "Mack" Agnew Hooker (b. 13 Jan 1838, d. 29 Mar. 1913) was born in Henderson County, KY. He married my great grandfather’s oldest sister, Elizabeth J. Cottingham (b. 23 Oct. 1839, d. 9 Jan. 1922), daughter of Ephraim J. and Mary Elder Ashby Cottingham, 13 Jan. 1858. She was also born in Henderson County, KY. They resided in McLeansboro, Hamilton County, IL, and were the parents of 11 children, three dying in infancy. The other eight children were George, William, Alice Leslie, Dora, Oscar S., Robert B., Nellie Border, and Amy Anderson. McAllister and Elizabeth Hooker are buried in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in McLeansboro. My father, J. Arthur Cottingham (b. 9 Aug 1911), son of Benjamin Harrison Cottingham and Eliza Jane Trout Cottingham, is the last of the family living in Hamilton County to carry the Cottingham name.

M. A. Hooker was a Civil War soldier from 1863 to 1865 in the 87th Ill. Inft. One letter, which he wrote to his wife shortly before he was mustered out and part of his diary, survive. They are transcribed below.

Helena Arkansas
May 22nd 1865


My Dearest Elizabeth

This morning is warm and I feel lazy & stupid tho I am as well as I have ever been & hope this may find you well. I am confident that I will not write much for my fealings proves that tho it has been 5 or 6 days since I have writen on account of being on a scout down the river. Shurly I will be acquainted with the Mississippi River for I have traveled it over & over. Capt Anderson (Major now) with 75 men went down to Friar’s Point 15 milds below here and stade 4 days & nights to try to get Capt Stanly or a band of Gurrillers that was in that portion of the state of (Miss) but the Citizens saved us of the truble by capturing him and his men and shooting them. The citizens are worse than the yanks after the Gurrillas now for they have no mercy at all. Out of 15 they only took 2 prisoners and they was going to hang one of them but they sent them to us saying that if we did not well then they would. We went out from Friar’s Point and out 6 milds we met some of them with guns and they told us that we need not go for they had cleand them out. Stanly was a notorious carectar and if you remember he killed 3 of the 87th some 2 months ago. While on a scout over there a citizen told me that they caught Stanly an took him up stares to gaurd him and he beged them not to kill him. They told him to pray if he wishd and he got down on his knees and tride to pray but could not and then he made a brake for the window and jumpt through it and he was shot 3 times befour he struck the ground and after he struck the ground they emted 3 duble barill shot guns in to him. They had 6 of his men and give us the other two. They are in jail now. The wether is warm the river is falling a litle. I am now detailed to go on duty.

Our duty is not hard atall I have not been on picket for a month we are laying around waiting on uncle sam to muster us out or keep us in one or the other. All the Rebels East of Red River has surenderd and are to come in here tomorrow or next day and deliver up there arms it is thought that they are 700 strong.

There is big talk this morning of going home all is lively and one says that one sombody said that the company Sergent said that he herd the Chaplain say that he herd the post master say that the orders to muster the 87 out was then & thare in the office and there is an order in the "Commonwealth Commercial" for all troops in Grant’s & Sherman’s Army shoes terms of service expires prior to October 1865 is to be mustered out rite off but not the troops in the dept of Mo & Ark Commanded by General Pope. And you ought to here what a talk this gets up. Some will have it the way he wants it ever day. I must now close hoping that camp talk may be true this time and if so I will be home soon.

I am as ever yours truly
McAllister A. Hooker
Co A 87 Ills. Vols Inft.

Fragments of the Civil War Diary of McAllister Agnew Hooker

April, Sunday, 16, 1865.

nothing of importance news of the deth of president Lincoln came to camp all morn his death very much we have lost our best fine friend

Monday, 17

I went down to friars point to day & stad a while we had orders to shoot any person that rejoices over the deth of president Lincoln.

Tuesday, 18

Cloudy morning looks like rain river still up News of the capture of Mobeal confirmed.

April, Wednesday, 19, 1865

I am on duty to day in camp Rbt Phelps died at 8 P.M. Very rainey wether all in camp time dull.

Thursday, 20

very heavy rains fell to day ending in the evening with a storm plenty of water in camp I am in my shanty went to bed early heavy rains during the night.

Friday, 21,

some wind this morning but cleared off at 8 A.M. wether pleasant water plenty very windy all day.

History of the 87th Illinois Infantry

Taken from the Adjutant General’s Report

The Eighty-seventh Regiment, Illinois Infantry Volunteers, was enlisted in August 1862. It was composed of companies A and E from Hamilton county, company H from Edwards, company D from Wayne, and companies C, B, F, G, I and K from White county.

In the latter part of August, 1862, the companies went into camp at Shawneetown, Ill, where the organization of the Regiment was effected. It was mustered in October 3, 1862, the muster to take effect from the 2d day of August.

January 31, 1863, it embarked on the two transports Freestone and May Duke for Memphis, Tenn., arriving there February 4th. It was very inclement weather, and during this transfer and its first camp at Memphis, the measles broke out and prevailed with great virulence in the Regiment. This disease cost the Eighty-seventh 250 men in dead and disabled.

While at Memphis, the Eighty-seventh, in company with the Sixty-third Illinois, made a raid on Hernando, Miss., capturing a great deal of property, and putting a stop to the incursions of Colonel Bligh’s partisan Confederate Cavalry.

May 9th, 1863, the Eighty-seventh and Sixty-third Illinois Regiments embarked on the steamer Crescent City from Memphis, and arrived at Young’s Point, La., May 11th. At this place the Regiment was actively engaged in picket and fatigue duty, repairing the corduroy road, until the night of the 21st of May, when it crossed the Mississippi river at Warrenton, and went into bivouac in the hills above the town. The next morning the Eighty-seventh and Sixty-third Illinois Regiments, in Brigade commanded by Colonel McCown, of the Sixty-third Illinois, were assigned to General McArthur’s Division, on the left of the line of battle. Here they closed up the gap on the extreme left of the line of investment, and remained for six hours under a steady fire of shot and shell from the enemy’s works.

On the 23d the Regiment was ordered to report to General John A. Logan, on the right centre. Here it remained several days—five companies, in command of Colonel T. E. Whiting, being detached to garrison the post at Warrenton.

June 3d the whole Regiment was on duty at Warrenton, where it remained until June 23d, when it was assigned a position in the Second Brigade, General Slack’s; Twelfth Division, General A. Hovey’s; Thirteenth Corps, General John A. McClernand’s; and took its place in the trenches, until the capture of the city.

On the night of July 4th, it moved out on the road to Jackson, Miss., and participated in the battles before and after reaching that place.

July 20, 1863, the Regiment marched back to Vicksburg, and on the 25th of July embarked for Natchez. Here it made an excursion back in the country to Kingston, capturing a vast pile of Confederate cotton.

August 10, 1863, in company with the Forty-seventh Indiana, it embarked for New Orleans. These were the first Western troops making the descent of the Mississippi River. Here the Second Brigade - Slack’s - was assigned to the Third Division of the Thirteenth Corps.

September 13, 1863, found the Regiment at Brashear City, La. While here the Colonel, John E. Whiting, resigned on account of ill health, Colonel John M. Crebs taking command officially, as he had been the commander virtually after the Regiment arrived at Memphis, Tenn.

During September and October the Regiment was engaged in the movements along the Atchafalaya and Teche Bayous, being in the affairs at Grand Coteau and Vermillionville, La.

In November, 1863, the Regiment was mounted on the stock of the country—mustangs, Mexican ponies and mules—it rode everything except steers—and were occupied in scouting duty about Franklin and New Iberia, La. By strict attention to business, good judgment as regards horses, dash and energy, it was the best mounted Regiment in the Department of the Gulf in less than three months.

In February, 1864, with the First Louisiana, it formed the Third Brigade, Colonel H. Robinson commanding, in the Cavalry Division of the Department of the Gulf, in command of General A. L. Lee.

March 14, 1864, the Eighty-seventh led the cavalry movement from Franklin, La., on the Red River campaign.

April 7th it was actively engaged at the battle of Wilson’s Hill, losing about 30 men in killed and wounded.

On the 8th of April it took part in the battle of Sabine Cross Roads, or Mansfield, and was the only Regiment in that disastrous defeat that left the field in regimental formation. It stood on the ground while the Nineteenth Corps formed its line of battle behind it. In this battle Colonel H. Robinson, First Louisiana, our Brigade commander, was wounded, and Colonel John M. Crebs, Eighty-seventh Illinois, was placed in command of the Brigade. On the 9th the Regiment was in the battle of Pleasant Hill.

On the retreat from Sabine Cross Roads to Alexandria the Eighty-seventh was either in the front, flank or rear of the retreating column, and constantly engaged with the enemy’s skirmishers.

May 13th it was in the advance, and continually under fire in the movement from Alexandria to Simsport, on Atchafalaya Bayou, being in the battle of Marksville on the 15th of May.

On May 21 the Regiment went into camp at Morganzia Bend, La., where it remained during the summer and fall, engaged in foraging, scouting, and almost constant warfare. Part of this time it was on the steamer Baltic, one of the Marine Brigade boats. During these months the Regiment was kept busy scouting and fighting along the network of bayous between the Mississippi River on the east and Atchafalaya on the west; Red River on the north and Bayou Plaquemine on the south. There was no part of that country it did not know thoroughly.

It fought on Bayou Gros Tete, Bayou Letsworth, Bayou Manguine, Bayou Atchafalaya and along the lakes of Old River. It captured more prisoners, horses and stores—destroyed more Confederate property—than all the combined forces camped at Morganzia.

In the first part of August, 1864, Captain Thomas Sheridan, with a detachment of about 50 men from the Regiment, was surrounded and captured by a largely superior force of the enemy near Williamsport, La. This was the only loss the Regiment sustained by capture.

September 4th, 1864, the Regiment embarked on the steamer Ohio Belle for White River Island. Here it remained until January, 1865—three companies having been detached for duty at St. Charles, Ark.

In January 1865, the Regiment moved to Helena, Ark., where it remained doing scouting service until mustered out June 16th, 1865, and ordered to Springfield, Illinois, where it arrived June 24, 1865.

The Regiment was paid off and disbanded at Camp Butler, July 2, 1865.

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