Author: Edwin C. Bearss


Philip St. George Cooke (1809–1895)

Philip St. George Cooke was a Virginia-born Union general during the American Civil War (1861–1865). A West Point graduate and a lawyer, Cooke served on frontier duty and fought in both the Black Hawk War (1832) and the Mexican War (1846–1848). In addition, he helped to protect settlers on the Oregon Trail, fought Apache in New Mexico Territory, helped subdue Sioux in Nebraska Territory, helped restore order in Bloody Kansas, and led an expedition against Mormons in the Utah Territory. When the Civil War began, Cooke was one of the Regular Army’s top cavalrymen and he chose to stay with the Union, writing, “I owe Virginia little; my country much.” It was a decision that caused a long estrangement from his son, John Rogers Cooke (1833–1891), and a rift with his son-in-law, the future Confederate general J. E. B. Stuart. During the war, he led a controversial cavalry charge at Gaines’s Mill (1862) and eventually left the Army of the Potomac, claiming its commanders were inept. Following the war, his involvement in a massacre by Lakota Sioux further tarnished his reputation. He wrote two memoirs and a cavalry manual and in the 1880s reconciled with his son. Cooke died in Detroit, Michigan, in 1895.