He Had Looked Death Too Often

Another “good death” recorded in The University Memorial: Biographical Sketches of Alumni of the University of Virginia Who Fell in the Confederate War (1871) by John Lipscomb Johnson. Today’s subject is William Cocke, who died 149 years ago today during Pickett’s ChargeHere’s how it happened:

On the fatal morning of July 3d, 1863, William Cocke stood facing the enemy’s guns before Gettysburg, ready for that terribly onset which was to send a wail of agony through the entire land. “Never,” writes Captain Cocke, “do I remember to have seen William more calm, quiet or collected, than he was on that morning, as I had my last sight of him standing within seventy or eighty feet of the enemy’s breastworks.” He had looked death too often and too steadily in the eye to quail now; and we may feel well assured that if it had been announced to him then and there that the next volley was to be the messenger to summon him from the ghastly awfulness of the battle-field into the pure presence of God, not a muscle of that genial and pleasant countenance would have quivered, not a pulsation of that steadfast heart quickened. He knew “in whom he believed” …
All we can know is, that when the deadly onset was made, Lieutenant Cocke rushed upon the batteries: clouds of smoke veiled the carnage that followed; cannon belched their fire, the earth shook with the tread of contending armies, the grass grew sodden with blood; and when the rage of battle ceased, and the broken bands fell back exhausted, William Cocke was not among them.

Read about a “good death” and the origin of this series of posts.
IMAGE: Pickett’s Charge


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