Gen. Phillip Cook
Cook County’s formation in 1918 honored a deserving public servant. The man for whom Cook County was named had a rich heritage of military and political service behind his name. Yet, for many local citizens, they don’t even know his name. Some remember the distant years ago when his portrait hung in the Cook County courtroom. One looking for the likeness of General Philip Cook can now find him encased in a display all his own within that very same courthouse.
General Philip Cook was born in Twiggs County, GA on July 31, 1817. His parents were Major Philip Cook and Anne Wooten Cook. The younger Philip grew up in the days following the War of 1812, in which his father had distinguished himself as an officer at Old Fort Hawkins, near Macon, from 1812-1813. Within his parents’ household, Philip lived in an environment emphasizing scholarship, patriotism, and Christianity.
Philip learned these lessons well, completing law school at the University of VA by the age of twenty. He returned to practice law in Forsyth and later moved to Macon County, GA. At the onset of the War Between the States, Philip called Oglethorpe his home. It was while living there that he was mustered into the 4th Regiment GA Volunteers, organized by General Joseph E. Brown on Augusta 29, 1861.
Philip Cook served as Solicitor-General and GA Senator prior to the War Between the States. With the advent of war, the young lawyer from GA proved his worth on battlefields as Co. I, 4th GA Regiment fought with the Army of Northern VA to protect the capital at Richmond. Cook’s nobility and courage under fire quickly earned him promotions from Private to Brigadier General by Aug. 1, 1864.
Government records reveal that Philip Cook was wounded in the body during the Battle of Malvern Hill early in the war, while serving as 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant. His military records indicate the bravery of a Confederate Soldier as he faced terrible odds. Perhaps his days of service in the Seminole Indian Wars prepared him for some of the duties which fell to him early in the War Between the States. He and his 4th GA Regiment saw action in decisive battles in 1862, such as Seven Pines, Seven Days, and Sharpsburg. It was after the latter battle that Philip Cook was promoted to Colonel on Nov. 1, 1862.
The Atlanta History Museum of the Atlanta History Center acquired a sword presented to Philip Cook in 1862 by a member of the Winship family. The sword and portrait are reminders of the bravery of this Georgian, but bravery was not sufficient to keep Philip from harm’s way during the War Between the States. A left leg broken during the Battle of Chancellorsville, VA in early May 1863, put Cook out of the heat of the contest for several months. His records indicate that Colonel Philip Cook was “mentioned for gallantry” as a result of his battle conduct in charging the Union artillery late in the evening on May 2nd.
Broken bones often caused permanent crippling for many soldiers as 58 caliber bullets shattered their bodies. Philip Cook was shot in the right arm in January 1865 at the Battle of Petersburg, where he was taken prisoner and admitted to a Richmond hospital. His fighting days were over. The war ended in early April and he was paroled to return home to GA on June 18, 1865.
Though his arm was shattered, his civic responsibility held firm. Lee County, GA and a law practice in Americus awaited him. During the post-war days of Reconstruction, Philip Cook was the first Democrat sent to Congress from his Third District, but was not allowed to serve because of his past military activities with the Southern Army. By 1872, he again had full rights as a US citizen and was elected to serve in Congress for the next ten years.
Cook’s distinguished post-war political honors included his appointment by Governor John B. Gordon in 1890, to serve in GA’s Cabinet as Secretary of State. This position was his last duty of honor for his state. He held this post until his death on May 21, 1894, at the age of 76. His body was laid to rest beside his parents and his wife, Sarah Lumpkin Cook, at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, GA.
Sarah died in 1860, before Brigadier General Philip Cook’s rise to state acclaim. She shares with her husband a large monument which includes the inscription, “A good name is better than great riches.” And so it is. The name of this outstanding Georgian is one in which Cook County can take pride.
Documents and portrait on file in courthouse display, Cook County, GA;
Volume II, Georgia’s Landmarks, Memorials and Legends by Lucian Lamar Knight;
C.S.A. Military Records Atlanta, GA Archives;
History of Macon County; Atlanta History Museum.
Copyright 2004, Linda Meadows
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