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The following program was originally released in 1969. I have a boy who wants to go to war when I give his life as cheerfully as Abraham offered his son if necessary that the slaves might be freed. Father meant all right though it seemed hard but I love him all the more for it. Although I suppose I am the boy meant for sacrifice. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. Materials for the series were drawn from the files and papers of the State Historical Society it was guns. Today the Civil War private Chauncey cook. A town hall in. My town called up on our day.
Off on. The phone. 0 0. 0 0 0 0 0. At the outbreak of the Civil War living in the town of Dover Buffalo County Wisconsin was a clumsy overgrown boy named Chauncey Cooke. Born in May 1846 the son of a staunch abolitionist father. Chauncey cook had gone up in the Wisconsin wilderness. When the call to arms came in the summer of 1861. Young cook although barely turned fifteen was eager to respond to it. With the next summer came the suit troubles in Minnesota and the visit of a recruiting officer to camp Solomon Lacrosse Wisconsin. Chauncey Cook was now
16 and resolved to enlist. However to accomplish that goal he had to go against his Puritan training to the extent of lying to the mustering officer about his age. He remembered his difficulties in his first letter home to his parents in September 1862. We didn't get through the mustering until last evening. The mustering officer was here all day and he was a fierce looking fellow. Anyhow that's the way he looked to us younger boys they couldn't swear we was 18. We weren't exactly mustered in because we didn't get our pay but the companies were drawn up in line one at a time and the officer with his hands behind his back walked along 10 feet or so in front of the line looking every man in the face. Everyone he suspicion to being under 18 he would ask his age. He turned out a lot of them that were not quite 18. Some of them that might have been old enough were getting homesick and were glad to get out. I think being a little seen how it was working out with the rest. I didn't know what to do. I want to see our captain but he said he couldn't help me. He said his inner
scene would do no good. I saw our chaplain and he told me to tell the truth that I was a little past 16. He thought that when the mustering officer saw my whiskers he wouldn't ask my age. Well that's what the other boys all told me. But I still was afraid. I've about made up my mind to tell him I was going on 19 years but thank heaven I didn't have a chance to lie. He didn't ask my age. Say do you know the sweat was running down my legs into my boots. When that fellow came down the line and I was looking hard at the ground 15 paces in front. Well I'm glad I knew where are you bound young mum. Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa your phone Young the mower. I am off to the horn with the good man and true and I didn't get back on tour. And speak my mind my
phone resume. Oh oh oh oh I know who goes with through to the mole. Oh oh oh. Who who goes with you. Lol. Barros and right above us and that should say you like girls with Christ and the bomb and the state of mind of my own. The War of the Chauncey Cook was joining was a year and a half ago. I had fought battles at Bull Run around Richmond at Shiloh and attacks on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson had altered the view that it might be a short easy war. As Chauncy sweated out the mustering McClellan's army was preparing to halt Lee's at a little town in Maryland called Antietam to prepare the people of the country for the
Emancipation Proclamation. Despite his eagerness to fight the Johnny Rebs Chauncey Cook was to wait two months before actually becoming involved in the civil war. That was another matter to be handled first. In September 1862 after only one week of drill his regiment was shipped up the Mississippi to Fort Snelling Minnesota. A part of the Sioux nation living on reservations in the western part of that state was in revolt. The Wisconsin residents living near the border were in a panic believing they saw an Indian behind every bush. Many living in the county where Chauncey Cooke came from probably agreed with the opinions expressed by the editor of The Buffalo County Journal. It's useless to tell us that no danger need be apprehended from other Indians than the Sioux. We believe they all understand the program and will act in concert as soon as it's convenient for them to do so. We are in favor of extermination and do not hesitate in expressing the belief that we may
be called a fool. That the Chippewas and other tribes are only waiting for a favorable opportunity to strike a telling blow by the end of November. The Indian war was over and the union troops were shipped back. Some of the men in his regiment were disappointed but not trying to cook. He had no use for fighting Indians. All he had gotten from the war was a case of measles and had come to believe that the Indians probably had good reasons for their uprising. But in the face of majority opinion to the contrary he kept his thoughts to himself or put them in his letters home. The right wing of our regiment came down the Minnesota some days ago bringing with him 7500 captured two wives children and old men and women of the hostiles.
They are broken hearted ragged dejected looking a lot. Like the children of Israel in the Bible story. They are forced to go forever from the homes of their childhood and the graves of their fathers to dwell in the mountains and on the barren plains of a strange land. The white mans face was their hate and their sorrow and they showed it by hate in their eyes and their black lowered brows. Why shouldn't they. What had they done what was their crime. The white man had driven them from one reservation to another. They were weary and broken hearted and desperate at the broken promises of the government. And when they took up arms in desperation for their homes and the graves of their sires they are called savages and Red Devils. When we white people do the same things we are written down in history as heroes and patriots. Why this difference. I can't see into it. Many are the hearts that are weary tonight wishing
for the Lord to see these many a horse start looking for the right to seize the dog is tending to no venting and cold growing. Chauncey's regiment arrived back in Wisconsin by the middle of December there at Camp Randall. They found bad food more drill cold barracks and the monotony of waiting for orders. All this after a 300 mile march home. What had once been an eagerness for Army life now turned into griping Chauncey's letter home Christmas day reflected his feelings. It seems like foolery to the common soldier that for two hours we must stand in a temperature of 30 or 40 degrees below when we're a thousand miles from the enemy. I had to walk and walk to keep from freezing. The mercury was down near 40 below zero in the
guardhouse where we sat down between the leaves are laid down a little better than outdoors. The health of our regiment is none too good. One man dies on an average every day. As I write this letter the drum is beating the food we get is to blame for our bad health. The boys threaten a riot every day for the bad beef and the spoiled brat issued to us. And all this in our home state of Wisconsin. When it was not so cold and guard duty was over there was another more pleasant side to Army life. I get a lunch nearly every day at a little grocery just outside the fence. I get a glass of cider a handful of crackers a nice piece of swiss cheese for 10 cents. There are Swiss Germans that run the grocery and the girl that cleric's has the blackest hair and eyes I ever saw. She has a brother in a Swiss Army and when she breaks about the Swiss soldiers and how much nicer they are than we Yankees she shows the prettiest white teeth as she smiles. In February 1863 the regiment moved down to Columbus Kentucky
a little south of where the Ohio flows into the Mississippi. There the movement of troops and supplies for the build up around Vicksburg and the guarding of Confederate prisoners brought the war closer to Jhansi. The huge numbers of ex-slaves flowing into camp amazed him and many of his letters were filled with his observations about the negroes. We are really in the Sunny South. The slave's contrabands we call them are flocking into Columbus by the hundreds. All the old buildings on the edge of town are more than full. You never meet one of them but He jerks his head off and bows and shows the whitest teeth. I never saw a bunch of them together but I could pick out an Uncle Tom Quinn Bo Sambo a Chloe and Eliza or any other character and Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Women take in a lot of dimes washing for the soldiers and the men picking up odd jobs. I like to talk with them. They're funny enough and the stories they tell of slave life are stories never to be forgotten. Ask any of them how he feels and the answer will always be. So I feel as my good sir or God bless you Massa so proud as a free man. Some are leaving daily and up river boats from Cairo and up the Ohio River the Ohio has always been the river Jordan to the slave. It has always been the dream of his life even to look upon the Ohio River. New War songs have struck camp lately. One of them is when Johnny comes marching home.
The band boys 10 gets the new songs first another darky song Babylon is far and has been going the rounds begins. Don't you see the black cloud rising over yonder. When I was in a saloon downtown yesterday with a lot of the boys some darkies were singing it. I could have heard it all day. There is no enemy about but the discipline regulations are just as rigid as they are in Georgia. No white man can come within the picket line except as he has the password. But a negro is allowed to come in. We're afraid that the whites may be spies but we know the blacks are our friends. The health of our regiment is good. Save a few cases of bowel trouble. The boys call it the Kentucky quickstep. There is more sickness among the blacks. They're filling all the vacant houses and even sleeping under the trees so anxious they are to get near delinquent soldiers.
Thank God I'm free. The blacks can't talk ten words about slavery and Old Massa and old Mrs.. But they get in something about the blessid load and the lovely Jesus. And yet in this land of Washington has permitted them to be bought and sold like our cattle and our hogs in the stock yards for more than 200 years. I listen for two hours this morning to the stories of a toothless old slave with one blind eye who had come up the river from near Memphis. He told me a lot of stuff. He said his master had sold his wife and children to a cotton planter in Alabama to pay his gambling debts. And when he told his master he couldn't stand it he was tied to a whipping post stripped and given forty lashes the next night he ran to the
swamps. The bloodhounds were put on his track and caught him and pulled him down. They bit him in the face and put out his eye and crushed one of his hands so he couldn't use it. He stripped down his pants and showed me a gash on one of his hips where one of the hounds hung onto him until he nearly bled to death. This happened inside of Nashville the capital Tennessee. I told this to some of the boys and they said it was all bosh that the niggers were lying to me. The story was just like the ones in Uncle Tom's Cabin and I believe them. I found out a strange thing lately. The darkies don't know anything about the song. Old Kentucky Home except as they pick it up from hearing the white sing it. I guess I musta thought it came out of some Negros heart. Always whenever I met a negro alone anywhere I always wanted to ask him to sing that song. It was I did ask would
smile and grin and say. Massa I don't know what their ignorance of the song gave me a curious feeling. The newness to the scene of action added to the confusion and uncertainty of camp life. There were plenty of orders to get ready to move and counter orders to hold up a while. John C. Cooke remembered the night when an urgent order came to leave immediately. Last night came a rush order to strike camp and March double quick to a boat lying at the wharf. I had just gone to bed like the others and was asleep or at least came rushing from one tent to another calling the boys to up and dress and fallen in ten minutes time or less every tent along the 10 companies streets was struck and the match applied to everything of bedding and bunk boards that would burn at Harvey and Bill Anderson. The twins as they were called the two biggest men in the company had just come up from town and were feeling pretty good. They were swearing and calling it a rebel scare after everything was in a blaze and the company's lining up for orders. A cavalry man came dashing along. Bound for the colonel's tent.
What did the messengers mean. Was it a countermanding order or was it a hurry order the order came to return to camp and the camp all in a blaze. Such a howl as went up from a thousand Mad Men you never heard. Here we had packed up our movables and burned the rest. And it was midnight and dark but for the fire we laid down and pulled over us for the rest of the night the tent cloth and we went to sleep and dreamed of home and father and mother just the same. Early in June an order came that was not countermanded and the output moved closer to the action around Vicksburg. The regiment was part of a force placed first near us to Tarshish and later around Haines bluff in Snyder's bluff near Vicksburg. Within miles of the eminent battle the men found time for fun and frog.
The day before we left the Tarsa some of the boys raided a big plantation. Took everything in sight and came into camp with a mule team and wagon loaded with a fancy piano. They put the piano on board a steamship and blindfolded the mules which were wild and turned them loose in camp. It was a crazy thing to do. There were some beehives in the wagon full of honey and mules ran over some tents nearly killing a lot of soldiers and scattering bees and boxes all along the way. It was fun all right for some of the boys got badly stung. On the outskirts of the fighting for Vicksburg. John C. cook learned that war was more than waving flags playing bands and pretty girls smiling goodbye to the troops. The air is sickening with the stench of Duquesne flesh Mississippi is full of cattle running wild in the cane brakes and the boys are shooting great beautiful steers as they would rabbits leaving everything but the choicest parts on the ground to
smell stink. Ten miles from here the people of Vicksburg are starving for people to eat and where we camp. The air is poisoned with the de cane flesh of animals more than we can eat. What a world this is. Just think of the horror of 50000 people with half enough to eat no rest nor sleep stormed at with shot and shell. Night and day in the city of Vicksburg. They have dug holes under their homes and in the bluffs and on the river side to get away from the shot bursting shell of union guns. They can't get anything more to eat outside the city so they eat horses and mules to keep alive. The siege of Vicksburg was over by the 4th of July 1863. To most of Grant's troops it looked as though the war would soon be over. They wouldn't have believed that almost two more years of fighting and hardship were to be endured before the
Confederacy would surrender. Vicksburg was a turning point in the western campaign an important victory not a final one. During that same month in Mississippi Chauncey's regiment suffered its worst ordeal of illness as one by one every soldier in the regiment contracted malaria or dysentery. On the twenty fifth of July. Five hundred men lay sick and not more than 100 were fit for duty. They were suffering from malaria typhoid and dysentery. Many of the men were unaware of the causes or nature of their sickness. By the end of the war the deaths from these diseases would far outnumber the deaths from battle wounds. In July and August Chauncey's regiment was shipped up river to Helena Arkansas for guard duty a short time later Chauncey contracted pneumonia. He was in the hospital until April the following year. Upon his release he rejoined his regiment by then in Decatur Alabama. From there the outfit went by rail and foot to
Chattanooga where they became part of Sherman's army of the Southwest ready for the assault on the Georgian capital. We are on the march again through forests and over mountains in route to Chattanooga. Troops are coming in from all directions. We are passed every little while by cavalry a good feeling horse sing along by four and six gun battery courses each gun cannoneers laughing and talking as they pound along in the case of the cannoneers have a snap on the road and today as I limped along I blistered. I wish I could trade places with one of them but I'd rather be in the ranks when the tug of war begins. When it comes to long range shooting the boys that manned the big guns catch it first. I guess I'm satisfied where I am.
Joining Sherman's army put Chauncey Cook It was hardest fighting of the war the southward advance of four columns of troops 20 miles long was bitterly contested by Confederate armies. Wisconsin soldiers fought through recess go past Kennesaw Mountain Dallas deep pine woods and Marietta. Near resected Georgia. Was a sight never to be forgotten. You see as we could from the ridge column after column of troops two in three lines deep form in battle line away on our left for a mile and a half. Here and there a bursting shell from the fort would throw the lines into confusion killing and wounding scores of men. By the time the smoke cleared up the lines would reform the dead and wounded would be carried back by the ambulance corps. All that day until night
the big guns on the Fort thundered at our batteries on every hill and Ridge on the north and west side. I don't know what our last was. A shell burst just over us killing and wounding a number in Company K. One shell burst directly over me putting a hole in my blanket and a piece making a hole in the ground within a few inches of my body. Dallas Georgia oh god what a night it was the night of May 20 9th for Sherman's army. It was a night of dazzling glaring shrieking sounds. The earth seemed crashing into ten thousand atoms of sky but an hour ago so pitch black seemed boiling with smoke and flame. And the horrid shrieking shot of bursting shells and the shouting of commanders and cheering of men mingled with the sputter of muskets and the roar batteries made the world above us seem like a very hell. Just
behind our division alone was a solid line of cannon for near a half mile. Vomiting fiery streams of shot and shell that came screaming close above our heads. Many of them were so badly timed that they burst above our lines killing and wounding our own men and for every broadside from our big guns there came an answering roar from the rebel lines. They may tell of hell and its awful fires but the boys who went through the fight of Dallas with all it's scenes are pretty well prepared for any event this side of eternity. Full of whiskey and gunpowder the rebel ranks charged again and again the Union lines only to be repulsed again and again with fearful slaughter. Charged with their hats pulled down over their eyes like men who cared only to throw away their lives with every pulse of the rebels. A cheer of victory came up the Union lines and was borne away in a mighty roar by 50000 eager voices on our left. For the rest of the night we slept upon our arms. Within earshot of the cries of the wounded and dying.
About ten miles from Atlanta. On the morning of the 4th of July after drawing our allotment of rations of hard tack Sabel and coffee our regiment marched out to the front to the support of a battery of four pieces that were tossing shells into the woods just in front of us. Very soon the order came to erect a temporary breastworks of rails and logs along the edge of the woods where we stood to shield us from the bullets that kept us dodging behind trees. Here we were ordered to lie down if need be to keep out of the way of the bullets aimed at the boys in the front line some forty rods in our front. It was terrible to be sitting and lying down out of the way of the bullets with no chance to shoot back. And we knew that the boys in front of us were being mowed down like grass. We could see the wounded being carried back on stretchers and we knew the dead were left where they fell. While the roar of musketry went out in front we lay flat on our bellies while we munched our hard tack and ate our raw pork. I expected every minute in order to advance. Suddenly the firing almost ceased.
Then it burst out again with terrific fury. Then followed a low in the firing and a moment after there came a mighty shout and we knew the rebels were whipped. I don't know if we had any orders to advance but the boys all jumped to their feet and rushed over to the firing line. It was something to see the dead and wounded. Many of the boys were crying like children. Running back and forth without hats or guns and cursing the rebels for killing their comrades. In the midst of battle Chauncey Cooke like scores of others who could relate to similar incidents was reminded how like his enemy he really was. A company of our Indiana boys made a company of Louisiana rebels halfway between two lines. They stacked dimes shook hands exchanged papers swapped Tobacco told
each other a lot of things about their feelings and how they wished the war would end so they might go back to their homes and be good friends again. They shook hands once more tears in their eyes as they bid each other good bye forever. And after calling to each other to be sure that both sides were ready commenced a furious fire on each other. Before the fall of Atlanta Chauncey Cooke fell sick again. He went to the hospital this time with a bad case of dysentery. He rejoined his regiment in the middle of September 1864. Atlanta was in ruins. I don't think I saw 50 buildings standing when we came through this place yesterday. They say we've got the Confederacy on the run now sure. And next spring we'll see the war over the fighting war of private Chauncey Cooke ended near Atlanta while his regiment fought with Sherman to the sea while Grant tightened the union noose around Richmond. Chauncey was at home on furlough this day in Buffalo County lasted three months. Then he
reported to Camp Randall and there sat out the remainder of the war. On May 15th 1865 the day he turned 19 he was dismissed from the Army. The way it was presenting eyewitness accounts of historic events. Today the civil war Private John C. called. Material for this series was selected from the files and papers of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin to consult for the series was Doris Platt kept by Bethel prayer and music by CAN'T TEP for production. Ralph Johnson originally released in one thousand sixty nine. The program you've just heard is from the program library of National Public Radio.
The Way It Was
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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"The Way It Was" is a radio program which presents eye witness accounts of notable topics throughout American history. Each episode begins with a description of a specific event, person, or historical topic, followed by several dramatic readings of witness testimonies found in the files and papers of the state historical society of Wisconsin. The program was originally released in 1969, and was re-broadcast from the program library of National Public Radio.
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Identifier: 69-37-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Chicago: “The Way It Was; 9,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
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