Baptists and the American Civil War: May 2, 1863

Thomas J. "Stonewall" JacksonDuring this second day of the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia again outflanks and outfights Union Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker‘s Army of the Potomac, a force twice the size of Lee’s. Yet this otherwise victorious day for the South ends badly when Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, daring military leader and national hero, is accidentally shot at night by his own men.

His body riddled with three bullet holes, General Jackson is carried off the battlefield on a litter. William Cocke, an orderly sergeant of Company H,¬† 22nd Virginia Infantry, helps transport the general off the field. An eyewitness to Jackson’s shooting, Cocke, throughout his life and contrary to other eyewitnesses, insists that a grapeshot from a federal artillery wounded the general, a wound that eventually leads to Jackson’s death.

For now, however, Jackson’s wounds seem non-life threatening. His arm is broken and has to be amputated. The army and nation cannot foresee that pneumonia will set in and within days the general’s condition will worsen considerably.

Cocke survives Chancellorsville and 20 other battles (as well as a serious wound) and later in life offers his own observations about the war, such as noting that his monthly salary as a Confederate soldier was about enough “to use as postage for writing home to the girls we left behind.”

A Baptist layman during the war, Cocke is called to the ministry afterwards and spends many years pastoring churches in Virginia and West Virginia. One of his congregations was the Old Kanawha Baptist Church in West Virginia. Founded in 1793, Old Kanawha was the ninth Baptist church established west of the Allegheny Mountains.

The father of four children, the reverend lives to the ripe old age of 94, dying in 1938.

Sources: ¬†Battle of Chancellorsville (link); R. E. Wilbourn, “An Eyewitness Account of Stonewall Jackson’s Wounding” (link); “Stonewall Jackson Shrine,” National Park Service (link); Stonewall Jackson Resources, Virginia Military Institute (link); also see Old Kanawha Baptist Church, West Virginia (link)

Notes: Thanks to David Clark Baughan, Old Kanawha’s current pastor, for providing the information about William Cocke, in the form of Cocke’s obituary published in The Herald Dispatch (Huntington, West Virginia), December 9, 1938.