Wednesday, July 3, 2013 1:00 AM
On July 3, 1863, one hundred fifty years ago to the day, General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, sent forth approximately 12,000 Rebel soldiers toward the center of the heavily fortified Federal lines of General George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac, on Cemetery Ridge on the outskirts of Gettysburg, Penn., in a battle known forever in the annals of American history as "Pickett's Charge."
Private Wiley Heflin, Neshoba Rifles, 11th Mississippi, Joseph Davis' Brigade, who only a few day earlier had warned his comrades that "some of us crossing this river [Potomac] will never recross again," many years later wrote of this dreadful day:
"Fifty-five of my company went into that charge, ten [eight] reported to the company that night. Only knew of five [seven] being captured, and not being wounded. The balance were killed and wounded. I suppose at least thirty-five of my company or two-thirds were lost in this battle.
"I was wounded on the left foot and ankle by a piece of shell and shot through my left hip with a minnie [sic] ball. After our line fell back the Yankees advanced down the slope to where I was. They were capturing prisoners and passing them to the rear.
"I began to call to some of my own men to carry me off. They were all so excited they paid no attention to me... At last one [Yankee} agreed to do this and I got my arm around his neck and started, telling him to carry me a little further and a little further. I hung on to his neck until he carried me beyond the works to where the well prisoners were."
Officially, Company D, the Neshoba Rifles, sent fifty-five into the battle, with thirteen killed or died of wounds, twenty-seven wounded, seven, captured, unwounded, eight, returned, unwounded, for a casualty rate of 87 percent.
The 11th Mississippi, with a total of 341 casualties, had greater casualties than any of the fifteen regiments of Pickett's division.
When viewed on a casualty rate basis (casualties to aggregate present), none suffered greater that the Mississippi regiment with an eighty-seven percent loss.
No regiment in either army during any battle during the four years of war suffered a casualty rate greater than the 87 percent of the 11th Mississippi at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863.
One of the thirteen killed was Columbus Martin Cook, one of the six Cook brothers serving in the Neshoba Rifles.
During the night after the great battle, twenty-four year-old Private William "Bill" Cook went back onto the battlefield to search for the body of his fallen brother.
After finding his brother, Bill Cook realized that because of the number of Confederate dead upon the field, a proper burial was not possible.
With his bayonet and his hands, he scooped out a grave and buried his younger brother at the place where he fell.
For almost the next sixty-five years, Cook never revealed a word to anyone about this occurrence.
On July 2, 1928, one month short of his ninetieth birthday, while walking over the battlefield at Vicksburg, for the first and only time, he revealed to his son, William Henry Cook, a justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, the story of the burial of his brother, Private Columbus Cook.
The next day, July 3, 1928, exactly sixty-five years after the great battle and the burial of his brother in an unmarked grave along the route of Pickett's attack, William Buford Cook lay down to rest at his home in Neshoba County, and perhaps with a great burden lifted, and within an hour, passed away.
He was the last survivor of the fighting Cook brothers of Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment of Mississippi volunteers.
Civil War Veterans
Cook, William Buford* - Private; enlisted April 24, 1861, at Philadelphia, Mississippi, in Company D, 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment; age twenty-two; farmer; present at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863; buried his brother, Columbus Martin Cook, on the western slope of Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg, July 3 or 4, 1863.
Received $44.00 in pay for the period November 1, 1863 to February 29, 1864; wounded in the foot (toe shot off) at Bethesda Church, June 2, 1864; hospitalized at the Wayside General Hospital, Richmond, Virginia, June 3, 1864; furloughed; captured at Hatcher's Run, April 2, 1865.
Imprisoned at Point Lookout, Maryland; released at Point Lookout, June 10, 1865; described as five feet five and one-quarter inches tall, fair complexion, dark hair and hazel eyes.
World War II Veterans
Cook, Wendell Holmes, Sr.* - Second Lieutenant to Captain; enlisted on October 6, 1942 at Gulfport, Mississippi, in the United States Army; age 30; physician' served and trained in the American Theatre of Operations at Camp Polk, Louisiana, Mojave Desert, California, and Camp Coxcomb, California.
Stationed and graduated from a Medical Field Service School at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, May 1943; served also in the European Theatre of Operations with the 77th Medical Battalion and as Battalion Surgeon with the 129th Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, Seventh Armored Division, United States Third Army, and the United States Ninth Army.
Participated in the Invasion of Normandy and the campaigns in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace (Battle of the Bulge, Bastogne, Belgium) and Central Europe; discharged at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, October 17, 1945; demobilization.
*William Buford Cook was the great uncle of Wendell Holmes Cook, Sr.
Philadelphia-Neshoba County Historical Museum
Steven H. Stubbs, Curator
303 Water Avenue South Philadelphia, Mississippi 39350 (601) 656-1284
10 a.m. - 3 p.m.;
Monday thru Friday