A Civil War Biography

Robert Latimer McCook

McCook was born 28 December 1827 in New Lisbon, Ohio. He studied law in Steubenville, Ohio at the office of Stanton & McCook, Edwin M. Stanton, future Secretary of War in Lincoln's cabinet and Daniel McCook, a prominent Ohio attorney and Robert's father. After passing the bar Robert McCook established a large law practice in Cincinnati.

When the war started he organized the 9th Ohio in Cincinnati and was commissioned its colonel on 6 May 1861. The 9th, originally a three month regiment, was reorganized at Camp Dennison as a three year regiment. It was ordered to the western part of Virginia on 16 June 1861 and was attached to the 3rd brigade of the George B. McClellan's Army of Occupation. McCook was given command of the brigade and saw action at Rich Mountain on 10 July and during the capture of Beverly on 12 July.

In December 1861 McCook's brigade was transferred to the Army of the Ohio and was attached as the 3rd brigade to the 1st division. At the battle of Mills Spring, Kentucky which took place 19-20 January 1862, McCook was severely wounded. He rejoined his command before his wound was healed and continued in command even though he could not mount his horse. He was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on 21 March 1862 and took part in the advance and siege of Corinth, Mississippi.

On 5 August 1862 McCook set out with his brigade from Decherd, Tennessee in what appeared to be a reconnaissance in force. McCook rode in an ambulance due to a severe attack of dysentery. His earlier wound also had not healed. As the ambulance traveled in the gap between two regiments, a band of guerillas, commanded by Captain Frank B. Gurley, attacked the isolated target. Accounts of McCook's shooting vary. Some claim he was shot as he was lying in the ambulance unable to rise as Federal troops were approaching. Other accounts have shots being fired as the ambulance, with McCook, Captain Hunter Brooke of McCook's staff, and a Negro teamster, was trying to escape the attackers.

McCook was hit on the left side below the ribs. He died the next day, 6 August 1862. The Northern press played the story up as a cold-blooded murder. Gurley became one of the most wanted criminals in the country because of the political influence of the McCook family. Two of Robert's brothers, Alexander McDowell McCook, and Daniel McCook Jr., and a cousin Edward Moody MCCook, would become generals. Daniel Jr. was mortally wounded at Kennesaw Mountain. Including the three generals, Daniel McCook sent 10 sons into Union service. Three sons would be killed, as well as Daniel himself who at the age of 65 was mortally wounded on 19 July 1863 near Buffington Island, Ohio in an attempt to stop John Hunt Morgan's 1863 raid. In addition to his 10 sons, Daniel's brother and five of his nephews would also serve in the Union army or navy.

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