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    Civil War: Theodore Cooper USS Chocura Gulf Blockading Squadron Archive with Texas Connection.
    Overview: Theodore Cooper (1839-1919) was an 1858 graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute who enlisted in the Navy in the fall of 1861 as an Assistant Engineer, assigned to the Unadilla-class gunboat USS Chocura. He participated in the siege of Yorktown, battles of West Point and York River, and saw blockade duty off Forts Caswell and Fisher, as well as the Texas Coast (December 1863 to March 1865). During this time, his gunboat recaptured the Clifton, Sachem and Granite City, all Federal warships captured by the Confederates at the Battle of Sabine Pass. After the war, he became an instructor of Steam Engineering at Annapolis prior to leaving the armed services in 1872. The collection contains a wide range of letters and ephemera, centered around Cooper's Civil War service.

    Includes: twenty-three letters written from December 8, 1863 to December 11, 1864, from Texas locales (Sabine Pass, Brazos River, Galveston, Pass Cavallo, Aransas Pass as well as New Orleans, and six letters dated May 10, 1865 to June 14, 1865, from New Orleans, written to his mother, brother and sister (one in pencil, the balance in ink). The letters range in length from two pages to six pages, typically written on 5 3/8" x 8 1/4" bifolium stationery. Other items include: 1855 tuition receipt "card" from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, CDV of Cooper in uniform taken during cruise to Lima, Peru, 1858 Graduates' Supper menu from Troy, New York (faults), 1859 Navy document with attached letter of recommendation signed by many New Jersey notables including William L. Dayton, two attached letters signed by Navy Secretary Isaac Toucey dated 1859 regarding Cooper's pending appointment, an "American Society of Civil Engineers" obituary from 1919, a 14-page booklet in pictorial yellow wraps titled "Memorial of the U. S. Naval Engineers To The XXXVIIIth Congress First Session (New York, C. A. Alvord, 1864, bound in thread with nearly detached covers), a 17-page manuscript synopsis of Cooper's military service during the war, gleaned from diaries he maintained, bound together with four pension-related application documents and letters dated 1913-1914. The synopsis is entirely hand-written by Cooper.

    Some highlights of the 1863-1865 letters: [December 9,1863] "... their places were filled with a regular lot of greenhorns who are constantly giving false alarums [sic] by taking rising stars for steamer lights..." [December 14, 1863] "...we discovered a boat... with a white flag at the bow and the thrice barred secess [sic] flag at the stern... they wished to forward some letters and exchange papers: they acknowledged that Bragg was bull-whipped by Grant and gave us Houston papers with Bragg's official dispatches... we are here to watch those gunboats which the rebs captured from us at the time that Franklin's division was repulsed from here." [December 27, 1863] "...we have had no chance to replenish our mess stores and are nearly reduced to 'hard bread' and 'salt-horse'..." [January 8, 1864] "...Last week a party of six [deserters] came up but had seven muskets. It was supposed they had knocked the officer on the head but this party says they threw him overboard & he swam ashore safely." [January 23, 1864] "We chased a steamer the other [day] which was undoubted a big prize, but we couldn't catch her... But we are expecting the admiral (Farragut) down soon and then we hope for better things." [January 29, 1864] "...we expect the admiral (Farragut) tomorrow as he was preparing to inspect the squadron and as rumor says to pick out suitable vessels for the reported attack on Mobile..." [January 30, 1864] "Banks is near Galveston and we are in hopes he will wipe out the whole tribe before long." [February 21, 1864] "...after a time the soldiers on the beach commenced firing at our [flag-of-truce] boat with muskets, one stooping down with hands on his knees while the others took aim over his shoulders... we are expecting the Clifton to run out, as deserters say, she is loaded with 600 bales cotton & ready to start..." [April 14, 1864] "We are now watching for another of Uncle Sam's captured steamers the 'Sachem' which from deserters we learn is being loaded with cotton to try the experiment which the 'Clifton' failed in." [May 3, 1864] "... we chased & captured a Schooner loaded with cotton... From them we pumped information about another... which we chased for hours and have just captured... So you see we are having a lucky streak. These will make valuable prizes and we have them alone." [May 18,1864] "...We lost two steamers the other day by being captured by the rebs... at Calcasieu River, Louisiana... The Admiral, 'tis said, has ordered that the Texas blockade should be allowed everything they need... & not be limited by the rules..." [June 18, 1864] "The British sloop of war 'Rinaldo' with British impudence ran in towards our fleet off Galveston... and paid no attention to a blank that fired from the 'Princess Royal'... so she signaled to the 'Penguin' to follow her, ran out for the stranger and as soon as within range, put a rifle shot across her bows, which made her heave to without any hesitation..." [August 7, 1864] "...A flag of truce brought up for the Captain of the 'Morning Light' which was gobbled up over a year and a half ago at Sabine Pass... He has been a prisoner that length of time, but unlike Richmond prisoners is in fat order. Says prisoners are well treated in Texas... are allowed to keep cook shops, hotels, & c. and not one of them but has a reb zuzu for a servant." [October 16, 1864] "We are much elated at the War news and hope to hear the same every mail till this rebellion is ended. Every victory now is a double victory over the rebs, for besides whipping the rebs it will secure the presidency for Honest Abe..."

    The letters contain the usual content dealing with the weather, inquiries about family members, gossip, the transmission of letters and packages, comments about the war and personal health. All are in good condition and the handwriting quite legible, although the letter written in pencil is light. The context (West Gulf Blockading Squadron) and the Texas connection make it special.


    From the L. B. Paul Collection


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