A Letter from Lt. Alonzo Cooper

May 17, 1865

This letter was written by Alonzo Cooper to Mr. Samuel Miller to inform Mr. Miller of the disinterment of the remains of his son, Sgt. John P. Miller. Sergeant Miller had been killed almost two years earlier on July 20, 1863, in the skirmish at Daniel's Schoolhouse during Potter's Raid on Tarboro.

The text of the letter has been copied from pages 256-257 of Alonzo Cooper's book, In and Out of Rebel Prisons. For the idea of extracting the text of the letter and including it here I am indebted to Larry Crane, a great-great-grandson of William Davies, another man lost on Potter's Raid and whose body would have been disinterred at the same time as Sergeant Miller's. Mr. Crane has made numerous and valuable contributions to this web site.

The names of some of the men were garbled by Lt. Cooper in his letter. The correct names, as taken from the AGO report, are:
    Cyrus Church, Captain, Co. A
    David Corl, Private, Co. A.
    William Davies, Private, Co. A
    John F. Miller., Sergeant, Co. A (also borne as John P.)
    Narcisse Mulway, Private, Co. F (also borne as Mulvey)
    Hiram C. Rude, Private Co. B

CAMP NEAR TARBORO, N.C., May 17, 1865
    MY DEAR SIR—I have just returned from assisting in performing the last sad duties to the heroes who fell in the gallant charge near this place in July, 1863. I personally superintended the disinterment of the bodies, and readily recognized your brave boy by his hair, teeth, and the shape of his head. I also recognized the body of William Davis. Capt. Simeon Church was there, and recognized his twin brother, Capt. Cyrus Church, and others who were present recognized the others.
    Six were buried in one grave, and all were in a perfectly nude state, the fiendish brutes having appropriated to their own use every article of wearing apparel. We had a coffin made for each one. When disinterred they were placed in coffins made of white wood, and their names written on the covers. The bodies were brought into camp, when the funeral procession was formed in the following order, viz: First, the regimental band; next, forty men mounted on white horses, with drawn sabres; next, the chaplain; next, the ambulance, with the bodies of Capt. Cyrus Church, and Sergt. John P. Miller and William Davis, with six officers acting as pall bearers by the side; next the officers of the regiment ; next twelve men mounted on bay horses, with drawn sabres and commanded by a Sergeant; next the ambulance containing the bodies of S. Mulligan, H. Rood and David Carl, and in the rear the dismounted men of the regiment.
    At 2 o'clock the procession moved with sabres reversed, the band playing a solemn dirge, and marched to a beautiful burying ground in the village, where the Episcopal burial service was read by Chaplain Palmer of our regiment. We are thankful that we have at last had the mournful privilege of giving a christian burial to our fallen comrades.
    Appropriate headboards were placed at the graves. The coffins were made small enough to be placed in other coffins for removal. I shall do all I can to send the remains of your son home, and if Capt. Church sends his brother, I will send your son with him. I send you a lock of Johnny's hair, and some of the hair of Wm. Davis, which please give to his wife.
    Deeply sympathizing with you and your family I remain,
Your obedient servant,
            A. COOPER,
1st Lieutenant, Commanding D Troop, 12th N.Y. Cavalry

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© copyright Kenneth Jennings Wooster
27 Abdallah Avenue
Cortland, New York 13045-3302
File created: May 8, 2003.
File modified: May 8, 2003.

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