Douglas Hancock Cooper biography

Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper, CSA (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress)

Born November 1, 1815, to a Baptist minister and physician, Douglas Hancock Cooper attended the University of Virginia from 1832 to 1834. He returned to Mississippi to marry Martha Collins of Natchez. The Coopers raised seven children on their plantation, Mon Clova. He was elected as State Representative in the Mississippi State Legislature in 1844, where he organized the Mississippi Rifle Regiment. The regiment was commanded by Colonel Jefferson Davis. When the War with Mexico began, Cooper was commissioned as a captain under Davis and they became close friends. Cooper was cited for bravery and gallantry in the battle of Monterey.

Through his close connections with Davis, who was appointed Secretary of War in 1852, Cooper secured an appointment as U.S. Agent to the Choctaws in Indian Territory. In 1855 he successfully negotiated a treaty that defined the governing boundaries between the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations. In 1856 Cooper moved his office to Fort Washita where he organized a militia unit among the Choctaw and Chickasaws. On April 16, 1861, at the outbreak of the Civil War, Colonel William H. Emory removed his U.S. troops to Fort Leavenworth and abandoned Fort Washita to Cooper and his militia. Cooper was commissioned a Colonel of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles CSA.

Cooper’s troops were involved in engagements at Round Mountain on November 19, 1861, Chusto-Talasah on December 9, 1861, and Chustenahlah on December 26, 1861. Due to mounting disagreements among the Confederate command and General Albert Pike, Commander of the Indian Territories, Cooper ordered the arrest of General Pike in November 1862, believing Pike to be “partly deranged and a dangerous person to be at liberty among the Indians.” Cooper was then in position to command all of the Indian and Texas troops in the Indian Territory. Due to Cooper’s problems with alcohol the Confederate Senate passed him over in favor of General William Steele.

Nonetheless Cooper led engagements at Newtonia on September 20 1862 and was made Brigadier General. He then led the engagements at Honey Springs on July 17, 1863, Prairie Springs on July 22, 1863, and Perryville on August 26, 1863. Steele was replaced by General Sam Bell Maxey in January, 1864. In July, 1864, the Confederate War Department issued an order that gave Cooper command of the Indian Territory, replacing Maxey. But General Kirby Smith, a good friend of Maxey, delayed the order being carried out until February 21, 1865. In April, 1865, the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations surrendered and signed treaties of peace.

Cooper remained at Fort Washita and, working on behalf of the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations, sued the U.S. government for failed promises that dated as far back as the Indian removals of the 1830s. Cooper died April 29, 1879, and is buried in an unmarked grave at Fort Washita.

[Source: Historic Sites Highlights #5: Douglas Hancock Cooper – Prepared by the Oklahoma Historical Society December 2005]


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Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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