William Gill Cooper, Jr. was born September 19, 1827 in Hinds County, Mississippi. He was the son of William Gill Cooper, Sr. and Dempsey Donaho. William, Sr. was born March 25, 1776 in South Carolina, but later settled near Natchez, Mississippi where he purchased a large plantation.
William Gill Cooper, Jr. lived with his parents in the Spring Ridge Community of Hinds County, Mississippi. About a month after his father’s death, he married Frances Mary Ann Slater on February 20, 1849.
His wife died from typhoid fever in 1880 and left William with five children. He then married Henrietta Helm, the widow of N. Cates. William and Henrietta’s son, Robert Clifton Cooper, was born somewhere near Rowlett TX.
Letter No. 1: June 1902, to his nephew, Robert A. Cooper at Florence, Miss. Dear Bob, I guess you think I am rather slow in writing and I plead guilty to the charge… I attended the reunion in April from start to finish and such a time I never saw before in all my life. I have been here at the State Fair when there were fifty- thousand people at the gate in one day and I thought that a big crowd, but it was nothing compared to the reunion. They came from every state in the Union. There was a big Army of old gray beards on hand and we had a jolly time for four days.
There was plenty of good things to eat and drink. All articles were in abundance and the last day we had Buffalo, plenty of it good and fat. The old Soldiers was free and Dallas made a good preparation for all. They could get meals from 15 cents to 75 cents to suit their own fancy. If they wanted a first class hotel and all modern fixtures they could get it from $1.50 to $5 per day.
On the 20th and 21st of May I attended the Mexican’s Veterans reunion in Fort Worth. There was 85 of us on hand – the youngest 72 years and the oldest 87. (Note W. G. Cooper was also veteran of Mexican War)
I have got four acres of as fine corn as you ever looked at and a mare, and as fine a colt as you could find. A fine blooded one – no scrub. I send Araminda a sheet of paper. Please give it to her and oblige.
Yours ever, W. G. COOPER
Letter No. 2: April 19, 1909, to his cousin, Colonel Duncan Brown Cooper. Dear Cousin, your letter received. I was truly glad to hear from you and that you were hopeful and confident. This leaves me in modest health. I guess you see from the papers that Texas like your state is in a bad quandary about prohibition. It looks like the preachers have gone crazy about it. The Democrats are hopelessly divided and the Republicans and Catholics think they see a fine plum ahead – so here it goes – no one knows how it will end. Everything is in bad shape.
For something to write about I will give you a short sketch of my life as a soldier. In June 1856 I enlisted in Co. “G” First Mississippi Regiment, Col. Jefferson Davis commanding. Was in the storm of Monterrey and was wounded in my leg; and then in the Battle of Buena Vista. My oldest brother Lewis was killed in that fight. We lost ten men of our Co. I got through that battle without a scratch. I think it was about the hardest days work I ever did.
Now as to the Civil War, as they call it, but the part I had in it was anything else but civil. I was in the 39th Mississippi. Our first fight was the Battle of Corinth before that we were kept pretty busy keeping back said Yanks from Memphis. After the fight at Corinth we were ordered to Port Hudson, Louisiana where we fought Yankees and Negroes for more than two months. After the surrender all the privates were paroled and sent home – not so with the officers. We were sent to prison. First to New Orleans then to Governors Island, New York and from there to Johnson’s Island, Ohio. Staid there two winters – cold and starvation was our rations. I was released and sent home in June after the surrender of General Lee.
I got home and found my wife and children all alive and well but everything gone – Negroes free, stock all gone. I had about fifteen hundred dollars worth of cotton that I left at home when I went in the army, and just before I got home an old scoundrel jayhawker had put up a saw mill with the proceeds of it, and while he was sawing with a circle saw, the saw caught his coat and pulled him down and sawed one of his feet so bad that he died a miserable death.
In 1878 during the epidemic of yellow fever I lost my devoted wife, and since that I broke up housekeeping and stay with my children – all married and doing well. We have an annual reunion of old Mexican war veterans. This year it will be in San Antonio. My regards to Robin. Yours truly, Wm. G. COOPER
William Gill Cooper, Jr. died near Rowlett TX on February 29, 1912 and was buried at Cottonwood Cemetery in NE Dallas County.
The “Old Soldiers” or Confederate Reunion of 1902 was held at the State Fair Grounds. Over 25,000 visitors were in Dallas during the April, 1902 reunion. Over 7,000 confederate soldiers were in attendance. Many were on crutches. Others carried their sabers and muskets.
They all joined in a downtown parade with many Confederate soldiers wearing their old grey uniforms. These survivors of Gettysburg, Shiloh, and the Wilderness Campaigns camped at the State Fairgrounds.
Photo courtesy George W. Cook collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library.