• Rachel Cooke — one tough Army wife

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  • Fort Leavenworth has about 220 buildings, streets, housing areas and other things with formal or informal names. Some are readily identifiable: the Grant Statue, the Buffalo Soldier Monument and almost all of the streets.
    Some are identified by easy-to-read signs or nameplates affixed the building such as Grant, Sherman and Sheridan halls. Some have National Park Service- like signs pinpointing the location of a building or housing area, including the Rookery, the Henry Leavenworth House and Quarters No. 1. Others, including Rucker Hall and Lowe Hall, have internal plaques identifying the person memorialized.
    A final group consists of those streets, buildings, and other features with no indication that they have names at all, such as Blochberger Avenue and Dodge Hall. Rachel Cooke Hall, at 120 Dickman Ave., is one of these.
    The Rachel Cooke Child Development Center was dedicated in 1995 as the first structure on Fort Leavenworth built to support the important child care mission. It is one of many buildings on post whose official name is not generally known. It is named for Rachel Hertzog Cooke, an Army wife and mother of four children, son John and daughters Flora, Julia and Maria.
    Rachel Wilt Hertzog was born in Pennsylvania in 1810 and at the age of 20 she married Lt. Phillip St. George Cooke on Oct. 28, 1830, in the first recorded wedding ceremony for an Army officer on Cantonment Leavenworth (the Army designated cantonments as forts in 1832). They moved into a cottage on post and remained until 1832.
    Mrs. Cooke experienced life to the fullest as an Army wife on the frontier — cold Wisconsin winters, hot Texas summers and many places in between.
    She was tough. In addition to raising four children as a nomadic Army wife, in 1838 while living at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory (present day Oklahoma), her husband accidentally shot her in the mouth as he was cleaning his pistol. The ball passed through her lower jaw removing several teeth. Captain Cooke applied for leave to take Rachel for treatment, but had to await the arrival of his replacement before they could leave for an appointment with a dental surgeon in Philadelphia. They eventually made the trip and she recovered.
    Rachel Cooke lived at Fort Leavenworth four times: 1830- 32, 1842-43, 1846 and 1855-56.
    The Cooke family was emblematic of the divisions throughout the nation during the Civil War. Their son John, who attended the University of Missouri and Harvard, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 8th Infantry in 1855, but resigned his commission in 1861 and served the Confederacy, ultimately rising to the rank of brigadier general.
    Additionally, two daughters married soldiers who also fought for the South — Flora was the wife of James Ewell Brown (J.E.B) Stuart and Maria was the wife of Confederate surgeon Dr. Charles Brewer.
    Daughter Julia joined her father with ties to the Union. She married Jacob Sharpe, who served as a major in the 56th New York Volunteer Infantry and colonel of the 156th New York.
    Page 2 of 2 - The Civil War must have been a very stressful time for Mrs. Cooke with a husband, a son and three sons-in-law engaged in the conflict on opposite sides.
    All survived the war except Flora’s husband, J.E.B. Stuart. With some coincidence, Maj. Gen. Stuart died in Dr. Brewer’s house in Richmond on May 12, 1864, from wounds received the day before at the battle of Yellow Tavern.
    In time, the war resulted in reunion and emancipation; however, a sense of alienation remained in the Cooke family. The scars of split loyalties healed slowly. The three Cooke daughters eventually reconciled with each other and their parents, but Rachel’s husband and her son who had fought on opposite sides remained apart. It was not until 1887 that former Confederate Brig. Gen. John Rogers Cooke reunited with his 78-year-old father, retired Union Maj. Gen. Phillip St. George Cooke.
    Rachel Cooke and her husband celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 1890 at their retirement home in Detroit. Rachel Hertzog Cooke died in Detroit in 1896 at age 88, 11 months after her husband, and is buried next to him in Elmwood Cemetery.
    Phillip and Rachel Cooke are the only couple to have buildings named for them at Fort Leavenworth — Cooke Hall at 327 Pope Ave. and the Rachel Cooke Child Development Center at 120 Dickman Ave.
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