Monday, June 21, 2010

William Winer Cooke: Little Big Horn, 29 May 1846 - 25 June 1876

Who would have ever imagined that a man killed in action at Little Big Horn, Montana would end up interred approximately 1375 miles away in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

William Winer Cooke's story is a very interesting one. The Canadian born Cooke, who was educated at schools in Hamilton Ontario, moved to Buffalo New York to continue his education. Following graduation in 1863, during the Civil War, he enlisted with the 24th New York Cavalry at Niagara Falls. He served as a recruiting officer and on the front lines under the command of Ambrose Burnside, and was wounded at the Siege of Petersburg.

Cooke was made 1st Lieutenant on 14 December 1864, returning to front-line duty March 1865. He was awarded promotions of Captain, Major, and Lieutenant Colonel for meritorious service during the Civil War. His last posting of the war was at the Battle of Sayler's Creek during the Appomattox Campaign.

Following the Civil War, Cooke joined the 1st New York Provisional Cavalry and applied for a Regular Army commission. July 1866 Cooke was made 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment; in 1867 he was promoted to 1st Lieutenant at Fort Harker in Kansas. In 1868, he participated in the Washita Campaign.

In 1871, he became the Regimental Adjutant under Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, and was said to be a member of the "Custer Clan", the close-knit group of Custer's friends and relatives.

William Winer Cooke was killed during the Battle of the Little Bighorn 25 June 1876. He was 30 years old.

Cooke was buried 3 times. Initially he was interred on the battlefield; a memorial slab marks the approximate spot where he fell. In June 1877, he was reburied in the Little Bighorn National Cemetery. In August of 1877, his family had the remains disinterred again and reburied in the family plot in the Hamilton Cemetery.

Reference: For more about Cooke read Arnold, Steve, and French, Tim. Custer's Forgotten Friend: the Life of W.W. Cooke, Adjutant, Seventh U.S. Cavalry, Powder River Press, 1993.

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