Wartime Letters of Louisa County, Virginia: The Cooke Family Papers, 1859-1866


Wartime Letters of Louisa County, Virginia: The Cooke Family Papers, 1859-1866.

Pattie Cooke. 1997. 

The Cooke family legacy consists of the letters and family papers of Arthur Bledsoe Cooke, which begin with his mother's teenage years in 1859, prior to the Civil War, and end with his death in 1947.
This book includes a set of letters written at the time of the Civil War. The war letters were written to Sallie Farrar Anderson Cooke before her marriage, between 1859 and 1866. Arthur Cooke was born into a home which was part of a large community of cousins, aunts and uncles. The earliest letters delve into that world.
Beginning in 1859 the correspondence to Sallie Farrar Anderson introduces the many people who made up her world, most of whom were also important in her son's life. There are no letters from Sallie during the 1859-1866 period. The only letters from Sallie started when Arthur was at The University in 1894 and continued until her death in 1899. This book contains only the Civil War letters. They concern Sallie's family and friends, who later became the adult models of Arthur's childhood and formative years. It is from this family and rural community that he found the strength to excel.
The families represented in the letters consist of small farmers and artisans. Sallie's Uncle William Carter was the only one who professed a desire for a higher status, striving for the "plantation" life.
The letters are not the only sources of information. Sallie's first cousin, Pattie Carter Dettor wrote a "diary" later in life about her youth. Sallie's brother Carter S. Anderson wrote articles about his service on the Central Virginia Railroad during the war. These articles were later made into a book called Trains running for the Confederacy. Her uncle William Scott Carter wrote long letters to the editor in the Gordonsville Gazette in the 1870s. It is rare to find such a large amount of corroborating information concerning the life of a small farm family. Also Arthur Cooke wrote a book for his children about life in postwar Virginia. He best and most eloquently captured the spirit of the community.
The topics broached in the letters are consistent with any generation of young single and married people. They write about everyday life, their dreams and feelings. The young men joined the army because of their loyalty to independence and because it provided jobs. Through the letters the reader comes to know three communities, two in Louisa; Melton's and Gum Springs, and one in Albemarle county, Ivy Depot. The two newest communities, Melton's and Ivy Depot were dependent on the railroad for jobs and transportation. The railroad was also a factor in their day to day life. All the writers made very clear their reliance on religion to sustain them through the tragedies in their life and the extra burden of war. The letters reveal the co-dependency of men and women and the communities reliance on their family and neighbors. The result was an interlocking network that blurred the lines of possession between one family and another. Members felt as wealthy as their wealthiest neighbor. 
The Anderson family letters capture the intangible quality and intensity of rural Community feeling and religion in a time of strife. Throughout the letters are examples of families sharing losses, goods, labor and love. It was this mutual support that made the war bearable, and, with the help of God, they survived the war with remarkably few scars.