Sunday, July 12, 2009

The West Woods Missing, Part 3: Charles C. Cooper, 72nd Pennsylvania

In an earlier entry I listed six members of the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment who went missing in the West Woods on September 17. At that time, I posted a report on William Butler, whose story is still unknown. Today's report, also unresolved, is that of Charles C. Cooper.

Private Cooper, 21 years old, enlisted in Company E of the 72nd Pennsylvania on October 8, 1861. At the time of his enlistment, he lived in the Kensington section of Philadelphia north of city center and situated along the Delaware River north of the Franklin Bridge. The 72nd recruited heavily in the Philadelphia neighborhoods of Kensington, Fishtown, and the Northern Liberties all of which lay in the 16th, 17th, and 18th Census Wards of Philadelphia. Many of those in the 72nd grew up together, went to the same schools, played on the same streets, went to the same church, and joined the same neighborhood social clubs such as the local volunteer fire association.

The wards were, for the most part, populated by second or third generation Philadelphians and first generation, German, Irish and English immigrants. Most were employed as skilled tradesmen, journeymen, artisans, and laborers. Charles Cooper listed his occupation at time of enlistment as a shoemaker apprentice.

Charles Cooper's mother, Julia Cooper, was 55 years old at the time of his enlistment. She headed the household that included Charles' sisters Rachel (24), who was a sewing machine operator, Elizabeth (12), and Ida Ruth (1). Charles' brother Thomas (18) also lived in the household and worked as an apprentice caner. There is no mention of the whereabouts of his father in the 1860s census.

Company E of the 72nd Pennsylvania (also known as the Philadelphia Fire Zouaves) was a veteran outfit that had been involved in numerous engagements including Balls' Bluff and the actions that were part of the Peninsula Campaign. The company was led by Charles H. Banes, also from Philadelphia. During the battle in the West Woods, the 72nd was positioned on the left of Howard's Brigade which was the third brigade in Sedgwick's Division. There is some dispute as to where exactly the 72nd was positioned (Carmen has them split into left and right "wings" closed up behind the 34th New York at the Dunkard Church; others put them farther north into what has become the Philadelphia Brigade Park. One thing is certain--the 72nd, and Charles Cooper's Company E took the brunt of Anderson's and Barksdale's Brigades counterattack that morning. Somewhere in the melee, Charles C. Cooper went missing; lost to his company, his family, and to history.

In the years following Antietam, the Cooper family stayed together. By 1870 the family had moved to a different dwelling but stayed in the same Kensington neighborhood. Julia Cooper, told the census taker that she "keeps house" and held real estate valued at $2,000 with a personal estate of $200. Her children lived with her. Rachel followed Charles' avocation and became a shoe binder along with her sister Elizabeth (or Lizzie). His brother, Thomas, listed himself as a brick layer. Charles was not listed in the family census.

Notes: 1860 and 1870 U.S. Census, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; American Civil War Records Database; Penn State University Records, Company E, from Philadelphia County; Image: Library of Congress, Philadelphia Fire Zouave, retrieved from American Memory Project.

No comments: