Today’s article concludes the series on “The Last Men of the Revolution.” In 1864 Reverend Elias Hillard conducted interviews and photographed the six remaining Revolutionary War veterans, all over one hundred years old at the time. If you missed the stories of the other five veterans, you can read them here, here, here, here and here (two of them are part of Surname Saturday articles, so scroll down to read).
Lemuel Cook was born on September 10, 1759 in Plymouth, Connecticut to parents Henry (IV) and Hannah (Brenham) Cook. According to one family historian, a few months before Lemuel was born at least three of Henry and Hannah’s children had died in June from an epidemic: Sarah, Zuba and Lemuel. Apparently when Lemuel was born in September the family gave him the same name of his deceased brother, who was about three and-a-half years old when he died. His other siblings were True Worthy, Mary, Selah, and Thankful.
Henry died in 1771 and Hannah was left to raise her remaining children alone. Selah, sixteen at the time, was old enough to help support the family. However, when the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775 it was sixteen year-old Lemuel who was the first to enlist. He enlisted in the 2nd Regiment Light Dragoons, served throughout the entire war and was discharged at Danbury on June 12, 1784.
Wounded several times throughout the war, Lemuel’s first encounter, “the first time [he] smelled gunpowder,” was at Valentine’s Hill near Westchester, New York. One incident he related occurred at Dobb’s Ferry when some “Cow Boys,” as he called them, were taking shots at him across the road, one ball lodging in his hat. Lemuel related that when the men were brought in one had the “impudence to ask, ‘Is the man here we fired at just now?” ‘Yes,’ said Major Tallmadge, ‘there he is, that boy.’ Then he told how they had each laid out a crown, and agreed that the one who brought me down should have the three. When he got through with his story, I stepped to my holster and took out my pistol, and walked up to him and said, ‘If I’ve been a mark to you for money, I’ll take my turn now. So, deliver your money, or your life!’ He handed over four crowns, and I got three more from the other two.”
Lemuel also encountered General George Washington a few times. He related this story of the first time to his great grandson:
Our company was resting near White Plains after being pushed off the Island and out of New York City and. up River. My job was with Major Tallmadge, being in the Light Dragoons we had horses to take care of. Mine was a good ole Bay I’d brought from home. I was caring for my horse and a couple of others that needed rubbing down and heard a commotion a ways down the road. I could see by the uniforms it was officers leading several companies of Foot.
One fellow sat in the saddle head and shoulders above the others. I knew he must be the General, we had heard how large a man he was. As they came closer all I could do was stand there with my mouth open. An officer in front gave me a dirty look like to be saying, “How come you don’t salute?” I whipped off a good fancy one. The officers dismounted and went to talk with the Major I suppose. I went back to my horse, a while later the General came around the headquarters where I was, to stretch his legs I suppose and said, “Is that your horse soldier?” “Yes, Sir”, said I coming to attention.
He put me at ease and asked my name, “Lemuel Cook, from Connecticut, Sir”. “That’s a right smart mount you have there Lemuel Cook from Connecticut”. “He’s done good by me, General,” said I. “Well, you take care of him, you will be glad you did.” With that the General went about his business. That’s all there was to it, I’ll never forget though, all the things that must have been pressing on him he took time for a kind word. He had the kindest look in the eyes I’ve ever seen. (The Burr History and Genealogy Site)
Perhaps one of his last times to see General Washington was at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered. He remembered that Washington specifically ordered his men not to laugh at the British, “said it was bad enough to have to surrender.” After his discharge, he received a monthly pension of one hundred dollars.
Lemuel married Hannah Curtis of Cheshire, Connecticut on April 12, 1784. He and Hannah lived for a time in Connecticut but later moved to Utica, New York. He had frequent encounters with Indians in the area – one time he was unarmed and to protect himself from being stabbed he grabbed a chair to fend off the Indian’s thrusts until help arrived. According to Reverend Elias, “He says he never knew what fear was, and always declared that no man should take him prisoner alive.”
Lemuel and Hannah’s children, according to his will, were: Miles, Esther, Electa, Lemuel, True Worthy, Lyman, Curtis and Gilbert. Hannah died in 1832 and two years later at the age of seventy-five he married Ruth Cooper.
At the time of his interview, Hillard remarked that Lemuel possessed a large frame and a commanding presence, supposing that in his prime “he must have possessed prodigious strength.” Lemuel was still able to walk with the aid of a cane and with glasses he read his “book” every day (the Bible). Reverend Hillard did note, however, that his speech was “broken and fragmentary” and his recall of the past came with some difficulty.
At the time he was living with his son True Worthy and lovingly cared for by his daughter-in-law. His pension had by that time increased to two hundred dollars. As with all the other veterans, Hillard inquired about Lemuel’s opinion of the present war. He replied, “in his strong tones, at the same time bringing down his cane with force upon the floor, ‘it is terrible; but, terrible as it is, the rebellion must be put down!’”
Lemuel Cook made an impression on Hillard who would remember him as a “noble old man; and long may it yet be before his name shall be missed from the roll of this country’s deliverers.” On May 20, 1866, just twelve days following the next-to-last remaining veteran’s death (William Hutchings), Lemuel Cook passed away at the age of one hundred and six, about four months before his 107th birthday. He was buried in the Root Cemetery in Clarendon, Orleans County, New York following an outdoor funeral service since no church was large enough to accommodate the crowds.
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.