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How my Cousin was Killed

Discussion in 'Researching Your Civil War Ancestry' started by samgrant, Jan 28, 2008.

  1. samgrant

    samgrant Captain Retired Moderator

    Jul 9, 2005
    Galena, Illinois 61036 U.S.A.
    I noticed in my GGGF’s (Franklin Dwight Cossitt) testimony to the Southern Claims Commission that he had 2 cousins in the Federal service and 2 in the Confederate service.

    I started with one of the two first cousins I found, Henry Clay Cossitt, a Union soldier. See “A Story of a Search”.

    Now I introduce Charles Edward Cossitt, a captain in the Confederate Army.

    Again I first found information about Charles in a family history. It said:

    Charles Edward, born March, 1837. He was a graduate of William and Mary College of Virginia, and was a lawyer by profession, located at Memphis, Tenn. Received his license to practice law from Lebanon, Wilson County, Tenn., Jan 4. 1860. In 1861, he became a captain in the Confederate Army, and was killed in 1863 in the memorable fight between Morgan and Colonel Hall, near Milton Springs, Tenn., in the battle of Liberty, Tenn. They were retreating and lost their colors. He volunteered to go after them, and was killed after regaining them.”

    Well that’s the story apparently passed down through the family. Whether that bit about the colors is true or not, the rest of the story is fairly accurate. The battle was actually called “Vaught’s Hill” or “Milton”.

    From various sources, here is what I learned about Charles Edward Cossitt (frequently misspelled “Cossett”):

    Captain Charles E. Cossitt, Company C 2nd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment (Walker’s)

    The 2nd Tennessee Infantry was organized May 11, 1861 at Memphis, Tennessee; mustered into Confederate Service August 10, 1861.

    In the Battle of Belmont, November 7, 1861, the regiment was one of those ferried across the river to support General Pillow, by order of Brigadier General Benjamin F. Cheatham. It helped to turn the tide of battle, and recaptured a battery which had been lost.

    In the Battle of Shiloh, the brigade was commanded by Brigadier General Bushrod B. Johnson until he was wounded, after that by Colonel Preston Smith.

    The regiment suffered heavy casualties in the battle, and shortly thereafter was reorganized.

    While this reorganization was underway, Charles Edward apparently sought out a new role for himself.

    On September 1, 1862 Captain Charles E. Cossitt enlisted, at Hartsville, TN. with the newly formed 9th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment (Bennett‘s, later Ward‘s), and placed in command of Company G, later F.

    This regiment was to serve in John Hunt Morgan’s Cavalry.

    “The 9th Tennessee Cavalry was organized on September 1, 1862 by Colonel James D. Bennett and Lt. Colonel William W. Ward."

    “The 9th when first organized was poorly organized and armed and as most of them were without previous military experience and poorly armed, they were experimented on by Union forces and chased over several counties. However, they also met again at some pre-determined place. Their first arms were almost all shotguns.” “However, they soon armed themselves by captures and to a great extent, mounted themselves. Just before the battle of Hartsville General Morgan told his dismounted men that they would be mounted by captures after the battle.”

    It was not long before they were able to stand their ground against the best of northern forces and became one of the best Cavalry Regiments in the Confederate Service.”


    On September 2, they skirmished with Stoke's 5th Tennessee U.S. Cavalry near Goodlettsville, TN, taking heavy losses. Colonel Bennett is wounded in this action. When first organized, they were known as the 15th Battalion, but by September 8th, they had been assigned to Colonel Joe Wheeler's Cavalry, known as "Bennett's Cavalry" with 200 men strong. In November, they were assigned to William Breckenridge's Brigade where they took part in a skirmish in Lebanon, TN, on the 11th.

    . . . On November 24th, they were increased to a Regiment by the addition of McCann's Battalion, and sent to Colonel John Hunt Morgan's Cavalry. The 9th Tennessee Cavalry's participation in the Battle of Hartsville, TN, on December 7th, was of most importance. At this battle, they covered the roads to Gallatin, Castalian Springs, LaFayette, and Carthage, which prevented the escape of the enemy, capturing 450, killing 12, with a loss of 4. On December 25th, the regiment was with Morgan in a skirmish near Glasgow, KY, during his "Christmas Raid".” Colonel Bennett died of his wounds on December 23, 1862, and Ward succeeded him.

    “Throughout the winter of 1863, the men of the 9th TN CAV collected conscripts. Companies "A" and "E" were in Smith, White, Jackson, Fentress, Overton, Putnam, and DeKalb Counties and were at Cookeville, TN, by March 16th. Companies "B", "C", "D", "F", and "G" were stationed at Liberty, TN, on February 22nd. On March 21st they were with Morgan at the Battle of Milton”


    “On March 21, the regiment, under Captain J. D. Kirkpatrick was with General Morgan in his attack on Milton, Tennessee. Morgan reported: "We attacked the enemy at Milton yesterday morning, and drove them two miles. They were largely re-enforced, and maintained their position. Our loss heavy in officers." Kirkpatrick reported: "We have had a rather warm time today. Our loss is great. Do not know how much yet, perhaps 125 killed and wounded."


    From Rebel Raider: The Life of General John Hunt Morgan by James A. Ramage:

    “The skirmish was the hardest Morgan had seen. He lost 15 percent of his force: 150 men, 30 of whom were killed. The loss in officers was very heavy: 4 captains were dead and 2 colonels, 2 captains, and 5 lieutenants wounded for a total of 13. In one company every man was either wounded or had his clothing riddled with bullets.”

    How my cousin was killed:

    The death of Captain Charles Edward Cossitt (at the age of 26 years) is mentioned in various accounts that I have found:

    The novel I Rode with Morgan by Rex Alexius, is written as part diary, mixed with snippets from official reports and newspaper articles of the day. I contacted Alexius, real name, Jonathan M. Jackson, and he told me this:

    99% of the "novel" is factual and the rest is embellishment. When I was doing preliminary research on skirmishes and battles fought on Tennessee soil that the 9th Tennessee Cavalry, CSA participated in, I read the Wartime Diary of John Weatherred. Historically speaking, nobody knows whether Weatherred wrote his "diary" during the war or after but given the perspective at times, it was likely not contemporary with the events.”

    From Alexius/Jackson’s book: Some of the 9th Tennessee men and an officer were killed during a skirmish near Milton. I think it was Captain Cossitt in Company F.”

    From The Wartime Diary of John Weatherred:

    “On the 23rd of January, Breckenridge's Brigade was ordered to Liberty, Tenn. 11 miles from Smithville and about 30 miles from McMinnville. Three regiments of us, the 3rd Ky. under Lieut Colonel Huffman, the 9th Ky. under Lieut Colonel Stover and the 9th Tenn under Colonel William Ward. The Federal Army at Murfreesboro would send out foraging trains from Milton and Readyville, long wagon trains guarded by 4 or 5 thousand men. Was almost constantly skirmishing, picketing and scouting. Colonel Hutchenson was killed at Milton also Capt Cossitt of Co. F of Wards Reg. 9th Tenn. and others. I was sick with jaundice at the time for two weeks unable for duty but after this I was always in line. Only time was sick during my three years service in the Confederate Army.”

    From History of Morgan’s Cavalry by Basil Wilson Duke:

    “Our loss in this fight was very heavy, especially in officers. The list of wounded officers was large. Captains Sale, Marr, Cooper, and Cossett, and a number of other officers were killed. … Captain Cossett, of the Ninth Tennessee, was under arrest at the time, for charges of which he was acquitted after death. He was killed, fighting with his musket, as a volunteer. General Morgan’s clothing was torn with balls.”

    [Under arrest?]

    Well, one might consider all that information about an ancestor probably more than one might expect to find, but I have found the most vivid and reliable account of cousin Charles’ killing in the writings of a soldier named Bromfield Lewis Ridley who was at his side when he was shot.

    Ridley was an interesting character in his own right. He authored a book titled Battles and Sketches of the Army of Tennessee (1906) in which he devotes a short chapter to the Battle at Milton. In July, 1863 he would become a Lieutenant and aid-de-camp to General A. P. Stewart, a position he held till the end of the war.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=HD...onepage&q=lieutenant ridley bromfield&f=false

    Ridley (1845-1917) was too young to enlist at the start of the war.

    It was after the Battle of Murfreesboro that Ridley joined Company F, 9th Tennessee Cavalry (Ward’s), under Captain Charles E. Cossitt.

    From Ridley’s chapter “The Battle of Milton or Vaught’s Hill”:

    “My great hobbyhorse is my first battle. You recall, no doubt, how you felt in your first regular engagement. My baptism was at Milton, March 20, 1863, fourteen miles from Murfreesboro and fifteen miles from Liberty. … “That morning was full of incident. We pursued the raiding party so closely that they’d stop and check us. A mile west of Milton we forced a fight with about two thousand infantry and five hundred cavalry … Our work was to be done quickly for fear of reenforcements. When we had passed Milton we counted off four, held horses, and formed a line of battle. A hill selected by the enemy could not have been better; it seemed impregnable. The gradual slope was heavily covered with woodland, including cedar bushes so thick that one could not see a soldier. The line advanced, its flanks barricaded by nature with rugged boulders and undulations ending in sudden gorges. When we got to the base a volley belched forth from the enemy … On the right of the pike General Morgan was running up his artillery right into the mouth of the crest. A little orderly (I believe it was Jimmie Wintersmith), on his pony, rushed up with orders from General Morgan directing Ward’s regiment to support the battery. Boom! Boom! came from the enemy’s guns on the crest. Onward we went … the order was given, “Cannoneers, to your post! Fire!” and the battle was on. In the lull while forming into line and until we got to the foot of the hill I had a thousand thoughts. Morgan was in the zenith of his fame. I was inoculated with the idea that his judgment was unerring, and that the “king could do no wrong.” In the moral apprehension I never once thought of trusting in God for safety, but wholly relied on the wisdom and skill of John Morgan.”
    “On the battle advanced, … The fight became terrific, the enemy, in his lair, keeping up a vigorous fire until we were in close quarters, about one hundred steps apart. … The whole line was then ordered to take trees. All got behind trees but my captain, Charley Cossett, and me; we secured protection behind a stump. I remarked to him that he was an officer and I a private; he could give me part of the stump if he wished. The poor fellow got up to share it with me, when a ball struck him just above the heart and lodged in his lung. It popped like hitting a tree. I asked if I should take him off the field. The reply was "The firing is too hot." I placed his head behind the stump, and used his gun after getting mine clogged. The cedars were so thick that I could see no enemy in front, and fired at random, enfilade, although shots were coming from my front. After firing about forty-five rounds Breckinridge gave way on the right - out of ammunition. It became evident that our line was giving too. Captain Cossett was bleeding inwardly, and begged me not to leave him. He threw his arm around my shoulder, and the trial of my life was to stay with him. He could not get out of a walk, and the whole Yankee line seemed to take us for a target; yet I clung to him and brought him off. He was mortally wounded and died that night.
    The fight lasted three hours and was hotly contested. Our loss was three hundred. .... General Morgan's clothes were torn with balls in that battle, … Captains Cossett, Cooper, Sale and Marr, are of the officers buried there. ....
    The happiest recollection of my soldier life is that I stayed by my captain in that trying hour."


    Wow! Can’t get a better description than that! And I kind of like the way he refers to Cossitt as “Charley”, that one time, suggesting an amiable relationship. But there is no mention of the colors or of Cossitt being under arrest at the time.

    So we now know more about how he was killed than how he lived. What inspired him? He alone, among his close cousins and relatives, joined the rebel cause.

    The last words go to Bromfield Ridley who in a letter dated March 23, 1914, writes:

    “While at Liberty the battle of Milton came off, Captain Cossett, of my company, being killed by my side. He was under arrest for writing a letter to President Davis asking for a pass to slip into the Federal lines and kill Abe Lincoln, but, securing weapons, went into the fight.*”

    "*All Americans have heard of the assassination of President Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth, the actor. Few have heard that it was meditated two years previously by a soldier in camp at Liberty. Were Booth and Captain Cossett rendered insane by brooding over the war and its havoc?"




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    KLSDAD First Sergeant

    Jan 31, 2009
    Fremont, MI
    Great story! I'm laying here in my Murfreesboro Motel Six room waiting for my buddy to get moving so we can drive over to Milton.....this is the best account of the battle I've found yet!
  4. MRB1863

    MRB1863 Captain Forum Host

    Dec 6, 2014
    Lemoyne, PA (35 miles N. of Gettysburg)
    Nice account! Makes me think I was there, too. Thank you for posting it!
  5. Northern Light

    Northern Light Captain

    Jul 21, 2014
    How wonderful for you to have found so much information about your relative! I found the comment about him being insane for wanting to go and kill Lincoln interesting. Those , as I call them, "Eureka" moments are so gratifying!:dance: Makes all the slogging worth while. Congratulations!
    Moonshiner and MRB1863 like this.

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