Capt. George B. Cock, 5th USCI

Stark County Republican, Canton, Ohio
December 10, 1863

From the 5th U. S. Colored Troops.

CAMP, 5TH REG’T, U.S. COLORED TROOPS,
PORTSMOUTH, VA, Nov. 22d, 1863.

BRO. HENRY: I telegraphed you on the morning of he 14th, at Delaware, Ohio, that we were about leaving for Fortress Monroe, and I hoped to have an opportunity of seeing you as we passed Canton, but unfortunately we did not get that far on our way until after nightfall; and if you remember, it was extremely dark and raining, and having been detained at other points on the way, we ran by at full speed. I saw a number at the Depot, but on account of the darkness, and the rapidity of the cars, did not recognize any one.

The day before we left Camp Delaware I received the package of books, and the fine lot of needle-books, thread, button, &c., sent us by the Ladies Aid Society of Canton. The boys were well pleased to receive them, and after I had distributed them, they returned a vote of thanks and gave three cheers for the ladies of Canton. Please return our thanks to the Society on behalf of the Company.

We arrived at Pittsburg about 3 o’clock on the morning of the 15th, and marched to the City Hall, where a bountiful repast was provided for us by “The Soldiers’ Relief Society,” and we were not long in sending it the way of all good breakfasts. We were on our way again by 9 o’clock. A steady rain falling until we began to ascend the mountaints, when the rain gradually changed to snow, and on the mountain tops the snow lay several inches deep on the ground. At Altoona the officers got supper – the men had six days cooked rations with them. As night came on again, we sought the easiest position possible, and gradually dropped off to sleep, though not until after we had exhausted our stock of anecdote and fun, and a hilarious time we had of it. I cannot give you a full account of our doings, but it was a night long to be remembered. – By daylight Sunday morning we were rapidly approaching Baltimore, where we arrived about 9 o’clock. By 3 o’clock P.M. we were on board the steamer John Brooky, and at 5 got under way for Fortress Monroe. As we were about leaving the dock, some soldiers belonging to a Maryland Regiment commenced insulting our men without any provocation whatever, merely because we are colored soldiers. For a short time it seemed as though it might result in a serious row. I was standing on the upper deck, where some of the boys were singing National songs, when the fuss commenced. The boat immediately commenced pushing out, and I ordered the men to desist, and retire to the other side which they quietly obeyed. Had the rodies attempted anything of the kind while we were ashore, they would have got all the fight they wanted. I had left my arms in the cabin – I did wish for my revolver to shoot one devil who was the prime instigator of the whole thing. One of our men while quietly at work removing the baggage on the wharf was insulted by a white soldier who had a squad of five with him. – Our man pitched in and knocked down every one of them, but by the time he got through with the last one, the first one gathered a brick, with which he gave him a sever blow on the head, inflicting a bloody wound, but doing no serious injury. Yesterday morning 17th found us quietly at anchor in Hampton Roads, off Fortress Monroe. Here we received orders to report to Brig. Gen. Wilde at Norfolk, and were soon on our way, passing in sight of Hampton, Newport News, past Craney Island, up Elizabeth river to Norfolk. Here we remained on board the boat until the 18th, when we landed at Portsmouth, (opposite Norfolk) near Gosport Navy Yard. We are in camp one mile from Portsmouth on the road toward Suffolk.

We expect to remain here all winter to recruit the 10th Company, and fill up the present Companies to the maximum numbers. Two full Regiment of colored troops, (the 1s and 2d U.S.) are encamped near us. Our boys think this is a good place to recruit. – They say they never seen so many smoked Yankees as there are in this country. The weather has been quite warm since we came here. Yesterday was like June in Ohio, this evening is a little cool, but I have no fire. The country is very flat as far as the eye can see. The timber is mostly pine and very rich in turpentine. We are living chiefly on fresh Oysters, sweet potatoes and what is furnished by the Quartermaster. Sweet potatoes sell for $1.00 per bushel, and other potatoes $1.50. – Fresh Oysters in shell 60 cts. per bushel.

Brig. Gen. Wilde visited our camp this evening. He is a fine looking man with but one arm, having lost his left arm at the last Bull Run fight. Yesterday we had an inspection by Inspector General on Gen. Barne’s staff. – Gen. Barnes is military Governor of Norfolk. To-day is Sunday. I have been at work all day fixing my quarters. The first night in camp I slept without any shelter other than my blankets; since that I have put up my tent, but left everything in confusion until I could get the men quartered. They know nothing of soldiering yet, and require a great deal of instruction.

GEORGE B. COCK
Capt. 5th Reg’t U.S.C.T.


Stark County Republican, Canton, Ohio
January 7, 1864

From the 5th U.S.C.T.

CAMP OF 5TH U.S.C.T.
NORFOLK, VA Dec 24th, 1863.

BROTHER H——-.- We have been out on a regular guerilla hunt and raid after contrabands.

Leaving camp on the 5th, we marched by circuitous and winding roads amid the swamps making frequent stopping to pick up contrabands who wished to leave “Old Massa” and become free. None were taken except those who desired to come, and wherever we found such. We would take horses, mules and carts to provide them with transportation. The 5th day out, we reached the dismal Swamp Canal about a mile North of the side cut which leads into Drummond Lake. That night we camped on the farm of a rebel Colonel, after having marched a long distance through the wilds of the dismal swamp. On the second day out we crossed the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal. Both of these canals have wide and deep channels, and are navigated by small steamboats. The first connects the Elizabeth river with the Pasquotank, which flows into the Albemarle Sound. The latter connects the same river with Currituck Sound and that with the Albemarle. But the Dismal Swamp – what a vast wilderness it is. On one bank of the canal is a great road, built of logs, and the earth thrown out in digging the canal. While far out on either hand extends a wilderness of Swamp, Cypress trees, Pines, thick brush and vines almost impenetrable. I gathered some mistletoes form a tree by the road side, a sprig of which I send enclosed. On the sixth day we formed a junction with General Wilde’s brigade of colored troops with one section of Artillery and some Cavalry, at South Mills a few miles South of the Virginia and North Carolina Line.

From this place we sent back to Norfolk a long train of contrabands with horses, mules and colts laden with their household goods. – From South Mills we continued our march in the direction of Elizabeth city North Carolina, which place we reached on the 11th. The town is pleasantly situated on the Pasquotank river which widens out into quite a bay. Some of the finest buildings were destroyed by their rebel owners, when Gen. Burnside drove them out. Many others were destroyed by the rebel soldiers, so that the city has suffered very much by the war, and many of the houses left standing are deserted. The people are reduced almost to the last extremity, and pay almost fabulous process for everything they buy. A coat such as I bought in Canton for $12,00, is worth with them $150,-000, good boots is worth $100, salt $40 per barrel. We made this place a base of operations into the surrounding country in quest of contrabands and guerillas, who are the only forces the enemy have in that region; they are regular guerilla bushwhackers, authorized by the State government, and not a part of the Confederate army. Two Federal gunboats came up and lay at anchor in the river, also some small transports with supplies. On the 12th we went out 10 miles to a village called Woodville, in search of guerillas who we were told had a camp in that vicinity, but none of the inhabitants seemed to know anything about them – had not seen any weeks. But the darkies know them and would tell quick enough when they learned they could go with us and be protected, but not one would dare to say a word to s and remain at home, for they knew that the guerillas were watching them from a thicket, and any one seen in communication with us, and allowed to fall into their hands was butchered without mercy. One of our men who started to return to town; after we had gone two or three miles into the country, was pounced on and captured by a party who were lying in the swamps as we passed. Two boys came in and joined my company that day who knew the country well, and also the officers and men of the guerilla company. We captured that day the wife, horse and carriage of a guerilla Lieutenant. The next day a party went out taking my two recruits as guards, and by their aid surprised a guerrilly camp which they deserted, and burned also several houses and barns, a large quantity of corn, pork, and stores belonging to guerillas. – Lieut. McClellan was sent in charge of a small expedition down the river on board one of the transports and captured two small schooners, with five men. All the contraband families brought in here were sent to Roanoke Island. While at Elizabeth I washed my stockings and went barefoot while they dried in the sun. Some of the officers and men washed their shirts, but I did not know what minute I might be ordered out, and did not like to risk wearing a wet shirt. May be the turkeys, chickes and geese did not suffer some as we passed. You may bet we didn’t grow lean.

On the morning of the 17th we left Elizabeth City, the principal part of the forces going with the General towards South Mills, thence southward into Camden county. I was sent in command of a detachment of four companies of our regiment, with Capt. Jones with a detachment from the 1st and 2d North Carolina, across the Pasquotank into Camden county, where we were formed by Col. Draper, of the 2d N.C. That day we traversed the best region I saw in North Carolina. Collected quite a number of contrabands. Stopped at night at a little village called Shiloh, in a region thickly infested by guerrillas. – This being a rainy night, we quartered in a large church. About 10 o’clock we were startled by a volley of musketry, and found our pickets driven in and the guerrillas firing at our camp fires. We were soon under arms, and a few shots put them to flight. We doubled our guard, but a hard rain continued to fall during the night and we were not again molested. This we call the second battle of Shiloh.

The next day (the 18th) we continued our march and our business of collecting contrabands.

In the afternoon, about 1 o’clock, at a place called Sandy Swamp, we were attacked by guerrillas from the bushes. As soon as we became aware of their presence, we halted the main column, while the vanguard went ahead to reconnoitre; but the devils let the vanguard pass by them, and fired into the column. Four of my company fell in the onset; two died on the ground, one the following morning. I ordered the company to lie down, which we did, just in time to escape the second volley. We then fired lying, and kept up a brisk fight for a little time, when a company was thrown out to the right and left to flank them, when this was done, I started, with my company, right towards them, crossed the fence, ordered the company to fix bayonets, and led them right into the brush but the devils fled, and we only got a parting glimpse of them. I then returned, picked up our dead and wounded, and we continued on, three miles to Indian town. But the devils followed, and fired on us again, as we passed through a thick swamp, we turned back to fight them again, but they ran. We then took up the planks of the bridge over a stream in the swamp, built a barricade, posted a guard and encamped at Indian town for the night.

Soon we saw the light of burning buildings in advance of us, and we knew that General Wild was coming to meet us. Presently the whole force marched in, and we learned they had just burned the building of the Captain of the gang we were fighting. I lost, from my company, three killed, six wounded, one of whom has since died.

The balls flew thickly around me, one striking the scabbard of my sword, and one passing so close that I felt the heat on my face, and felt it shake a lock of my hair, but I felt as calm as a May morning, and when my boys fell, I stepped up beside them to see the extent of their injury. One dead in a very few minutes, another in half an hour, the third lived until morning, and the fourth is shot through the right shoulder, and I think will recover. But they are brave every man of them.

I believe I can take my company into the hottest kind of a fight and they will obey every order. The next morning I made dispositions for burying the dead, and we went out again to hunt the enemy. We succeeded in finding their camp away in the midst of a swamp, a narrow footing leading to it. We soon committed it to flames – captured a number of new Enfield rifles, with British cartridges, made by E. & A. Ludlow, Birmingham. Captured also the muster roll of the company, and then we went round and burned the property of those whose names we found on the roll. Our guide knew the most of them. That night we marched to Currituck Court House on Currituck Sound. Here a party went out under Col. Draper, and destroying another camp and burned some more of their houses.

Here a company of Cavalry came in from General Getty’s lines and informed us that a large rebel force had crossed the Swamp at South Mills, and was endeavoring to cut us off. Of course we got up and traveled, making sixteen miles from 5 o’clock P.M., to 10 P.M., camped at Northwest river, near the camp of the 81st New York, until yesterday morning, when we started for our camp, making twenty-five miles yesterday. On the 17th the General hanged a guerilla by the road side as a warning to others, and left on him this transcription. “This guerrilla was hanged by order of Brig-General E. A. Wild, J Bright of Pasquatank county, North Carolina.” That is the way to use the devils. They disband and collect whenever they want to, and the only way to quell them, is to lay waste their country and hang every devil of them that we capture, and make the rest afraid to do as they did. It may seem like an unchristian mode of warfare, but I am in favor of it. If I am captured I expect no mercy at their hands.

G. B. COCK,
Capt. 5th U.S.C.T.


Stark County Republican, Canton, Ohio
July 7, 1864

From Petersburg – Letter from Capt. Cock, 5th U.S.C.T.

IN THE FIELD NEAR PETERSBURG, VA., June 25, 1864.

Brother Henry: – This is the tenth day of the siege of Petersburg, and the enemy are yet in possession of this place. There is more or less fighting along our lines every day. The enemy have made several attempts to break our lines, but in every instance have been repulsed with severe loss. Yesterday morning a battalion of picked men made a charge on our line, but before they reached the line more than half were shot down, the rest wavered, became confused, but to fall back was dangerous as to advance. The regiment which they were charging seeing this confusion, jumped on the parapet and called to them to “throw down their arms and surrender,” which they did; not a man got back to the rebel lines.

This morning we received the intelligence of the death of Capt. O. P. Brockway of our regiment. He was shot by a sharp shooter on Sunday morning, while we were on the front line. He died in the hospital at Ft. Monroe, was one of our best officers.

In the first day’s fight Lieut. R. F. Johnston of Co. B, was killed. The casualties in our reg’t since the fight commenced, are about 8 men killed and 45 wounded. Three wounded in my Co – The reports in the papers of the first day’s fight, though they speak highly of our division, do not do justice. Gen. Smith complimented us highly, saying that we did everything that was done on that day.

The 1st, 4th, 6th, and 22d Colored regiments sustained heavy losses both in officers and men. Last night the 4th, 5th and 1st regts were moved to the front, as we understood to assault a strong work of the enemy, the only one they have on this side of the river. For some reason the assault was not made and about midnight we moved back to our camp.

This is war, stern and real, but we look the danger calmly in the face and think only of victory. The weather is intensely hot, the air is filled with a cloud of dust that is almost suffocating. Oh for a good hard drenching rain.

An unusal quiet prevails this morning; the boom of artillery and the crash of small arms is hushed. I wish you could be here a day or two to get an idea of war. ‘Tis awful and yet ’tis grand. – I am in better health than when I wrote you lats.

GEO. B. COCK.

Stark County Republican, Canton, Ohio
September 29, 1864

Letter from James’ River Va.
CORRESPONDENCE OF THE STARK COUNTY REPUBLICAN
CAMP 5TH REGT. U.S. Colored Troops

DEEP BOTTOM, JAMES RIV VA.,
September 14th, 1864

FRIEND HARTZELL – It has been a long time since I addressed you personally; and I now propose renewing the acquaintance. – Since the first of May, the 5th regiment has been “bobbing around” in active and a great part of the time most arduous campaigning and the the 15th of June, the date of the commencement of hostilities in front of Petersburg to the 25th of August, were constantly on duty in the front line of trenches, and often only a few rods from, and under fire of he enemy’s batteries. At times the shelling was more terrific; at one time in particular, when for four nights in succession the enemy would open upon us about 12 o’clock, and keep it up until morning. Our batteries were not slow replying and usually had the last shot. Four companies of this regiment on the left, were occupying the point of a hill thickly wooded, on which the rebs directed a converging fire from the right, left and front, and at times the woods seemed in a blaze from bursting shells. We were protected by a strong line of earthworks and fortunately did not lose a man by their shelling. At such times we kept pretty close under cover, as we were not in a position where we could do the enemy any injury, unless they should assault our line. We were frequently moved to various points on the line, we sometimes occupied the skirmish line within a stone’s throw of the enemy’s works. Our men became accustomed to the dangers of their position, and showed the same coolness and indifference to danger that characterizes veteran white troops. In regard to the men of our regiment as superior for soldiers to regiments of contrabands, and when we are in line there is a marked difference in the appearance and bearing of the men, principly owing no doubt , to the fact that most of our men are freemen, and lived long enough in the North to learn a little, and imbibe some ideas of Northern enterprise; at least we think we can do pretty good fighting which our records will show, and we are willing to do our best in helping Uncle Sam to get his “thrashing” done. Our losses in this campaign cannot be short of 150 men. We have also lost two Captains and tow Lieutenants killed, and one Lieutenant wounded. – Two hundred and twenty men are on the way from Ohio to join our ranks. We left the trenches on the 25th of August and marched to our present position. Many men and officers were sick from exposure, and on arriving here we had but five line officers with the regiment. – Our brigade of three regiments, viz., 5th, 36th, and 38th commanded by Col. A. G. Draper of the 26th, a battery of Artillery and two or three companies of cavalry, are the only forces at his point, excepting two Gun boats that lie in the river in front of our camp, of whose wide mouthed guns the “Johnies” have a wholesome dread   We have a nice camp and are enjoying our rest. Our picket guard required 860 men from the Brigade daily. – Our picket line is so near the enemy that we can call to them. The officers on outpost duty exchange papers with them almost daily. None others are permitted to do so, and any other communications are forbidden. The pickets stand facing each other along the to lines never exchanging a shot. The rebs are very glad to keep quiet. Deserters frequently come into our lines, who say they are very tired of the war, and that their army is very short of rations. Gen. Grant order providing transportation and suisistance to deserters who come within our lines, to any point North to which they may desire to be sent has reached them and is influencing many of them to desert. Within three days ten have come in here, three of them, when I was on picket duty   It is estimated that nearly a regiment come in daily along our lines.

We heard heavy and rapid firing this morning away on the left beyond Petersburg, and this evening we heard that our left is rapidly advancing towards the south side of the R.R, up the Appomattox. There was very heavy firing this evening at Dutch Gap four miles up the river   Recruits for this army are arriving at the rate of 1000 per day.

The rebs are anxious to learn the result of he Chicago Convention, and seem to regard the chances of a peace candidate as a forlorn hope.

But McClellan accepting the nomination and them repudiating the platform, is a bitter pill to them. If he stood square on it, it would suit them. But it is such a dishwater concern it wont carry him and he puts himself outside of it. Wonder it dont “sour” on him! I’ve heard of men putting themselves outside of a glass of ale or lager with wonderful dexterity, but for a man to throw himself outside of the platform of the great Democratic party certainly entitles him to notoriety.

 From our view of the situation, we think Lincoln will be the next President   We think the rebellion is about “played out,” two or three more good blows and it is “a goner.”

 We think of marching triumphantly into Richmond [  ] the last of November.

 Good night.

G.B.C.
Capt. U.S.C.T.

Stark County Republican, Canton, Ohio
February 2, 1865

Letter from Capt. Cock.
Correspondence of the Stark County Republican
HEADQUARTERS 25th A.C.,
IN THE FIELD VA., Jan.19th 1865.

MESSRS HARTZELL & BRISBIN – Pardon my long silence, but this army has been so long inactive, and but little of vital interest transpiring here that I have thought it scarcely [line missing] from this quarter.

The campaigns of Gen. Sherman and Thomas have from their magnitude and brilliant results, engrossed so large a share of public interest, that the armies of the Potomac and of the James against Richmond, seems to have dwindled into insignificance. But though seemingly quiet this army has not been idle.

We now hold a line of forty miles in extent, the right resting near white Oak Swamp, on the north side of the James, the left at Poplar Spring Church, west of Petersburg.

To hold this line strong earthworks have been erected, with numerous forts, batteries redans, &c. The presence of cold weather has necessitated the building of winter quarters; which is done by building cabins of pine logs and covering with shelter tents. In this way quite comfortable quarters are erected   Now we are enjoying a season of almost uninterrupted quiet. The troops are being drilled in field movements, by battalion, brigade, and division drills.

We are now having some splendid weather, resembling the Indian Summer of Ohio.

For a time we have almost submerged in Virginia mud, which necessitated the building of a corduroy road from the landing on the James River along our front. The road is completed as far as these headquarters, and idly pushed forward. to-day the roar of artillery comes to us from away on the left, miles away, of course we know not what is the occasion of it, and do not manifest any curiosity to know, so familiar are we to such sounds. The removal of Gen. Butler from t e command of this army has been the theme of much comment here, and is generally received by the officers with satisfaction, and the disaffection for him is strengthened by the result of the expedition against Fort Fisher by the forces under Gen. Terry. Gen. Butler has done much for the colored troops; more probably than any one else; has placed more reliance in them, and rendered them effective in battle.

In some respects he is a great man, having few equals and no superiors; but he failed as a military leader in the field. His system of appointments and promotion here was giving much dissatisfaction, and tending to demoralize the army.

He insisted on running an independent war department of which he was the head; would appoint from civil life and promote from the ranks, without any reference to the Department at Washington; in some instances men wholly unfit for the positions to which they were appointed; which is seldom the case with men who have passed an examination before the board of examiners appointed by the President.

For instance a soldier distinguishes himself by some act of bravery, and as a reward is appointed an officer in a colored regiment, when he possesses none of the qualifications requisite for an officer, except that of bravery. Again, officers have been promoted from one regiment to another without any regard to seniority, or two the just claims of officers who have served long in the regiment in which the vacancy may occur.

This evening there is a rumor that Wilmington has been taken, also that the army of the James is merged into the army of the Potomac and comprises the right grand division under command of Maj. Gen. E. O. C Ord.

Dutch Gap Canal is now open, and a strong current flows through, and even if it should be of no benefit in conducting military operations, it will be a grand improvement in the navigation of the James river in after years, when the difficulties are settled and trade settles back into it natural channel.

The Christian and Sanitary Commissions have done, and are doing a noble work.

There is scarcely a soldier in the army who has not good reason to feel thankful to those noble commissions for benefits received.

For the last two months the number of deserters from the enemy coming within the lines of the army of the James has averaged twenty per day, which for a few days has been increasing. There is a man here – chief scout – who has lived several years in Richmond, who frequently goes within the rebel lines carrying with him printed copies of Gen. Grants order furnishing employment or transportation north to deserters coming within our lines on taking the oath of Allegiance; by which many are induced to desert. Yesterday morning eleven came in a single squad.

Your humble servant is now on duty at “Headquarters” 25 A C. managing the postal department of the corps

Your paper has failed to reach me for some time, and I miss it as the absence of an old friend. Yours truly,

GEO. B. Cock
Captain 5th U.S.C.T.

Return to Their White Officers for more letters written by the men who led Black soldiers in the United States Colored Troops